Table of Contents
- 1What Are Public Records?
- 2Public Records Laws in Arizona
- 3Criminal Records / Background Checks
- 4Court Records
- 5Jail, Prison, and Inmate Records
- 6Sex Offender Records
- 7Missing Persons Records
- 8Driving Records
- 9Voter Registration Records
- 10Wills and Probate Records
- 11Property Records
- 12Unclaimed Property Records
- 13Vital Records
- 13.1Birth Certificates
- 13.2Marriage Certificates
- 13.3Divorce Certificates
- 13.4Death Certificates
Looking for public records in the State of Arizona?
You have come to the right place. This article will show you how to find many different types public records in Arizona, as easily and quickly as possible.
Perhaps you are a landlord who wants to conduct a background check on a potential tenant, or a person who needs to find a copy of their birth certificate and marriage certificate.
This guide should make it easier for you to find what you are looking for, and how to apply for the public records in Arizona.
The State of Arizona has laws in place that protect your right as a citizen to access government documents and public records, including those that pertain to you personally.
Vital records like birth certificates and marriage certificates are public records, even if only authorized parties can access them.
Public records laws in Arizona also ensure you have access to court records and legislative proceedings.
Obtaining public records in the State of Arizona can be a somewhat complicated procedure given the different agencies and levels of government, with some records being kept at a local or county level and many at the state level.
Keep checking this document for updates on how you can find public records in the State of Arizona.
What Are Public Records?
In Arizona, public records are any records that are created or maintained by a government organization—any entity that is funded by taxpayer dollars.
In some cases, private organizations that have contracts with the government may also be subject to freedom of information laws because the information directly relates to government activities.
For example, a private company that had a contract to build something for the government might need to make records for that government project public.
Freedom of information is essential to a democracy, which is why public records laws are so important.
Public records can include multimedia files such as images or maps. Likewise, public records can include personal data like your birth certificate, or it can include more general information related to the process of government such as the proceedings from a town hall meeting.
Court records are public records, as are prison records. However, arrest records are usually not considered public records and are only available by special request by authorized government agencies.
However, not all government records are considered public records.
You are well aware that classified files related to national security and intelligence are not public record.
Likewise, there are many documents or files that are not considered public record for the interest of public safety. Another reason why some records are not considered public even though they are created and maintained by the government is privacy.
The law balances your right to privacy with your right to information.
Sensitive data such as your Social Security Number is not considered public record.
Some public records are accessible to authorized persons only. For example, you and your immediate family can access your birth certificate and request a copy but members of the general public cannot do so.
Public Records Laws in Arizona
The federal government passed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with the intent of expressly outlining the standards by which government agencies should maintain documents and ensure transparency.
Most states, including Arizona, also have strong freedom of information laws and similar acts that detail what constitutes a public record and how government agencies must make those records accessible upon request.
Public records laws in Arizona have two purposes. One of the functions of the public records laws in Arizona is to mandate that all state government agencies (at the state, county, and municipal or local levels) create and maintain public records. Thus, public meetings need to be recorded and transcribed and so do the proceedings in a court of law.
Government agencies in Arizona are also required to respond to and fulfill all legitimate valid requests for public records.
Another purpose of public records laws in Arizona is to protect you and the general public. The public records laws outline what information is covered, and what is exempt from freedom of information.
Information that might compromise another person’s safety or privacy may be on record, but cannot be considered a public record.
All states have similar freedom of information laws that cover matters related to public records in that state.
In Arizona, a series of public records laws mandates that government agencies that operate at any level of government keep, maintain, and disseminate public records.
There are of course exceptions to what counts as public records. Just because information or data is held by a government agency does not automatically make it public knowledge, accessible to all who request it.
The general public cannot access any information that would infringe on the privacy rights or security of another person.
Similarly, the general public cannot access trade secrets, state secrets, or any information that would compromise national security.
Most public records that are available to you are ones you will be familiar with, including your criminal history for a background check, which employers and government bodies frequently request.
The law in Arizona is designed to balance the need to protect your privacy with the need for freedom of information for the general public.
Likewise, the state of Arizona has laws that balance the interests of public safety with personal privacy. You will have to give your consent to an employer to access your criminal history, for example, and not just anyone can access your personal driving record.
