At some point, everyone in Illinois needs to access public records. Perhaps you are a property owner and want to conduct a background check on a potential tenant. Or an employer who wants to do a background check on your employees.

If you are getting a divorce in the state of Illinois, you need to check your vital records for copies of your marriage license or certificate.

Even if you just want information, it is your right to access the public record as a matter of law.

This guide will help you find the public records you are looking for in the State of Illinois.

Public records in Illinois are available to you as part of the principle of open government. Open government means a government that is transparent, that empowers you and other citizens with access to information that affects you and your neighbors.

The principle of public records is related to freedom of information. Freedom of information allows the media to function properly in the democracy, and allows you to remain cognizant of all public affairs.

Freedom of information is essential in a democracy.

There is no one government agency in charge of public records, unfortunately.

Instead, each agency will be required to keep its own records, and then to make that information accessible to the public upon request.

This guide will show you where to look for each type of public record you seek.

What Are Public Records In Illinois?

Public records include any files, data, documents, and multimedia information created, stored, or used by government agencies in the state of Illinois.

The government agency can be at the state level, at the county level, or the local level.

Some public records do not pertain to individuals like you, but to proceedings like legislative meetings and city council meetings.

Other public records do directly pertain to individuals, containing personal information such as your birth certificate or your arrest record.

Public records can be a bit of both, as with court records.

Illinois State law does protect your right as a citizen to request and access public records.

However, there are some exceptions to what is available as a public record.

Records are not considered public if they threaten national security or public safety.

Likewise, records may not be released if they would put a person in jeopardy, which is why your private financial information or your employment files are not considered part of the public record.

Trade secrets are also exempt from freedom of information laws.

To access some public records, all you need to do is ask because it is your right.

Yet to access other public records, you may need to provide some proof of identity to legitimate your claim to the information.

This guide will show you which public records you can access freely and which you may need to provide some proof of identity to access.

Public Records Laws in Illinois

Illinois has several laws protecting freedom of information. All state laws are subject also to the federal Freedom of Information Act.

The Freedom of Information Act sets the precedent and standard for all public records laws.

The Illinois General Assembly passed its own statewide Freedom of Information Act (5 ILCS 140/)

The Freedom of Information Act covers most types of public records, mandating public access under freedom of information principles.

In 1991, the Illinois General Assembly also passed the Illinois Uniform Conviction Information Act.

The Uniform Conviction Information Act, or UCIA, mandates the Illinois State Police, Bureau of Identification to make all conviction records in the state available to the public.

You can read the text of the UCIA.

The UCIA is important also because it makes it easier for you to search criminal records in the State of Illinois. You no longer have to make a request to a specific municipality or their police department. Now the state police keep all records in one place, which makes it easier and more efficient to search these Illinois public records.

Why Check Public Records in Illinois?

You may need or want to check public records for any reason.

Journalists and researchers need to access public records frequently in their work.

Employers and landowners need to access public records to conduct background checks, keeping their clients and stakeholders safe.

When applying for a business or professional license you may need to provide your vital records.

Likewise, if you apply for residency or citizenship in another country, you may be asked to provide access to your vital records or criminal background check.

Who Can Access Public Records in Illinois?

It depends.

You can access almost all of your own personal records, such as your criminal history and vital records.

When other parties want to find your personal information, they may do so freely in some cases. For example, if you have been convicted of a crime, that information is on the public record.

Unless the information you seek would violate a confidentiality agreement, leak trade secrets, or adversely affect public safety, then you will likely have access to the public record.

What about My Privacy?

The law is designed to balance your privacy with freedom of information.

That means that your sensitive financial data is not considered public record. Other people cannot legally acquire access to your Social Security Number.

Juvenile records are also not public records, and nor are your school records.

It does help to be aware of what information is public and what your rights are if you believe your private information has been unlawfully compromised.

How Do I Find…

Criminal Records / Background Checks

In the spirit of freedom of information, the Illinois Uniform Conviction Information Act (UCIA) mandates that all convictions in the state of Illinois be kept by the State Police and made available to the public as a matter of law.

Therefore, you can search the public records in Illinois for all convictions that have taken place in the state.

You conduct a criminal records search through the Illinois State Police using the Criminal History Information Response Process (CHIRP)

Only convictions are public records under the UCIA law in Illinois.

