What are Oregon Public Records, and How are They Created?
Oregon's public records law states that "Under Oregon's Public Records Law, "every person" has a right to inspect any nonexempt public record of a public body in Oregon." The law continues to note that whoever requests public records does not need to provide their identity or a specific purpose for needing the records. To request records, you must contact the "public body" who is the custodian of the records. They may have a form for you to fill out, or you can request via email, phone, or in person. Legally, they have the right to charge you a fee per record.
The state of Oregon defines "public bodies" as: "every state officer, agency, department, division, bureau, board and commission; every county and city governing body, school district, special district, municipal corporation, and any board, department, commission, council, or agency thereof; and any other public agency of this state. This definition includes any state agency, which means "any state officer, department, board, commission or court created by the Constitution or statutes of this state."
Oregon defines public records as: "any writing that contains information relating to the conduct of the public's business, including but not limited to court records, mortgages, and deed records, prepared, owned, used, or retained by a public body regardless of physical form or characteristics. Despite this broad definition, not all public records are available for inspection through Public Records Law. As discussed later, many state and federal laws either prohibit public bodies from disclosing certain records or give public bodies the discretion not to disclose. If a writing qualifies as a public record, the public body must either disclose it in response to a records request or assert an exemption from disclosure."
The Oregon Secretary of State's Office is the government entity who preserves, collects, maintains, and organizes historical public records. They have a robust website that allows you to easily perform research and search for archival records online. Along with old vital records, some of the collections they have are government records, historical photographs, old laws, personnel records, maps, and territorial guides, as well as many other things. You can browse their online resources or visit them in person to view paper documents.
How to Access Oregon Public Records?
The Oregon Department of Justice has guidelines on how to proceed with a public records request. They suggest that you:
- Most government bodies prefer records requests in writing. Be clear and concise when you ask for records.
- Pay the applicable fee.
- The government agency has to supply you with the records as soon as possible (no later than 15 business days). They are also required by law to acknowledge your request for records as they receive it.
If the public body fails to complete your public records, request you can contact the Attorney General's Office for assistance.
Different Types of Public Records in Oregon
Oregon Criminal Records
The Oregon Judicial Department has a website specifically for performing criminal records searches. They do warn that although these records are freely accessible, they may not be one hundred percent accurate or updated. If you need the official records, you can visit the courthouse in person to request copies. You can also visit local police to ask for criminal records. The State of Oregon Department of Human Services, Background Check Unit (BCU) does supply specific individuals and organizations with full criminal background checks.
Some common types of criminal records in Oregon include (but are not limited to):
- Felony and Misdemeanor Records - some common misdemeanors in Oregon are assault in the fourth degree, harassment, theft, reckless driving, and DUIs. Some popular felonies in Oregon include murder, assault, rape, sexual abuse, and burglary.
- Oregon Jail and Inmate Records - both jails and prisons keep inmate records, and those too are public records. The Oregon 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.
Oregon Court Records
Court records in Oregon are collected, created, stored, and disseminated by the Oregon Judicial Branch of government. They have a helpful website where the public can easily search for a multitude of different types of cases and court records. They offer a variety of different types of searches, and the search is free. However, if you visit a courthouse in person to obtain records, you may have to pay a fee for official copies.
Some types of court records in Oregon 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 Oregon consists of four levels with many courts. It begins with the Supreme Court at the top, then the Court of Appeals, and then Tax and Circuit Court, and finally County, Justice and Municipal Court.
Oregon Arrest Records
You can look up Oregon arrest records through the Judicial Branch search tool online. You can also contact local police agencies to request copies of police reports, RAP sheets, and other arrest documents like mugshots and sometimes fingerprints. One other resource would be the Oregon Department of Corrections, where you can also search for arrest records for convicted felons.
Some different types of arrests records in Oregon 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.
Oregon Vital Records
The Oregon Health Authority is the government agency in charge of vital records for the state. They are the official contact to request copies of birth, death, marriage, Oregon Registered Domestic Partnership, divorce, or fetal death records. You can request records via mail, telephone, internet, or by visiting their offices.
Other Public Records in Oregon
Along with criminal, court, arrest, and vital records, other types of public records you can find in the state of Oregon 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 Oregon?
Some public records in Oregon are exempt from access, and a partial list from the Oregon Public Records law includes:
- Personal identifying information submitted to state courts if made confidential.
- State court security plans, emergency preparedness plans, and business continuity plans.
- Court security plans, emergency preparedness plans, and business continuity plans prepared by a judicial district's advisory committee.
- Documents filed with or prepared by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court related to a complaint that a judge has a disability, unless received as evidence in a hearing.
- Testimony and evidence in a hearing on a judge's temporary disability Commission on Judicial Fitness & Disability.
- The investigation of a judge's conduct or disability, unless received as evidence in the hearing.
- The decision after a hearing on a judge's temporary disability.
- A judge's consent to censure, suspension, or removal, and a stipulation of facts, until submitted to the Supreme Court Commission on Judicial Fitness & Disability.
- Drug court program records.
- Claims against the lawyers' professional liability fund Oregon State Bar. Information provided to the Oregon State Bar by Dep't of Revenue relating to attorney conduct.
- Information provided to state lawyers' assistance committee or any personal and practice management assistance committee.
- Conditions of a public body's tort claim settlement when required by federal law to be kept confidential.
- Conditions of a public body's tort claim settlement that reveal the identity of a minor victim of sexual abuse, if confidentiality is ordered by the court.
- Name and address of the recipient of restitution or a compensatory fine in a criminal action, if the victim requests confidentiality.
- Information related to a person's eligibility for waiver or deferral of court fees or costs.
- Information in a judgment or order establishing paternity upon a finding that disclosure would unreasonably put a party or child at risk.
- Child support records.
- Any information received in suspending certain licenses due to notification that the licensee is in arrears under a child support judgment or order.
- Employer reports to the Division of Child Support on the hiring or rehiring of employees.
- Information and records of high-risk teams established to assess risks to highly vulnerable adults.