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includes maps, vital records, oral records (recordings), government and military records, newspapers, and state historical documents.
According to Mn.gov, the state's government website, the process for requesting public records is as follows:
Make sure you file your request under the MN Government Data Practices Act, not the federal FOIA.
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:
Some items that will not be included in criminal history reports are:
Some common types of criminal records in Minnesota include (but are not limited to):
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:
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 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:
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.
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:
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:
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."