Arrest records and police reports are not considered public records under UCIA.

To search for criminal records using name or fingerprints, use this form.

Why check public records?

In many situations, your employer or a government agency will request you to release your criminal history records.

By law, government agencies that provide services to children and other vulnerable populations must conduct background checks on prospective employees.

In cases like these, you may need to authorize release of criminal history.

Authorization for release criminal history information

Convictions are considered public records. Therefore, anyone can search for criminal convictions under Illinois law.

Arrest Records

If you are searching for arrest or prosecution records, you may also be able to do so.

However, you cannot search the Illinois State Police files.

You can visit the individual police departments in Illinois.

For example, you can search the Chicago Police Department Arrest Records.

Jail, Prison, or Inmate Records

Searching for a friend or family member who is currently incarcerated in an Illinois state prison?

To search for an inmate serving time in an Illinois State Prison, you can search by name, Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) number, and/or birthdate.

Inmate data is available to the general public because it is a public record.

Please keep in mind not all inmates are incarcerated in Illinois State Prisons.

Many are incarcerated in a county jail.

If you are searching for inmates who are not incarcerated in a state prison and who are in county jails and prisons, you do need to contact that county Sheriff’s department.

See a full list of all county Sheriff’s Departments in Illinois.

Another way you can conduct an inmate search in Illinois is through the Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) system.

Although VINE is a nationwide database, you may be able to search both statewide and county jails and prisons in Illinois for inmate information.

Court Records

Unfortunately it can be complicated locating the correct court records in the State of Illinois.

One reason is that like all states, Illinois has several different court systems. Each court system maintains its own records. But with the exception of juvenile court records and other sensitive cases, you have the right to access all court records.

To access most court records, criminal or civil, you can start by visiting the Illinois Courts website.

However, most court records are kept at the county level, maintained by the circuit clerk.

One of the best ways to narrow your search, especially if you do not yet know the case or docket number, is to use the Illinois Judici website.

Here you can search for most, but not all, court records in Illinois.

The Judici database includes civil and criminal cases for 78 different courts.

Otherwise, you can search on a county-by-county basis in Illinois.

Missing Persons Records

The Illinois State Police is where you would go to find public records related to persons who have been reported missing.

Search the Illinois State Police database for missing children and adults.

If you believe the missing person has crossed state lines, then you can also check the Department of Justice National Missing and Unidentified Persons database.

Sex Offender Records

The state police created the Illinois Sex Offender Information database with information pertaining to convicted offenders.

You can also search for sex offender records through the Illinois Department of Corrections.

It is widely believed that sex offender records should be kept public to protect you.

It is unlawful to use the information in these databases to harass or harm a convicted sex offender.

However, it is your right to know if there are any sex offenders in your neighborhood or in a neighborhood you intend to move to in Illinois.

Driving Records

Some, but not all, sections of your driving record are considered public information.

When you want to receive a copy of your own driving record, you may do so anytime through the Illinois Secretary of State Department.

Fill out this form to request driving records for you or someone else.

You need to pay a small fee for this service.

Also, you do need to print and submit the form either by mail or in person to an Illinois Driver Services Facility.

The information contained in the driving record may include convictions and crash information, but not your personal information such as your address.

This way, employers can find about the important information about your driving record pertinent to workplace safety but not infringe on your privacy.

Voter Registration Records

It is easy to check if you or another person is registered to vote in the State of Illinois.

To locate your voter registration information:

Visit the Illinois State Board of Elections website.

It is critical that you maintain the correct information with the Illinois State Board of Elections to be sure you remain eligible to vote after you move or change your name.

Check the State Board of Elections, and conduct a voter registration lookup easily by name and date of birth.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to exercise your right to vote in the next election in Illinois!

Unclaimed Property Records

Did you know that billions of dollars of property is currently unclaimed in Illinois, just sitting there in the Illinois State Treasurer’s Department?

Unclaimed property does not mean real estate like houses or land, but it does mean bank accounts that may have been untouched for years and forgotten about, safety deposit boxes, insurance policies, stocks, bonds, and annuities.

It could also mean unclaimed wages or deposits you forgot to collect from utilities departments.

In many cases, a person dies and their loved ones do not know about thousands of dollars in unclaimed property that legally belongs to them.

What are you waiting for? It is in your best interest to check to see if you have unclaimed property now.

