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Iowa Public Records

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The following is for informational purposes only

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

Iowa Public Records

The Iowa Open Records Law, Iowa Code §22.1 et seq., is a collection of laws designed to control public records and access to them. They define public records as "all records, documents, tape, or other information, stored or preserved in any medium, of or belonging to this state or any county, city, township, school corporation, political subdivision, nonprofit corporation other than a fair conducting a fair event as provided in chapter 174, whose facilities or indebtedness are supported in whole or in part with property tax revenue and which is licensed to conduct pari-mutuel wagering pursuant to chapter 99D, or tax-supported district in this state, or any branch, department, board, bureau, commission, council, or committee of any of the foregoing. "Public records" also include all records relating to the investment of public funds, including but not limited to investment policies, instructions, trading orders, or contracts, whether in the custody of the public body responsible for the public funds or a fiduciary or other third party."

Government agencies like the Secretary of State, the Attorney General's Office, the courts, and law enforcement are some of the types of agents who create, store, and maintain public records in the state of Iowa.

Iowa's Open Records Law states that "Every person shall have the right to examine and copy a public record and to publish or otherwise disseminate a public record or the information contained in a public record. Unless otherwise provided for by law, the right to examine a public record shall include the right to examine a public record without charge while the public record is in the physical possession of the custodian of the public record."

The State of Iowa Office of the Chief Information Officer is the government entity that manages public records requests. However, they do recommend that you contact the actual agency you need the records from. There is a search form on the website, but they also allow requests via mail.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, State Historical Society of Iowa is the agency that collects, stores, and maintains historical public records. They encourage research and the public to request copies of records for many purposes. Some of the collections they keep are maps, newspapers, census records, county records, photographs, vital records, state archives, and many other types of documents and materials.


How to Access Iowa Public Records?

How to Access Iowa Public Records

The Iowa Public Information Board has a simple records request form on its website that you can use to request records. You can customize it to fit your needs and send it to the State of Iowa Office of the Chief Information Officer. They also recommend that you contact each state and local government agency directly to request records. Each office may have a different format or process for requesting records, and they all charge fees for copies of records.


Different Types of Public Records in Iowa

Iowa Criminal Records

Iowa's Division of Criminal Investigation handles criminal records requests by mail or fax. You can also request records in person. They charge a $15 fee for each criminal history they provide. They will only release convicted offender information and only for persons 18 years or older. 

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

  • Felony and Misdemeanor Records - common misdemeanors in Iowa are first OWI, second OWI, assault with no bodily harm and with bodily harm, disorderly conduct, and a first drug offense. Some felonies in Iowa include theft, third or fourth OWI, sexual abuse, burglary, and assault.
  • Jail and Inmate Records- both jails and prisons keep inmate records, and those too are public records. The Iowa 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.

Iowa Court Records

Different Types of Public Records in Iowa

Court records in Iowa are created, stored, and shared by the Iowa Judicial Branch. The state of Iowa is heavy into transparency, and they offer up court records readily to the general public. On their website, they have explicit instructions on how to request records. They try to make it as easy as possible. They do charge fees for copies of records, but those are clearly listed on the website as well.

Some types of court records in Iowa 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 Iowa are organized in three levels starting with the Supreme Court, then the Court of Appeals, and then the District Court.

Iowa Arrest Records

Iowa arrest records are available through the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. They supply criminal histories for convicted offenders. To get fresh arrest records, you can contact local or state law enforcement. You may also check the Iowa Department of Corrections website to search for convicted felons currently in prison. Court records in Iowa is another good resource to check for arrest records.

Some different types of arrests records in Iowa are:

  • Drug charges.
  • Murder.
  • Burglary.
  • Battery.
  • Aggravated assault.
  • OWIs.
  • Sexual abuse.
  • 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.
  • Vehicle records if one was used during the crime.

Iowa Vital Records

Iowa Department of Public Health is the government entity in charge of all vital records for the state. They keep records for births, deaths, marriages, and divorces. Their website boasts that "The bureau registers approximately 100,000 events and issues about 85,000 certified copies annually." They can also supply adoption information and make corrections to incorrect records. They offer copies of certificates upon request for a fee. They offer up an email address and phone number that you can use to call with any questions.


Other Public Records in Iowa

Other Public Records in Iowa

Along with criminal, court, arrest, and vital records, property records in Iowa are also public. Here are the others:

  • Government budgets and annual reports.
  • Driving records (without personally identifiable information).
  • Home addresses.
  • Maps, books, and tapes.
  • State health and wellness statistics.
  • Air and water quality (pollution reports).
  • Home phone numbers.
  • Police and accident reports.
  • Liens & tax issues.
  • Company incorporation records.
  • Demographics.
  • Library Research.
  • Personnel records for state agencies.
  • Permits, licenses, and certifications.
  • Government employee salaries.

What Information is Not Public Record in Iowa?

According to the Iowa Open Records Law, "The Law includes all records of government agencies except where the documents have been deemed confidential. Exemptions include:

  • Personal information on accepted students, current students, and past students.
  • Medical records.
  • Trade Secrets.
  • Records of attorneys who represent the state.
  • Reports that result in unfair competition.
  • Appraisal information for public land purchases.
  • Criminal files.
  • Military confidential records.
  • Personal information in records of employees and elected officials of public agencies.
  • Library records.
  • Information on the donors of charitable contributions.
  • Corrections department information that would jeopardize security.
  • Communications made to the government but not required by statute.
  • Examinations.
  • Archaeological and historical ecologically sensitive material locations and information."
  • Marketing and advertising budgets and strategies for non-profits
  • Information maintained by mediators employed to solve the disputes with government agencies."