What are North Dakota Public Records, and How are They Created?
North Dakota's public records law states that anyone regardless of where they live is entitled to copies of government records from public entities.
"Public entity" means all:
- Public or governmental bodies, boards, bureaus, commissions, or agencies of the state, including any entity created or recognized by the Constitution of North Dakota, state statute, or executive order of the governor or any task force or working group created by the individual in charge of a state agency or institution, to exercise public authority or perform a governmental function;
- Public or governmental bodies, boards, bureaus, commissions, or agencies of any political subdivision of the state and any entity created or recognized by the Constitution of North Dakota, state statute, an executive order of the governor, resolution, ordinance, rule, bylaw, or executive order of the chief executive authority of a political subdivision of the state to exercise public authority or perform a governmental function; and
- Organizations or agencies supported in whole or in part by public funds, or expending public funds."
The above-mentioned public entities are the custodians of public records. They also create them, store them, and share them among other government agencies.
"Record" means recorded information of any kind, regardless of the physical form or characteristic by which the information is stored, recorded, or reproduced, which is in the possession or custody of a public entity or its agent and which has been received or prepared for use in connection with public business or contains information relating to public business. "Record" does not include unrecorded thought processes or mental impressions, but does include preliminary drafts and working papers. "Record" also does not include records in the possession of a court of this state."
The State Historical Society of North Dakota is the government agency in charge of preserving all historical public records. They have a website linked to ND.gov. Not only do they keep government records, school records, and historical information, they have resources for research including books, periodicals, maps, newspapers, audio recordings, electronic records and resources, moving images, and photographs.
How to Access North Dakota Public Records?
Typically, in North Dakota to request public records, you need to contact the agency you need them from. You do not need to provide a reason, and the government agency must supply them within a "reasonable time." Otherwise, you can contact the Attorney General's Office to file a complaint.
Record requests do not need to be made in writing. You can call, email, or visit in person to ask for specific records. Each agency has the legal right to charge a fee per search or copy if they choose.
Different Types of Public Records in North Dakota
North Dakota Criminal Records
The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) is the central repository for all criminal records in the state. They compile records of arrests and prosecutions of individual offenders for use by law enforcement, the courts, and the public. You can request a copy through their web portal. They offer both name-based and fingerprint searches. The fingerprint method is more accurate because some criminals use various aliases and other names. They charge $15 per record, and it takes between 10-15 days to receive them.
Some common types of criminal records in North Dakota include (but are not limited to):
- Felony and Misdemeanor Records - some common misdemeanors in North Dakota are a false representation of marital status, disorderly conduct, prostitution, and theft of cable TV services. Some popular felonies in North Dakota include murder, gross sexual imposition, sexual abuse of a child, human trafficking, treason, and kidnapping.
- Jail and Inmate Records in North Dakota - both jails and prisons keep inmate records, and those too are public records. The North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation 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.
North Dakota Court Records
Court records in North Dakota are created, stored, and shared with the public through the State of North Dakota Courts system. They have a web portal where you can search through both District and County court cases. Some of the types of things you will find are Criminal/Traffic cases, Civil, Family & Probate case records, judgments, and a full-court calendar. They also offer e-filing and other electronic services on their main website.
Some types of court records in North Dakota 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.
Along with the web portal, you can also seek records by visiting the courthouse in person.
North Dakota Arrest Records
North Dakota arrest records are stored with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), and they supply the public, employers, and licensing agencies copies of full criminal background checks upon request. You do have to pay a $15 fee when requesting, though. The Attorney General's Office has specific information on how to order a background check and the laws that apply when doing so.
Some different types of arrests records in North Dakota are:
- Drug charges.
- Simple assault.
- 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.
North Dakota Vital Records
The North Dakota Department of Health, Division of Vital Records is the government agency that preserves, stores, and issued all vital records for the state. They have copies of all birth, death, fetal death, marriage, and divorce certificates. You can request copies for a fee via the mail, online, and by visiting their office in person. This agency also handles corrections to vital records and paternity. The division also calculates health statistics for the entire state.
Other Public Records in North Dakota
Along with criminal, court, arrest, and vital records, other types of public records you can find in the state of North Dakota 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 North Dakota?
According to North Dakota, public records law some items are exempt and cannot be supplied to the general public. Some of those things include:
- "Home address, home & cell phone numbers, employee ID number, driver's license number, dependent information and emergency contact of public employees § 44-04-18.1(2), or individuals licensed by a state occupational/professional board, association, agency, or commission § 44-04- 18.1(4).
- Personal financial information of public employees used for payroll purposes and the type of leave taken or accrued (the amount of leave taken, and dates taken is open) § 44-04-18.1.
- Active criminal intelligence, criminal investigative information, officer training materials, information that may impact officer safety § 44-04-18.7, the work schedule of employees of a law enforcement agency § 44-04-18.3(3); records relating to background interviews of law enforcement applicants § 44-04-18.31.
- Homicide or sex crime scene images or any image of a minor victim of a crime § 44-04-18.7(8).
- Address, phone number, identifying information that could be used to locate or identify a victim/ alleged victim of domestic violence, human trafficking, a sex offense, or sexual performance by a child § 44-04-18.20.
- Law enforcement records containing an individual's personal information, including driver's license number, day/month of birth (the year of birth is open), home street address (the city, state, zip is open), height, weight, home, and personal cell phone numbers, and medical information § 44-04-18.7.NOTE: If a victim has asserted Marsy's law: the*completehome and employment address or location, email address, and any other contact information for the victim or a member of the victim's family are also protected. This information may be contained in digital media such as audio, video, or images, or in witness statements.*
- Address, phone number, place of employment, or other information in records of a criminal justice agency, correctional facility or the DOCR that could be used to locate the victim or witness to a crime § 12.1-34-02(11).
- Financial account numbers § 44-04-18.9."