Find out of you have any unclaimed property in the State of Illinois.

Check the status of your unclaimed property claim.

Or, use the new Illinois “Money Watch” system to make your unclaimed property get back into your hands quickly!

Property Records

As in most states, property records are not kept at the state level but at the local level.

Therefore, to check property records in the State of Illinois for things like mortgage information, deeds, property tax records, and the like, first narrow down your search to the right Illinois County.

The County Clerk in each county in Illinois will have public records related to properties in that area.

Wills, Estate, and Probate Records

In Illinois, wills are considered public records.

However, they are not maintained in a central state database.

Unfortunately you must visit the individual county court clerk website to access information related to a will or probate case.

Probate refers to the legal cases related to settling a person’s estate. Those are in fact court records and are kept by the county court clerks.

The Illinois Courts website offers the full list of Illinois Circuit Court Clerks so you can find the will more efficiently.

Vital Records

Through the Illinois Department of Public Health, you can search for any vital records.

However, vital records are not all public records.

Birth records are not public records, meaning that not everyone has access to this information and they are not covered under the freedom of information laws.

Birth Records / Birth Certificates

Birth certificates remain one of the most important vital records on file. You will need a copy of your birth certificate when applying for a name change, and for other legal purposes.

Only the person whose name is on the record and their parents or legal guardians can access birth records in Illinois.

If you are seeking access to your own birth records or are otherwise entitled to do so, you may fill out the forms to request a copy of the birth records.

To receive a copy of the birth record, you need to provide proof of identification, such as a government-issued piece of ID, as well as a small fee indicated on the Illinois Department of Public Health website.

You can apply online or in person.

Find out more information about the fees for obtaining copies of birth records.

Adoption Records / Adoption Certificates

The Illinois Department of Public Health also maintains copies of adoption records, but by law these records are sealed in the State of Illinois.

The only people who can access the adoption records in Illinois are the birth mother and father and the adoptee.

Qualified individuals can request to change the information contained on the legal adoption record.

Marriage Records, Certificates, and Licenses

Unlike birth records, the certified copies of marriage records are not maintained by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Instead, the certified copies are only maintained at the local, county level.

You may still search the Illinois Department of Public Health for information verification: known formally as a Marriage Verification.

Obtain a Marriage Verification in Illinois.

If you need an actual, certified copy of a marriage license or certificate, such as for when you are applying for a name change or a divorce, you can visit the website of the county clerk where the marriage took place.

You can also phone the county clerk to request that information.

A full list of Illinois County Clerk offices can be found here.

The forms for marriage verification can be found here.

All of the above is also true for civil unions.

Search for civil union records by Illinois County.

Verifications can be found through the Illinois Department of Public health, and you can use this form to apply.

Divorce Records and Decrees

Although the Illinois Department of Public Health does not issue certified copies of the divorce record, also known as Dissolution of Marriage Records, you can still ask for a Dissolution of Marriage Verification.

The Dissolution of Marriage Verification is not an official copy for legal purposes but may be useful in some cases.

If you do need an official copy of the dissolution of marriage record for legal purposes or otherwise, please contact the Illinois County Clerk office in the county where the divorce took place.

The same is true for the dissolution of civil unions; you can apply for the verification but not an official certified copy through the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Request a Dissolution of Civil Union Verification .

Death Certificates

Death records may be needed for legal purposes, as for settling insurance disputes or probate cases.

Like birth records, death records and death certificates are not considered public information.

You need to prove that you are a direct relative of the deceased when you apply for the Illinois Death Record.


We hope this guide clarified what public records are in Illinois, and what you have the right to access under freedom of information laws.

This guide is also created to make it easier for you to find the public records you are looking for.

Public records include any information—including multimedia information such as photos or maps—that are kept by a government agency.

While some public records are accessible to all people as a matter of principle, to protect freedom of information, other records are restricted even though they are government files. The perfect example would be your birth certificate.

To protect your privacy, the State of Illinois does not allow wanton access to your personal data.

Your address, Social Security Number, and financial data are not public records. The State of Illinois does aim to prevent identity theft and other serious breaches of information security.

At the same time, a functioning democracy depends on freedom of information, and freedom of information means allowing easy access to public records.

Whether you need to know the outcome of a court case, or the driving background of a potential employee, it is your right to know.