Another important piece of legislation impacting public records in Arizona is Arizona Revised Statutes 41-1750, which addresses the mandate that local law enforcement agencies throughout the state submit their public records related to arrests to a central state body.
How Do I Find…
Criminal Records / Background Checks
One of the most common public records searches conducted in the State of Arizona is for criminal history.
Also known as a background check, a criminal history records check can be useful in some scenarios.
Because of Arizona Revised Statutes 41-1750, you can search a statewide online database for a criminal history or background check instead of submitting a freedom of information request with a local law enforcement agency.
In fact, many employers are actually required by law to request your criminal history and conduct a background check before hiring you. Education, childcare, elder care, and healthcare are some of the sectors that use background checks regularly in order to protect their stakeholders.
However, employers are not allowed to use the results of a background check to discriminate against you. Not all employers can require you to submit to a background check when you apply for a job.
You can conduct your own criminal history records check to find out information about what is on your record.
There are three ways to conduct a criminal records check or background check: in person, by mail, or online.
For authorized employers, conduct a background check in Arizona.
Landlords sometimes wish to conduct background checks on potential tenants in Arizona, but you may need to provide your consent in order for them to do so.
Searching for court records in the State of Arizona is a lot easier than it used to be, thanks to the use of online databases to streamline the process.
Also, the Arizona Judicial Branch has increased the centralization of court records by allowing you to search court records.
Even though there are numerous different types of courts in Arizona, each with its own jurisdiction, you can start by searching for court records on the Arizona Judicial Branch website.
Alternatively, you can search the specific court if you know more about the case.
For example, you can search for court records in Civil Court, Criminal Court, Family Court, or Probate Court.
Court records are useful for research, especially when you are researching information related to a pending appeal. However, many researchers need to access court records for their own purposes.
With few exceptions, all court proceedings will be considered public record in the State of Arizona.
Jail, Prison, and Inmate Records
Inmate searches are common because friends and loved ones want to visit, send money, or simply know the whereabouts and remaining sentence time to be served.
Victims also have a right to know where the person is being incarcerated and the remaining time served on the sentence.
In Arizona, inmates have the most restricted access to their own prison records or to those of other persons in prison.
Victims can go directly to the Arizona Department of Corrections Office of Victim Services.
Family members and members of the general public can search the Department of Corrections public records.
Sex Offender Records
The law in the State of Arizona holds that the Arizona Department of Public Safety maintains a sex offender database that is easily accessible by the general public.
Members of the public often want to know the status of a specific sex offender, or to know whether there are convicted sex offenders living or working in a specific area.
This information cannot be used to harm or harass an offender, but can be used to empower and inform the public so that you can make decisions that affect your life and peace of mind.
Missing Persons Records
To search for updated information about persons who have been officially registered as being missing or abducted with Arizona law enforcement agencies, you would use the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS).
Because persons who were initially reported missing or abducted in the State of Arizona can easily cross state lines, it does help to have a national database to search for information.
You can also call or inquiry at local law enforcement agencies regarding missing adults or children in Arizona.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children may also be of use when searching for missing persons records in Arizona.
To search for your own or another’s driving record, you would go to the Arizona Department of Transportation website.
Because driving records can include sensitive information, your privacy is ensured and protected by law. Only authorized persons can view the entire driving record.
The Arizona Department of Transportation will issue limited driving records to authorized persons, too.
Search the Arizona Department of Transportation website for driver license motor vehicle records or for title and registration information.
Requests for driving records may be made by some employers in the interests of protecting their stakeholders and promoting public safety. Likewise, some government agencies may have access to your driving record.
Generally, though, a driving record is not fully public information.
Voter Registration Records
Searching for your voter registration in Arizona is necessary when you have recently moved, or have not voted in a long time and wish to check your registration status.
You will also need to look at voter registration records when you have changed your name.
The Arizona Secretary of State maintains the main state database of voters registered.
For a successful search, have on hand not only your full name but also driver’s license.
Wills and Probate Records
While last wills and testaments are considered private documents, when those documents are entered into Probate Court in the State of Arizona, they become public records.
Arizona Probate Courts are where you would go to find legal records and public records related to the settling of a family estate.
