Minnesota Public Records

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

Minnesota Public Records

Minnesota enacted the Minnesota Data Practices Act to govern access to public records. These laws guarantee the public's right to review and request copies of most government agency records unless otherwise exempt by another law or statute. Each government agency creates, collects, stores, and disseminates its own public records. There is no central agency in Minnesota in charge of public records and requests for access. Some of the larger cities in Minnesota may have offices that can help collate them from various agencies. Requests should be made in person, in writing, or whenever available through online portals.

Minnesota's courts, department of corrections, local and state police all create public records. Hundreds of individuals within local and state government agencies also create them on a daily basis through the process of their work. Although each agency creates, stores and keeps its own records, often they are shared in a central database between agencies.

Minnesota's Data Practices Act says that "Public records are defined as all data collected, created, received, maintained or disseminated by any government entity regardless of its physical form, storage media or conditions of use. Anyone may request public records, and they are also entitled to have the data explained to them if they don't understand it."

Mn.gov is the state's government website, and they can help direct you to the right person and the right place to request public records. If you have trouble getting access, they can also help with that. They do not provide a number of days that a government agency has to respond to a records request, but it says in the law "immediately," so it may be up to interpretation.

The Minnesota Historical Society, Minnesota State Archives is the state's agency that is in charge of all historical public records. They have online collections for review, but you can also visit their offices in person to see even more. Some of their material includes maps, vital records, oral records (recordings), government and military records, newspapers, and state historical documents.

 

How to Access Minnesota Public Records?

How to Access Minnesota Public Records

According to Mn.gov, the state's government website, the process for requesting public records is as follows:

  • Ask to review access policies and procedures and locate the responsible authority
  • Submit your request to the government entity's responsible authority unless the entity has a policy that directs you to make your request to a different person.
  • State agencies – commissioner, chief executive officer, or individual appointed by the agency's governing body.
  • Cities or school districts – employee appointed by the city or school district's governing body.
  • Counties – each elected official (sheriff, county auditor, etc.) for her/his office.
  • A county governing body must appoint an employee to be the responsible authority for information maintained outside of the county elected official's office.
  • The responsible authority for a county social services office is the director of that office.
  • Constitutional offices – attorney general, state auditor, secretary of state.

Make sure you file your request under the MN Government Data Practices Act, not the federal FOIA.

 

Different Types of Public Records in Minnesota

Minnesota Criminal Records

Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, a division in the Department of Public Safety, is the government agency to contact if you need Minnesota criminal records. They have an online portal where the general public can search for offenders, including information like:

  • Offenses.
  • Courts of conviction.
  • Dates of conviction.
  • Sentencing information.

Some items that will not be included in criminal history reports are:

  • Arrest data.
  • Juvenile data.
  • Criminal history data from other states.
  • Federal data.
  • Data on convictions where 15 years or more have elapsed since the completion of the sentence.
  • Other data deemed private or confidential.

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

  • Felony and Misdemeanor Records - some common misdemeanors in Minnesota are first DWI, reckless driving, fifth-degree assault, trespassing, and simple theft. Some popular felonies in Minnesota include four DWIs in ten years, theft of property (more than $1,000), drug possession, and murder.
  • Jail and Inmate Records - both jails and prisons keep inmate records, and those too are public records. The Minnesota Department of Correctionshas an online search tool you can use 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.

Minnesota Court Records

Different Types of Public Records in Minnesota

Court records in Minnesota are created and stored by the Minnesota Judicial Branch of government. They provide access to court records online through their website. You may search trial court records and also the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals records. 

Some types of court records in Minnesota 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.

The Minnesota court system consists of three simple levels starting with the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, and then the District Court.

Minnesota Arrest Records

Minnesota arrest records are maintained by local and state law enforcement. Although Minnesota has a search portal to find criminal history information, you will not find fresh arrest records unless the offender was convicted. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension maintains this search portal, and the general public can use it to find criminal and arrest records. You can also consult court records or search on the Department of Corrections website for Minnesota arrest records.

Some different types of arrests records in Minnesota are:

  • Drug charges.
  • Murder.
  • Trespassing.
  • DWI.
  • Theft.
  • Possession of narcotics.
  • DUIs.
  • 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.

Minnesota Vital Records

The Minnesota Department of Health is the government agency that handles vital records. They collect them, store them, and disseminate them upon request. You can get copies of birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates through this office. The agency also handles vital records corrections, adoptions, and state health statistics. You may order certificates online or in person.

 

Other Public Records in Minnesota

Other Public Records in Minnesota

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

  • 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).
  • Property records, real estate deals, and land deeds.
  • 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 Minnesota?

Not all public records in Minnesota are eligible to be reviewed by anyone. The state classifies all government data into the following categories to help determine what a public record is and what is not:

  • Private- Data that identifies an individual and that is available only to the subject of the data.
  • Confidential - Data that identifies an individual and that is not available to anyone, including the subject of the data.
  • Nonpublic - Data that does not identify an individual and that is available only to the subject of the data (e.g., to a business).
  • Protected Nonpublic - Data that does not identify an individual and that is not available to anyone, including the subject of the data.

Only "public data" is available, and they define that as "All government data collected, created, received, maintained or disseminated by a government entity shall be public unless classified by statute, or temporary classification pursuant to section 13.06, or federal law, as nonpublic or protected nonpublic, or with respect to data on individuals, as private or confidential. The responsible authority in every government entity shall keep records containing government data in such an arrangement and condition as to make them easily accessible for convenient use. Photographic, photostatic, microphotographic, or microfilmed records shall be considered as accessible for convenient use regardless of the size of such records."