Florida's philosophy of transparency began back in 1909 with its first Public Records Law. Then in 1967, the state enacted Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine Law. The main overview of this law states that, "It is the policy of this state that all state, county, and municipal records are open for personal inspection and copying by any person. Providing access to public records is a duty of each agency. Each agency that maintains a public record in an electronic recordkeeping system shall provide to any person, pursuant to this chapter, a copy of any public record in that system which is not exempted by law from public disclosure. An agency must provide a copy of the record in the medium requested if the agency maintains the record in that medium, and the agency may charge a fee in accordance with this chapter."
Public records in Florida are created, stored, and maintained by government agencies. As defined by the Sunshine Law, "Agency means any state, county, district, authority, or municipal officer, department, division, board, bureau, commission, or other separate unit of government created or established by law including, for the purposes of this chapter, the Commission on Ethics, the Public Service Commission, and the Office of Public Counsel, and any other public or private agency, person, partnership, corporation, or business entity acting on behalf of any public agency."
Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine Law claims that "Public records means all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, data processing software, or other material, regardless of the physical form, characteristics, or means of transmission, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency."
The Florida Department of State is the government office you need to contact for copies of public records. However, they won't carry records for all government agencies in the state. In many cases, you will have to contact each office in person.
The Florida Department of State Division of Library and Information Services Archives is the agency that stores, manages, and retrieves all historical public records for the state. The library has more than 48,000 records, and most of them can be searched online. Along with capital post-conviction records, you can find vital records, historical documents, and photographs. You can search for people, corporations, subjects, places, genres, and meetings.
Florida's Department of State handles a lot of current and historical public records, and when searching for information, they are the place to start.
By law, any state agency providing public records has the right to charge a fee. You may be asked to pay for copies you request.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is the central repository for all Florida criminal records. As a service to the public, they do offer full background checks and criminal records upon request for $24 each. You can request records online for instant access or order them through the mail for paper copies. However, as of July 2020, they will be discontinuing the mail option, and your only option will be to order them online. You must pay your fee via credit or debit card, and there is a $1 processing fee along with the charge for the records.
Some common types of criminal records in Florida include (but are not limited to):
Court records in Florida are maintained by Florida Courts, the government agency in charge of all court records for the state. They have a comprehensive website with all the information you need to find records, file paperwork, and perform research. Each court has its own section of the website so you can find things easily. The website also includes a statewide court records search feature.
Some types of court records in Florida are:
Courts in Florida are organized in four levels, the Supreme Court, District Courts of Appeal, Circuit Court, and then County Court.
You also have the option of visiting any courthouse in person to collect copies of documents and court files.
Florida arrest records are collected, stored, and maintained by a centralized agency called the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Along with other criminal records, the state of Florida supplies the general public with arrest records upon request. These records do cost $24 each. They can also help with the sex offender registry, missing persons, and criminal justice complaints.
Some different types of arrests records in Florida are:
The Florida Department of Health is the government agency that handles all vital records. They have birth, death, fetal death, marriage, and divorce certificates available upon request. They do charge fees for this service. You can also request changes to vital records through them and purchase commemorative certificates for marriages and births. They allow patrons to order in person, through the mail, and online. This agency is also in charge of environmental health, disease control, licensing and regulation, and tallying statistical data.
Along with criminal, court, arrest, and vital records, other types of public records you can find in the state of Florida include, but are not limited to:
According to Florida public records law, some things are not subject to public consumption. Things like sealed bids and proposals, a public record that an agency attorney prepared, census bureau address information, some video records, criminal intelligence and investigation records, and surveillance tapes are not public records. Additionally, records that contain confidential informant's information, victim data, and anything that can identify someone like social security number, tax ID, bank accounts and other identifiers will be redacted from public records.