What are Nebraska Public Records, and How are They Created?
The Nebraska Public Records Statutes outlines the availability of public records and what is allowed and what is not. Some examples of a public records provided by the Attorney General's Office include:
- Real estate titles.
- "The fee book of the clerk of the district court. State v. Meeker, 19 Neb. 106, 26 N.W. 620, (1886).
- The docket of a justice of the peace where judgments are recorded. State v. Elsworth, 61 Neb. 444, 85 N.W. 439, (1901).
- Hunting and fishing permits. 1977-78 Rep. Att'y Gen. 30 (Opinion No. 20, dated February 14, 1977).
- Records maintained by the Crime Victims' Reparations Board. 1979-80 Rep. Att'y Gen. 191 (Opinion No. 136, dated July 25, 1979).
- Records of official actions taken by the State Tax Commissioner. 1979-80 Rep. Att'y Gen. 241 (Opinion No. 171, dated November 26, 1979).
- Records maintained by a county in connection with a lottery. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 212 (June 8, 1984).
- Applications for a Pardon become public records when they are filed with the Secretary of the Nebraska Board of Pardons. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 92030 (March 2, 1992).
- Records maintained by a county agricultural society are subject to the Public Records Statutes. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 91007 (January 29, 1991).
- Applications for absentee ballots are public records and are open to examination until, following the canvass of votes cast, they are deposited in the office of the county clerk or election commissioner for safekeeping. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 90035 (October 4, 1990).
- The list of uncashed state warrants maintained by the Nebraska State Treasurer constitutes a public record. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 95025 (March 31, 1995).
- Completed Claim for Injury or Damage forms filed with the State Risk Manager are public records. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 93068 (August 19, 1993).
- Proposals in connection with Education Innovation Fund grants awarded by the Governor and the Excellence in Education Council are public records. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 94092 (November 22, 1994)."
All Nebraska government offices and agencies create public records through the normal course of business each day. Law enforcement, the courts, government offices, medical facilities, individuals, and legal professionals also create, store, and maintain public records.
"Except as otherwise expressly provided by statute, all citizens of this state and all other persons interested in the examination of the public records . . . are hereby fully empowered and authorized to (a) examine such records, and make memoranda, copies using their own copying or photocopying equipment . . . and abstracts therefrom, all free of charge, during the hours the respective offices may be kept open for the ordinary transaction of business and (b) except if federal copyright law otherwise provides, obtain copies of public records . . . during the hours the respective offices may be kept open for the ordinary transaction of business."
You must request public records through each agency or office individually. There is no centralized database or entity in charge of handling records requests.
The Nebraska Historical Society is the agency in charge of all historical public records. They have an extensive online database you can search for things like vital records, military records, government and library records, newspapers, manuscripts, and much more. You can also visit them in person to view all their collections. They have dozens of genealogy resources and are happy to help with historical research.
How to Access Nebraska Public Records?
Each government agency in Nebraska handles its own public records requests. Therefore, there is no standard procedure. However, using the Department of Corrections as an example, you would follow this process:
- Check online to make sure the public records are not available there.
- Write a letter, including your contact information and a description of the records you need.
- You can email your request or send it through the mail to the Public Disclosure Unit, Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, P.O. Box 94661, Lincoln, NE 68509.
- Wait four business days to receive your records.
You may also visit a government agency in person for the records you need.
Different Types of Public Records in Nebraska
Nebraska Criminal Records
The Nebraska State Patrol is the agency in charge of criminal record requests. They provide both name and fingerprint-based criminal reports. This agency is the central repository for all criminal records for the state. They refer to themselves as a "library" from which the public can examine records that they have collected from all other law enforcement agencies in the state. You can also check court records and the Department of Corrections for criminal records for convicted criminals.
Some common types of criminal records in Nebraska include (but are not limited to):
- Felony and Misdemeanor Records - some common misdemeanors in Nebraska are identity theft, impersonating a police officer, property theft, littering, and third-degree assault. Some popular felonies in Nebraska are first-degree murder, arson, kidnapping, manslaughter, burglary, and aggravated assault.
- Nebraska Jail and Inmate Records - both jails and prisons keep inmate records, and those too are public records. The Nebraska Department of Corrections has 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.
Nebraska Court Records
Court records in Nebraska are created, collected, stored, and maintained by the Nebraska Judicial Branch. Their website claims their "court case search system provides access to criminal, civil, traffic, juvenile, and probate cases filed in all 93 of Nebraska's county and district courts." The public can order up to 30 case files at once, and they will get to review:
- "Case Detail, such as the date and outcome of the trial, what the case was about, and who the judge was.
- Party Listing, including the plaintiff and defendant, and often times their associated attorneys as well.
- Court Cost Information, including all fees associated with the case.
- Payments by and to the Court.
- Register of Actions, so you can follow everything that's been done with the case up to, during, and after the case, should it have been recorded."
Some types of court records in Nebraska include:
- 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, worker's compensation cases, and name changes.
The Nebraska court system consists of four levels starting with the Supreme Court, then the Court of Appeals, then District Court, and Juvenile-Court, County Court, and Workers' Compensation Court.
Nebraska Arrest Records
You can obtain Nebraska arrest records from a few different sources. First, the Nebraska State Patrol is the central repository for all criminal records for the state, and they supply the public with criminal history reports. You can also visit or contact local police for arrest records or consult both court records and the Department of Corrections for arrest details for convicted offenders.
Some different types of arrests records in Nebraska are:
- Drug charges.
- Domestic abuse.
- Petty theft.
- 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.
Nebraska Vital Records
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is the government agency that handles all vital records for the state. They collect, preserve, store, and issue certificates for births, deaths, fetal deaths, marriages, and divorces. They offer commemorative certificates for parents of newborns. You can request copies of records through the mail or in person.
Other Public Records in Nebraska
Along with criminal, court, arrest, and vital records, other types of public records you can find in the state of Nebraska 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.
- Library Research.
- Personnel records for state agencies.
- Permits, licenses, and certifications.
- Government employee salaries.
What Information is Not Public Record in Nebraska?
In Nebraska, not all government records are publicly accessible. Some examples from the public law statues of things that are not public records are:
- "Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-612 concerning employee information obtained from employers by the Department of Labor. 1973-74 Rep. Att'y Gen. 170 (Opinion No. 128, dated January 17, 1974).
- 42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(2)(C) concerning information regarding social security numbers. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 93042 (June 1, 1993); Op. Att'y Gen. No. 239 (December 10, 1984).
- Neb. Rev. Stat. § 77-4104(2)(d) concerning applications and supporting information for tax incentives under the Employment and Investment Growth Act. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 87093 (July 30, 1987).
- Those statutes which are a part of the Nebraska Rules of Evidence which create evidentiary privilege may create an exception to the Public Records Statutes. Evidentiary privilege is granted in Chapter 27, Article 5 of the Nebraska Statutes, for several types of communications. Included, for example, are attorney-client communications, physician-patient communications, and husband-wife communications.
- Under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-2261, presentence reports are privileged and are not public records as defined in Neb. Rev. Stat. § 84-712.01. State of Nebraska ex rel. Unger v. State of Nebraska, 293 Neb. 549, 878 N.W.2d 540 (2016)."