New York Public Records

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What are New York Public Records, and How are They Created?

New York Public Records

New York State has a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) that acts to dictate access to government public records. To make things easy, the NY.gov has created an online form for public records requests. You can request records from more than 50 government offices and agencies through this one portal. They call this online system Open FOIL NY. When making a request, you will need to provide some information and pay any applicable fees. If the agency you need documents from is not on the list of 50 included, you may have to visit them in person to request public records.

Government officials create public records as part of their jobs. Legal professionals, individuals, law enforcement, the courts, and criminal justice systems also create, store, and maintain public records. Often these government bodies share public records between themselves.

"The legislature hereby finds that a free society is maintained when government is responsive and responsible to the public, and when the public is aware of governmental actions. The more open a government is with its citizenry, the greater the understanding and participation of the public in government."

New York defines public records as "any information kept, held, filed, produced or reproduced by, with or for an agency or the state legislature, in any physical form whatsoever including, but not limited to, reports, statements, examinations, memoranda, opinions, folders, files, books, manuals, pamphlets, forms, papers, designs, drawings, maps, photos, letters, microfilms, computer tapes or discs, rules, regulations or codes."

The New York Municipal Archives is the government agency in charge of preserving the state's history and public records. They collect, store, maintain, and share office records, manuscripts, still and moving images, vital records, maps, blueprints, and sound recordings. Their records date back to 1645. They tout the following as highlights from their collections:

  1. "New Amsterdam records of the Dutch Colonial era, 1645-1758.
  2. Mayoral collections, 1826-2013.
  3. Vital Records, Census, and City Directories - resources for family history research.
  4. Court Records, 1684 -1966- the largest, most comprehensive collection about the administration of criminal justice in the English-speaking world.
  5. Photograph collections- tax photographs depicting every NYC property in 1940 and 1980.
  6. Architectural Drawings: Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, etc."
 

How to Access New York Public Records?

How to Access New York Public Records

Open FOIL NY is the place to start when you need copies of public records. The state of New York has set up a dedicated website to serve the public, and more than 55 government agencies take part in this initiative. If one of those offices is where you need records, then the process is easy. Simply follow the steps below.

  • Visit the FOIL NY website.
  • Click the link to open the Open FOIL NY Online Form.
  • Fill out the form. Be sure to select the government agency you wish to pull records from.
  • Pay the fees.
  • Submit the form and await a response.

If the records you require are not on the FOIL NY website, you can visit the government agency in person to request them.

 

Different Types of Public Records in New York

New York Criminal Records

Criminal records in New York are kept in two places. First, the Division of Criminal Justice has a copy of all RAP sheets. The public can request a copy for any reason if they fill out the form and pay the fee. Additionally, you can use the court system to perform acriminal history record search(CHRS) by name. The courts keep all criminal records on file as well. The general public has easy access to these records through the online portal. Sealed records, however, will not be available. The FBI also keeps a record of all federal offenses and criminal background checks, and you can contact them for details about those records. 

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

  • Felony and Misdemeanor Records - some common misdemeanors in New York are prostitution, petty theft, drug possession, vandalism, disorderly conduct, and simple assault. Some popular felonies include assault, fraud, theft, robbery, larceny, and drug distribution.
  • New York Inmate Search - both jails and prisons keep inmate records, and those too are public records. The New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision 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.

New York Court Records

Different Types of Public Records in New York

Court records in New York are created, stored, and managed by NYCOURTS.gov. The centralized court website allows you to request criminal records, search through public records, file documents on a case, and perform extensive research. Their website has a court locator feature and a lot of information about the courts in NY. You can also visit a courthouse in person to obtain public records. You may have to fill out a form and pay the fee before getting them.

Some types of court records in New York 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 New York court system is multilayered with a Court of Appeals at the top, then the Appellate Division of Supreme Court and Appellate Terms of the Supreme Court, then the Supreme Court and County Court. Some other courts in New York include District and City Court, Civil Court for NYC, Criminal Court for NYC, Town and Village Justice Court, Court of Claims, Family Court, and Surrogate's Court.

New York Arrest Records

New York arrest records are very easy to acquire. All arrest records are contained on RAP sheets that are stored and managed by the The Division of Criminal Justice office. They supply the public with criminal records upon request. You can also contact the NYCourts.gov system to run a name check through the CHRS system. Additionally, you can look up someone's arrest records up through the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

Some different types of arrests records in New York are:

  • Drug charges.
  • Murder.
  • Shoplifting.
  • Simple assault.
  • Prostitution.
  • Domestic abuse.
  • Petty theft.
  • 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.

New York Vital Records

New York's Department of Health is the agency in charge of vital records for the state. They collect, store, preserve, and maintain all birth, death, marriage, and divorce records. You can obtain copies of certificates in person, online, through the mail or by phone. New York uses the VitalChek system for online and phone orders. They have a printable form to use when ordering through the mail. 

 

Other Public Records in New York

Other Public Records in New York

Along with criminal, court, arrest, and vital records, other types of public records you can find in the state of New York 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 New York?

Not all government records are public record in New York Some things that are "specifically exempted from disclosure by state or federal statute;

  • (b) if disclosed would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under the provisions of subdivision two of section eighty-nine of this article;
  • (c) if disclosed would impair present or imminent contract awards or collective bargaining negotiations;
  • (d) are trade secrets or are submitted to an agency by a commercial enterprise or derived from information obtained from a commercial enterprise and which if disclosed would cause substantial injury to the competitive position of the subject enterprise;
  • (e) are compiled for law enforcement purposes and which, if disclosed, would:
  • i. interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings;
  • ii. deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or impartial adjudication;
  • iii. identify a confidential source or disclose confidential information relating to a criminal investigation; or
  • iv. reveal criminal investigative techniques or procedures, except routine techniques and procedures;
  • (f) if disclosed could endanger the life or safety of any person;
  • (g) are inter-agency or intra-agency materials which are not:
  • i. statistical or factual tabulations or data;
  • ii. instructions to staff that affect the public;
  • iii. final agency policy or determinations; or
  • iv. external audits, including but not limited to audits performed by the comptroller and the federal government; or
  • (h) are examination questions or answers which are requested prior to the final administration of such questions;
  • (j) are photographs, microphotographs, videotape, or other recorded images prepared under authority of section eleven hundred eleven-a of the vehicle and traffic law."