What are Ohio Public Records, and How are They Created?
Ohio's public records law states that "To facilitate broader access to public records, a public office or person responsible for public records shall organize and maintain public records in a manner that they can be made available for inspection or copying in accordance with division (B) of this section. A public office also shall have available a copy of its current records retention schedule at a location readily available to the public." To make public records requests easy, the Attorney General for the state created a helpful video showing you exactly how to go about it. They caution you when requesting records, to not ask for "information" ask for specific records. The public records law only covers actual records requests.
All different types of agencies in the Ohio government create public records such as state schools, the Secretary of State's office, the Attorney General's office, the courts, law enforcement, and dozens of others. During the normal course of business, they create, collect, and share records. Then they store them, organize them, and issue them upon request.
"Public record" means records kept by any public office, including, but not limited to, state, county, city, village, township, and school district units, and records pertaining to the delivery of educational services by an alternative school in this state kept by the nonprofit or for-profit entity operating the alternative school pursuant to section 3313.533 of the Revised Code."
The Ohio History Connection is the government agency in charge of preserving all historical public records for the state. They store local and state government archives as well as county records, vital records, war records, arts, and many other historical artifacts from Ohio's history.
How to Access Ohio Public Records?
The Ohio Attorney General's Office has a video showing you explicit instructions on how to request records. They caution you when making a record request NOT to ask for "information" but to ask for specific records. They strongly suggest you make your request in writing at the agency that you want them from. Some other tips from their video are:
- Make public records requests for records that exist (not records that have been legally destroyed or are not yet available).
- Be specific in your request, avoid being vague.
- Do not ask for too many records (overly broad) as your request may be denied. Narrow your request down to a specific item or topic.
Anyone can make a public records request. You do not need to provide your identity or reason you want them. You may request in person, over the phone, by email, mail, or by fax. You may have to pay fees when requesting copies.
Different Types of Public Records in Ohio
Ohio Criminal Records
In Ohio, criminal records are limited and not considered general public records. You can easily request a copy of your own criminal history report through the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) using a name or fingerprint search. These records requests cost $22 each. If you are interested in obtaining someone else's criminal record, you need to provide a legal reason for doing so. Ohio limits access to criminal history information. However, you can always review court records and the Department of Corrections records to search for criminal records in Ohio.
Some common types of criminal records in Ohio include (but are not limited to):
- Felony and Misdemeanor Records - some common misdemeanors in Ohio are petty theft, criminal trespassing, possession of drug paraphernalia, disorderly conduct, and criminal property damage. Some popular felonies in Ohio are aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape, abduction, and illegally creating explosives.
- Jail and Inmate Records - both jails and prisons keep inmate records, and those too are public records. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and 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.
Ohio Court Records
Court records in Ohio are created, collected, stored, and shared by each individual court in the state. Many of the county courts and higher-level courts have websites with an online search feature. For some court records, you need to visit the courthouse in person and fill out a request form. The courts may charge you a nominal fee for making copies of court records.
Some types of court records in Ohio 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 court system in Ohio consists of five levels beginning with the Supreme Court, then the Court of Appeals and Court of Common Pleas, then the Municipal Court and County Court, then the Court of Claims and Mayor's Court.
Ohio Arrest Records
Ohio arrest records are created by Ohio law enforcement and then travel through the criminal justice system. Eventually, they end up as court records and Department of Corrections/jail records. Since many of the counties and courts have their records online, you can search through court records online through their website portals. Other options, including offender locator tools with the DOC.
Some different types of arrests records in Ohio 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.
Ohio Vital Records
The Ohio Department of Health is the government agency in charge of vital records for the state. They maintain vital records for births, deaths, and other vital events that take place in Ohio. They also handle adoption information, paternity records, they correct errors on vital records, and supply the public with certified copies of certificates along with heirloom certificates for new parents.
Other Public Records in Ohio
Along with criminal, court, arrest, and vital records, other types of public records you can find in the state of Ohio 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).
- State 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 Ohio?
In Ohio, not all records are considered public records. Some things are kept private including the following list from Ohio's public records law:
- "Medical records;
- (b) Records pertaining to probation and parole proceedings, to proceedings related to the imposition of community control sanctions and post-release control sanctions, or to proceedings related to determinations under section 2967.271 of the Revised Code regarding the release or maintained incarceration of an offender to whom that section applies;
- (c) Records pertaining to actions under section 2151.85 and division (C) of section 2919.121 of the Revised Code and to appeals of actions arising under those sections;
- (d) Records pertaining to adoption proceedings, including the contents of an adoption file maintained by the department of health under sections 3705.12 to 3705.124 of the Revised Code;
- (e) Information in a record contained in the putative father registry established by section 3107.062 of the Revised Code, regardless of whether the information is held by the department of job and family services or, pursuant to section 3111.69 of the Revised Code, the office of child support in the department or a child support enforcement agency;
- (f) Records specified in division (A) of section 3107.52 of the Revised Code;
- (g) Trial preparation records;
- (h) Confidential law enforcement investigatory records;
- (i) Records containing information that is confidential under section 2710.03 or 4112.05 of the Revised Code;
- (j) DNA records stored in the DNA database pursuant to section 109.573 of the Revised Code;
- (k) Inmate records released by the department of rehabilitation and correction to the department of youth services or a court of record pursuant to division (E) of section 5120.21 of the Revised Code;
- (l) Records maintained by the department of youth services pertaining to children in its custody released by the department of youth services to the department of rehabilitation and correction pursuant to section 5139.05 of the Revised Code;
- (m) Intellectual property records;
- (n) Donor profile records;
- (o) Records maintained by the department of job and family services pursuant to section 3121.894 of the Revised Code;
- (p) Designated public service worker residential and familial information;
- (q) In the case of a county hospital operated pursuant to Chapter 339. of the Revised Code or a municipal hospital operated pursuant to Chapter 749. of the Revised Code, information that constitutes a trade secret, as defined in section 1333.61 of the Revised Code;
- (r) Information pertaining to the recreational activities of a person under the age of eighteen"