What are Vermont Public Records, and How are They Created?
Vermont's Attorney General's Office provides guidance for citizens who want to request public records. The Secretary of State for Vermont says the Public Records Act (PRA) dates back to 1906 but was amended in 1976 after the Watergate scandal. They describe the law as "The law intends to provide for free and open examination of state and municipal government records, promoting transparency, accountability, and better decision-making in government while recognizing certain rights of individuals to privacy in their personal and economic pursuits."
To the state of Vermont "public body" "means any board, council, or commission of the State or one or more of its political subdivisions, any board, council, or commission of any agency, authority, or instrumentality of the State or one or more of its political subdivisions, or any committee of any of the foregoing boards, councils, or commissions, except that "public body" does not include councils or similar groups established by the Governor for the sole purpose of advising the Governor with respect to policy." Each public body creates, maintains, organizes, stores, and shares public records.
"Public record" or "public document" means any written or recorded information, regardless of physical form or characteristics, which is produced or acquired in the course of public agency business. Individual salaries and benefits of and salary schedules relating to elected or appointed officials and employees of public agencies shall not be exempt from public inspection and copying."
Vermont’s Secretary of State, Vermont State Archives & Records Administration is the government agency in charge of preserving historical public records. They also regulate accountability, retention and disposition, compliance, and repositories and systems. They make it easy to request copies of old records through their online form. They also allow you to browse many of their collections online or visit them in person to review the records.
How to Access Vermont Public Records?
Both the Attorney General's Office and the Secretary of State's Office provides detailed instructions on how to request public records. However, there is no centralized agency or repository for records. In most cases, you have to contact the government public body where the records reside. The basic guidelines are:
- Determine which agency you need the records from.
- You can make a request in person, by phone, by mail, or through email.
- Use the form provided by the Attorney General.
- Fill it out completely and be as detailed as possible about the records you need.
- You may have to pay fees for the records.
- If you are denied requests, you can appeal.
Different Types of Public Records in Vermont
Vermont Criminal Records
The Department of Public Safety has set up the Vermont Criminal Conviction Record Internet Service (VCCRIS), where the public can search for and review criminal records online. Criminal histories cost $30 each. That amount is non-refundable even if your search yields no results. You can pay by credit card and view and print the information instantly. Another way to get criminal records for the state is to contact local police or consult the Department of Corrections to search for offenders and find Vermont criminal records.
Some common types of criminal records in Vermont include (but are not limited to):
- Felony and Misdemeanor Records - some common misdemeanors in Vermont are DUI, simple assault, domestic assault, and disorderly conduct. Some common felonies in Vermont include murder, sexual assault, aggravated assault, embezzlement, and burglary.
- Vermont Inmate Locator - both jails and prisons keep inmate records, and those too are public records. The Vermont 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.
Vermont Court Records
VTCourtsOnline is Vermont's online portal that the public can use to search for Court records in Vermont. This is how they describe the service "calendar information for all of Vermont's Criminal, Family, and Civil Divisions, as well as detailed case information for the Civil Divisions (civil and small claims cases) for all Units of the Vermont Superior Court." When using the tool, you must have a registered account. You must pay a one-time fee of $12.50 to register. This fee will give you five free lookups, and then you can purchase additional searches.
Some types of court records in Vermont 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 Vermont consists of four simple levels. The top-level is the Supreme Court, then the Court of Appeals, then District Court, and finally Juvenile and Justice Courts.
Vermont Arrest Records
Vermont arrest records are not that hard to come by using a few different methods. First, you can use the Vermont Criminal Conviction Record Internet Service system to pull criminal and arrest records. It is fee-based, though. You can also request arrest records from local and state police or check out the Department of Corrections website to look for convicted felon's arrest data. The courts may also provide you with arrest information.
Some different types of arrests records in Vermont are:
- Drug charges.
- Simple assault.
- Misrepresenting the age of a minor.
- 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.
Vermont Vital Records
The Vermont Department of Health is the agency in charge of all vital records for the state. They maintain birth, death, marriage or civil union, and divorce certificates. You can order copies online, through the mail or in person. This agency also handles health statistics for the state.
Other Public Records in Vermont
Along with criminal, court, arrest, and vital records, other types of public records you can find in the state of Vermont 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.
- * 911 time response logs.
- Grant applications.
- Contracts involving government agencies.
- Settlement agreements.
- Agency decisions.
- Name, title, and salary of public employees and officials.
What Information is Not Public Record in Vermont?
The Vermont Public Records Act has a list of exemptions that are not considered public records. Among them are:
- "(1) Records which by law are designated confidential or by a similar term.
- (2) Records which by law may only be disclosed to specifically designated persons.
- (3) Records which, if made public pursuant to this subchapter, would cause the custodian to violate duly adopted standards of ethics or conduct for any profession regulated by the State.
- (4) Records which, if made public pursuant to this subchapter, would cause the custodian to violate any statutory or common law privilege other than the common law deliberative process privilege as it applies to the General Assembly and the Executive Branch agencies of the State of Vermont.
- (5) Records dealing with the detection and investigation of crime, but only to the extent that the production of such records:
- (i) could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings;
- (ii) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication;
- (iii) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;
- (iv) could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, including a state, local, or foreign agency or authority or any private institution which furnished information on a confidential basis, and, in the case of a record or information compiled by criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, information furnished by a confidential source;
- (v) would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecution if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law;
- (vi) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.
- (6) A tax return and related documents, correspondence, and certain types of substantiating forms which include the same type of information as in the tax return itself filed with or maintained by the Vermont Department of Taxes or submitted by a person to any public agency in connection with agency business.
- (7) Personal documents relating to an individual, including information in any files maintained to hire, evaluate, promote, or discipline any employee of a public agency, information in any files relating to personal finances, medical or psychological facts concerning any individual or corporation; provided, however, that all information in personnel files of an individual employee of any public agency shall be made available to that individual employee or his or her designated representative.
- (9) Trade secrets, meaning confidential business records or information, including any formulae, plan, pattern, process, tool, mechanism, compound, procedure, production data, or compilation of information which is not patented, which a commercial concern makes efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to keep secret, and which gives its user or owner an opportunity to obtain business advantage over competitors who do not know it or use it, except that the disclosures required by 18 V.S.A. § 4632 are not exempt under this subdivision."