Georgia Public Records

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What are Georgia Public Records, and How are They Created?

Georgia Public Records

Georgia public records as defined by the Open Records Act of 2016 as "Public record means all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, computer-based or generated information, data, data fields, or similar material prepared and maintained or received by an agency or by a private person or entity in the performance of a service or function for or on behalf of an agency or when such documents have been transferred to a private person or entity by an agency for storage or future governmental use." Additionally, they go on to stipulate, "All public records shall be open for personal inspection and copying, except those which by order of a court of this state or by law are specifically exempted from disclosure. Records shall be maintained by agencies to the extent and in the manner required by Article 5 of this chapter."

Georgia public records are created by officials and staff working for government agencies (both state and local). Government agencies that fall under the open records act are defined as "association, corporation, or other similar organization that has a membership or ownership body composed primarily of counties, municipal corporations, or school districts of this state, their officers, or any combination thereof and derives more than 33 1/3 percent of its general operating budget from payments from such political subdivisions."

Georgia's Open Records Act says "The General Assembly finds and declares that the strong public policy of this state is in favor of open government; that open government is essential to a free, open, and democratic society; and that public access to public records should be encouraged to foster confidence in government and so that the public can evaluate the expenditure of public funds and the efficient and proper functioning of its institutions. The General Assembly further finds and declares that there is a strong presumption that public records should be made available for public inspection without delay."

According to Georgia's Office of the Attorney General, public records requests must be made directly to the agency/custodian of the records you need. You can request records in person, over the phone, or through the mail.

Georgia Archives is the entity responsible for collecting, housing, disseminating all historical public records. Along with old vital records like birth, death, marriage, and divorce records, they also maintain manuscripts, photographs, maps, and government records. Some of the sources they provide are regional newspapers for legal notices, obituaries, election results, legislative news, and more. Many of the records are stored online for easy access, but they also have paper documents you can review in person.

 

How to Access Georgia Public Records?

How to Access Georgia Public Records

Georgia's Secretary of State handles many public records requests. They have a request form on their website that you can use to order copies of records for a fee. To request records through them follow the steps below:

  • Visit the Georgia Secretary of State website.
  • Click the blue button to open the request form.
  • Fill it out and be as detailed as possible.
  • You may also have to pay a fee before your records are sent to you.
  • You can also email their office if you have questions.

According to Georgia state law, most public records will be held by the agency that created them. You can contact each one individually to get copies of most things.

 

Different Types of Public Records in Georgia

Georgia Criminal Records

In Georgia, you cannot typically request a copy of someone's criminal records unless you are using it for employment, licensing, or law enforcement. They do not allow name searches. However, the law does allow the public to search for, and access convicted felons criminal records through local law enforcement (police) or an online search using the Georgia Felon Search website. They do charge a fee for this service. If you are requesting a criminal background check for official purposes, you must have fingerprints.

Some common types of criminal records in Georgia include (but are not limited to):

  • Felony and Misdemeanor Records - common misdemeanors in Georgia are public drunkenness, vandalism, prostitution, trespassing, domestic violence, and DUIs. Popular felonies in Georgia include murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, rape, arson, and burglary.
  • Georgia Inmate Search - both jails and prisons keep inmate records, and those too are public records. The Georgia Department of Corrections has an offender search tool on their website to locate criminals and their records.
  • Police Records - local police can provide copies of incident reports, police reports, sometimes mugshots, and even crime scene photos upon request.

Georgia Court Records

Different Types of Public Records in Georgia

Court records in Georgia are maintained by the The Judicial Council of Georgia. They have set up the Georgia Judicial Gateway website to make accessing court records easy for the public, legal professionals, and court administration. Using this website, you can easily search for specific case files, e-file documents, and perform extensive research using their law library. They also have statistical reports you can review.

Some types of court records in Georgia are:

  • Civil Court Records - domestic relations cases such as divorces, marriages, paternity lawsuits, custody and child support cases, estates, conservatorships, wills, civil lawsuits, and small claims lawsuits.
  • Criminal Court Records - criminal filings for misdemeanors, felonies, and other citations. These may include things like trial paperwork, sentencing, prison transfers, and evidence related to the court case.
  • Financial Court Records - bankruptcies, liens, tax issues, company stock filings, and corporate financial reports.
  • Other Court Records - such as bench warrants, arrest warrants, judgments, traffic tickets and other traffic violations, and name changes.

Courts in Georgia are organized in six levels starting with the Supreme, then the Court of Appeals, Superior Court, County Recorder's Court, Probate Court, the Magistrate Court and Municipal Court, and finally Civil Court, State Court, and Juvenile Court.

If you cannot locate the files you need online; you can visit any courthouse in person to request them.

Georgia Arrest Records

Georgia arrest records are created and stored by each individual local law enforcement agency. For convicted offenders, you can request copies of their arrest records. Otherwise, if you have an official purpose (like licensing, law enforcement, and employment) for doing so, you can get a consent form from the individual and request a copy of their arrest records. You will have to pay a fee for each record you request. You can also search court records to find information on arrests for convicted felons.

Some different types of arrests records in Georgia are:

  • Drug charges.
  • Murder.
  • Burglary.
  • Aggravated assault.
  • DUIs/DWIs.
  • Vandalism.
  • Trespassing.
  • Arson.
  • Booking details like fingerprints and mugshots.
  • Arrest warrants granted by a judge.
  • Bench warrants for not appearing in court.
  • Crime scene photos.
  • Witness statements.
  • Property crimes and accompanying paperwork.
  • Sex charges.
  • Vehicle records if one was used during the crime.

Georgia Vital Records

Georgia's Department of Public Health is the government agency in charge of preserving and issuing all vital records for the state. Their records go back to 1919. They can supply copies of birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates upon request. You will have to pay a fee. You can request these through two online services GoCertificates and VitalChek or use the state-authored service called ROVER. You may also order by mail or in person at one of their locations. On their website, you can download each of the request forms.

 

Other Public Records in Georgia

Other Public Records in Georgia

Along with criminal, court, arrest, and vital records, other types of public records you can find in the state of Georgia include, but are not limited to:

  • Government contract bids and proposals.
  • Driving records (without personally identifiable information).
  • Home addresses.
  • Maps, books, and tapes.
  • State health and wellness statistics.
  • Air and water quality (pollution reports).
  • Property records, real estate deals, and land deeds.
  • Home phone numbers.
  • Police and accident reports.
  • Liens & tax issues.
  • Company incorporation records.
  • Personnel records for state agencies.
  • Permits, licenses, and certifications.
  • Salaries.
 

What Information is Not Public Record in Georgia?

Not all records are public records in Georgia. Some things that are exempt from the Open Records Act are: "insurance and medical information for personnel, or records that are included as part of an active or pending investigation. Information, such as social security numbers, credit card information, and bank account information, will be redacted from public records prior to disclosure." Additionally, the following items are not available to the public: "One cannot request documents concerning certain national historical places or wildlife refuges, security plans or measures dealing with homeland security, nor can someone request athletic records dealing with children of the age of 12 or younger. Any document dealing with real estate that a state or local agency is attempting to purchase or construct can also be exempted prior to the project or purchases completion or termination."