Probate Courts in Arizona also hear other cases related to elder abuse and issues that would impact probate.
Another way of searching for probate records in Arizona is to locate the specific probate court by county.
Probate records can be useful when settling a disputed will or estate.
Property records in Arizona are only managed at the county level.
Therefore, you will need to search for the property records by visiting the county’s website.
Start your search for property records with this list of Arizona counties.
Alternatively, if you need public records or any information that is more related to property taxes, you can search the Arizona Department of Revenue.
Unclaimed Property Records
Unclaimed property does not refer to real estate. Rather, unclaimed property refers to any tangible asset or cash that has been abandoned, left behind, or forgotten in some way. The most common instances involving unclaimed property are dormant bank accounts and safety deposit boxes.
Many people make investments in the stock market they forgot about, or have government bonds that they also forgot about.
Insurance policy payouts, unclaimed wages from employment, and deposits for utilities are other types of unclaimed property.
If you were the original owner of that forgotten property, you can reclaim what is rightfully yours by searching through the Arizona Department of Revenue Unclaimed Property Division.
The government protects your unclaimed property from going into the wrong hands. You will need to submit identification proving that you are the rightful owner or the rightful heir to that previous owner.
Vital records refer to all the milestone events in a person’s life: birth, marriage, death, and divorce.
In the State of Arizona, vital records are divided into two components. The first includes birth and death certificates, as well as adoption and paternity records. These types of vital records are managed by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
However, the Arizona Department of Health Services does not maintain the marriage or divorce records for the state.
Marriage and divorce records are considered vital records generally, but in Arizona you will need to contact the actual county in which the marriage or divorce took place.
For more information see below.
The Arizona Department of Health Services maintains the vital records related to all births that occur in the state.
You can request a copy of your own birth certificate online. There is a fee associated with the service, which varies but starts at $20 for the certificate plus processing and shipping fees.
Birth records in Arizona are not considered “public” in the sense that any member of the general public can access your birth certificate or birth records.
Only you—only the person whose name is on the certificate—can successfully receive a copy from the Arizona Department of Health Services.
This is to protect your privacy. However, there are some exceptions, and authorized persons who may be eligible to receive a copy of someone else’s birth certificate—such as a legal guardian or parent.
You can also apply in person or by mail.
Requests for birth certificates are extremely common. You may need one when applying for citizenship or residency in another country, or when changing your legal name.
To obtain copies of your marriage records in the State of Arizona, you will also need to present appropriate identification.
You cannot use the Arizona Department of Health Services website, but must go directly to the county in which the marriage took place.
The reason for this is that in Arizona, marriages and divorces are considered to be legal issues and covered by the judiciary rather than public health.
A marriage certificate is helpful when you are applying for an official name change, or when you are applying for spousal benefits.
Similarly, you may need a copy of a marriage certificate for immigration or citizenship purposes.
As with marriage certificates in Arizona, divorce certificates are not issued or maintained by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
If the divorce did take place in an Arizona court system, then you need to locate that county court and request copies of the divorce degree there.
Copies of the divorce certificates may be required for legal purposes. When you get remarried, you may also need to present a copy of the divorce certificate.
Death certificates are vital records maintained by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Only qualified individuals can successfully receive another person’s death certificate.
If you are an immediate relative, including a spouse, a grandparent, parent, or adult child, you may be eligible to receive a copy of the death certificate as long as you provide the correct identification.
The Arizona Department of Health Services does authorize many professionals to have access to the death certificate.
Additionally, a person who is disputing the estate of the deceased will be able to request a copy of the death certificate.
Uncertified copies of death certificates may be issued in some other cases, such as when you are conducting genealogical research.
Finding public records in Arizona is a lot easier now than it used to be Digitalization of public records has facilitated the process tremendously. Increased centralization of some of the state’s information systems also helps you to find the public records you are looking for in Arizona.
Also, public records and freedom of information laws in Arizona are strong, reflecting the long national tradition of open government.
Open government and government transparency empower you with information. A democracy is a government by the people and for the people. Naturally, government documents essentially belong to you—the people!
This guide was designed to help you find public records in the state of Arizona. You can locate any type of public document, as long as you have proper authorization and the document is not considered exempt due to security or legal reasons.