New York Public Records
There are two categories of public records in New York State. First, personal public records serve as a record of significant life events like births, deaths, divorces, and marriages. Second, government records are made available to the general public like land records, voter registration information, property tax records, and court and jail inmate records.
Federal legislation known as the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) makes the majority of public records accessible to the public and makes public records held by government agencies available. It can be challenging to know how or where to obtain the documents because there are so many of them available.
The original public records law in New York was passed in 1974, and substantial revisions have been made since then. There is a rather broad definition of "records" in it.
How to Find New York Public Records
A New York Public Records search may involve seeking records through a single governmental source (such as Vital Records -- for a marriage or death certificate) or the courts (information for a background check).
You can also go through a private records website like newyorkpublicrecords.org to access an alphabetical list of the records you need. Each link will guide you to the public records site for further details.
Most people who perform public records searches do so to check someone's background, obtain marriage, birth, or divorce information, or learn more about court or inmate information. You can also access records from historical archives for genealogical or academic research.
Are New York Public Records Available Online
Online access allows you to take advantage of today's technology and get the records you need. For example, if you wish to obtain information on vital statistics, such as birth, death, divorce, or marriage, you can visit the Department of Health website for the state. Currently, as of 2022, walk-ins are canceled until further notice.
If you wish to obtain court records, it's best to visit the clerk of the county court website where the case was held, or a verdict was rendered. According to the state's Unified Court System, this is the best way to access the information. A clerk is a recordkeeper of the court, so you want to go through this channel first.
For example, you can find country clerk listings in NYC on this site, all of which offer ways to gain access online.
The Division of Criminal Justice Services also offers criminal records for checking backgrounds in New York.
What Records are Available in New York City?
You can find a large number of files to access in New York. Therefore, the following list represents some of the more common records you’ll find:
- Vital statistics (including birth, death, divorce, and marriage information)
- Court records
- Jail and inmate information
- Sex offender registration data
- Historical archives
- Unclaimed property
- Property records, including mortgages, deeds, and liens
What Records Are Non-Public in New York?
While many records are accessible in New York, some are not available to the public. These records include the following:
- Birth records are not available for public access unless the parents or person on the certificate requests a certificate. Otherwise, you can access the records after 75 years. The State Department of Health provides information from 1881, which is recorded on microfiche.
- Adoption records are unavailable to adoptees under 18 years old and are sealed from public access. After an adoptee turns 18, they can order their birth certificate. They can do this without obtaining the consent of the adoptive or birth parents.
- Divorce records are sealed, and only the parties involved in the divorce can access the records. The only way someone from the general public can view a copy of a certificate is if the parties involved order it.
- Records are sealed where children committed a crime and therefore cannot be viewed
- Records that have been expunged are not available for access
Types of Public Records Available in New York
Common records available include the following:
New York Vital Statistics
As previously noted, you can obtain vital statistics information through the Department of Health in New York.
Public Criminal Records
A record of arrest and prosecution, known as a RAP sheet, is available for review. You can access this info by visiting the Division of Criminal Justice Services.
You can also do a criminal history record search through the Office of Court Administration or OCA. This service allows you to access information through the criminal history record search -- called CHRS -- for a charge of $95.00. You may make a request through the database online direct access system. You'll need to have an exact match of the person's name and date of birth.
Companies can also perform background checks by going through CHRS. The results from a search cover open and pending dispositions and convictions in criminal cases - all of which originate from the county and supreme court jurisdictions or town and village courts in New York's 62 counties.
Police Departments and Sheriffe Office in New York :
Arrest Records and Warrants
Arrest records and warrants, as noted, can be accessed through the county clerk where the arrest or warrant is issued.
If you live in NYC, call (646) 386-4500 to receive information about outstanding warrants.
Inmate and Jail Records
Do you need inmate information or jail records? If so, you must visit the county court website where the information is maintained. Probably the easiest way to save time is to visit a private site, such as NewYorkStateRecords.org. This link, for example, will help you if you’re locating the jail or arrest record of someone in the Bronx.
Jails and Prisons in New York :
New York Background Check
A criminal history record check may be made through the criminal history record search system (CHRS) for $95.00. You'll need the individual's exact name and date of birth; however, the search results will not show any info about civil, family, or federal court cases.
Information about the Fair Chance Act and Background Checks
New York City updated its Fair Chance Act in July 2021 to increase protection for job candidates and workers with specific criminal backgrounds. This law requires companies to hold off on running criminal background checks until after a conditional offer of employment has been made.
The division of the pre-employment background check is typically separated into two reports. Non-criminal background information, such as an applicant's employment history, educational background, and reference checks, might be included in the initial investigation and can be carried out before making a conditional offer of employment.
The applicant's criminal history will be the only item in the second report. Employers must go through the Fair Chance procedure if convictions are discovered before deciding not to hire the applicants.
Employers can only receive data from the previous seven years for hiring decisions. If arrests are older than seven years and did not result in an arrest, they're not provided.
On reports from pre-employment background checks, information such as liens, civil judgments, collection records, and bankruptcies are not disclosed if they are seven years old or older.
Any job that pays over $75,000 is exempt from the FCRA's requirements. The seven-year lookback period is also unrelated to the reporting of criminal conviction histories.
Fair Credit Reporting and Background Checks
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) does not limit the use of background report data regarding a candidate's credentials, employment history, or education.
Background Screenings by Landlords
Landlords in NY must receive the written consent of prospective tenants before running background checks. Potential tenants may provide a background and credit check to landlords provided the check was done in the past 30 days.
How to Find Sex Offenders in New York
Go through New York’s Division of Criminal Justice Services (DOCJS) to obtain sex offender registration information in New York State.
New York Public Vital Records
Direct access to vital records, as in most states, is performed through the Department of Health. Certificates for marriages, divorces, deaths, and births are available on the site.
New York Court Records
To review court record information, visit NYCourts.Gov to obtain the information you need for accessing specific court information in New York.
State Court System in New York
The New York State court system is rather complex. It is made up of a supreme court and claims courts that are located throughout the state. Also, each county features a surrogate's court and family court, which are located in New York City, plus in the state's outer 57 counties.
A criminal court is located in NYC, and separate city courts are situated statewide. Town and village courts also review cases. In some less populated venues, one judge may oversee several courts.
Courts in New York :
The New York State DMV now has a mechanism to identify high-risk drivers and take appropriate action against them, thanks to the Driver Violation Point System. The DMV gives points for specific driving infractions. If you accumulate 11 points over 18 months, your driver's license may be revoked.
New York State License Plate Lookup
Visit the DMV website to obtain information on looking up a license plate number or vehicle identification number (VIN) for a car history or title search. The site’s Records Request Navigator will help you find what you’re seeking.
New York Property and Assets Records
To easily find property records, perform a search on the private site staterecords.org. You may also obtain property information through the county clerk’s office where the property, such as land or real estate, is located.
Important Government Agencies in New York
The following listing provides links to important governmental agencies in New York State:
- New York State Governor
- Department of State - Secretary of State’s Office
- New York State Assembly
- New York Courts
- Department of Health - Vital Records
- New York State Police
- New York Department of Taxation and Finance
Counties in New York
- New York
- Saint Lawrence
List of Content
- How to Find New York Public Records
- Are New York Public Records Available Online
- What Records are Available in New York City?
- What Records Are Non-Public in New York?
- Types of Public Records Available in New York
- New York Public Vital Records
- New York Court Records
- State Court System in New York
- Driving Records
- New York State License Plate Lookup
- New York Property and Assets Records
- Important Government Agencies in New York