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The Secretary of State for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the centralized agency that handles public records requests and governs many of the aspects of the public records laws. All the government agencies that collect, store, and maintain public records must report to the Secretary of State's Office. They also have a dedicated Records Access Officer (RAO) who records the reports and handles public records disputes (when a citizen's request records and is denied). The state of Massachusetts also has an extensive Agency Public Records Request Database that you can search online. You may also call or email them with questions. You might have to visit certain government agencies in person to request certain types of records. As of 2017, every agency, office, and municipality are required to have a dedicated Records Access Officer (RAO) to help with requests.
Public records in Massachusetts are created by public servants working in the courts, the legal profession, law enforcement, and also government offices and agencies throughout the state. Often individuals create government public records simply by being born, dying, filing for a marriage license, or suing someone.
"A records access officer appointed pursuant to section 6A, or a designee, shall at reasonable times and without unreasonable delay permit inspection or furnish a copy of any public record as defined in clause twenty-sixth of section 7 of chapter 4, or any segregable portion of a public record, not later than 10 business days following the receipt of the request."
The Secretary of State for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts oversees public records and the laws that pertain to them. They provide guidelines for patrons on how to request public records from the custodian. You can request records verbally, through the mail in writing, or in person.
The Secretary of State for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is again the agency in charge of public records archives and historical information for the state. They keep all vital historical records, government archives, passenger lists, census reports, military records, court records, and more. They are also responsible for records management and the State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB). They store many records online, but for some you will have to visit them in person to review.
The Massachusetts Secretary of State provides the following guidelines for requesting all types of public records:
If you are denied records, contact the Secretary of State for assistance. You can also email or call them with any questions.
Mass.gov has an extensive website that includes a section where you can request your own criminal record, and employers or others can request a copy of your criminal history as well. They offer both a name-based search tool and a fingerprint search (used by law enforcement and other agencies or by consent of the individual). This same office handles criminal records sealing and expunging and manages the sex offender registry. You can use the online search tool or request records in writing. You must register to use the online system.
Some common types of criminal records in Massachusetts include (but are not limited to):
Court records in Massachusetts are created, collected, stored, and searchable on Mass.gov. The website collates all court records in one place. The trial courts are online, and you can use the search tool to find court documents within each type. They provide detailed instructions on how to request court records, and you can search online or get copies in person. They also have special portals for attorneys to use to file motions and get copies of case documents.
Some types of court records in Massachusetts are:
The Massachusetts court system consists of six levels starting with the Supreme Judicial Court, then the Appeals Court, then the Superior Court, District Court, Boston Municipal Court, the Juvenile Court, Housing Court, and the lowest level which consists of Land Court, and Probate and Family Court.
Massachusetts arrest records are created by all different types of law enforcement and correction officers. They are stored at each individual police and correctional facilities but also collected online at Mass.gov. You can search through criminal records to find arrests that way or visit the precinct in person to ask for copies. You can also visit the Massachusetts Department of Correction to find convicted felons and their arrest records. You may even wade through court records to find arrest information.
Some different types of arrests records in Massachusetts are:
The Registry of Vital Records and Statistics in Massachusetts is the government agency in charge of vital records. This is how they describe themselves "RVRS administers and issues copies of vital records that occurred in Massachusetts from 1926 to the present. RVRS also provides statistics on births, deaths, fetal deaths, divorces, and marriages. These data are used by local and state public health programs and medical researchers to help understand our population, promote wellness, and ensure health equity within the Commonwealth." You can contact their office via Mass.gov to get copies of birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates.
Along with criminal, court, arrest, and vital records, property records in Massachusetts are also public. Here are the others:
Massachusetts public records law defines a public record as "All books, papers, maps, photographs, recorded tapes, financial statements, statistical tabulations, or other documentary materials or data, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by a governmental entity." However, they also have a few exceptions to this rule (things that are not publicly accessible) for example:
These are just a couple of examples; the law includes many more.