New York Public Records: How to Perform a New York Public Records Search
November 6, 2022
The State of New York extends the right to request public records (specified as such by the state's Freedom of Information Law) to both residents and none residents of the state.
Although FOIL is ostensibly the overriding public records law in the state, requesters of New York public records should note that the law applies to New York City, the NYPD, and the rest of the state in different ways.
Generally, custodians of New York public records must respond to public records requests within five days, extendable to 20 days at most.
If a record is denied, the issuing agency must notify the requester of the reasons that necessitated the denial of the records request.
New York Public Records Search
In general, requesters of public records in New York must send an official records request to the designated record custodian.
New York public records requests must be written (government agencies in the state do not typically accept oral requests).
Written requests may be submitted in person or by mail. Record custodians in the state also respond to public records requests through either of these means.
Some New York public records custodians do offer online access to public records as well.
With such agencies, formal requests are not necessary. Unofficially, third-party websites also offer access to public records in New York.
As we mentioned earlier, the New York FOIL applies to the three major record custodians in the state in different ways.
So, requesters of public records in New York must expect different procedures for obtaining public records from each.
Public Records New York: Vital Records
Vital records in the state of New York chronicle instances of births, deaths, marriages, and divorces in the state.
These records are accessible to members of the public once the record subject passes or after the expiration of the record's statutory period of confidentiality.
In most cases, however, only people who are named on the record or who are legally authorized may obtain vital records in New York.
Individuals interested in obtaining certified vital records in New York under conditions different from either of the above will be required to provide valid, government-issued IDs as well as documents proving a relationship with the record subject or any other document that substantiates their claim of eligibility.
They will also be required to cover any cost that may apply.
How to Obtain New York Vital Records:
Vital records in New York are maintained and disseminated by the New York Department of Health (DOH).
Members of the public interested in obtaining vital records in New York typically need to submit a written records request to this agency.
In the case of marriage and divorce records, requesters may also obtain these records from the office of the county clerk in the county where the marriage or divorce was certified or finalized.
To obtain vital records in New York, requesters must fill out the appropriate request form from the DOH's website, then attach a valid ID and applicable fees and mail the application to
New York State Department of Health, Vital Records Certification Unit, P.O. Box 2602, Albany, NY
Public Records New York: Criminal Records
Criminal records in New York are accessible to members of the public on request, per the state's Freedom of Information Law.
Law enforcement agencies in the state curate and maintain these records, but only the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services (NYDCJS) which is the official repository of criminal history information, can disseminate these records.
How to Obtain New York Criminal Records
The New York Division of Criminal Justice Services chronicles criminal records in online repositories, accessible to members of the public through offline and online means.
Interested individuals may perform personal criminal record searches and may obtain a criminal background report from this agency.
For third-party criminal history requests, interested parties may contact the New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA).
To perform a criminal record search, interested individuals must fill out a Criminal History Record Search application form, then attach the application fee (which is $95) and submit the application in person or by mail to:
Criminal History Records Search NYS Office of Court Administration Office of Administrative Services Criminal History Records Search 25 Beaver Street New York, NY 1004
Public Records New York: Court Records
Court records in New York, with the exception of divorce records, are public records. Requesters may obtain New York court records without providing any reason for requesting the record.
How to Obtain New York Court Records
To obtain court records in New York, requesters need to first identify the agency or department in charge of maintaining the desired record.
Court clerks in New York are the designated custodians of court records, and individuals interested in obtaining these records must submit a request in person or by mail to the clerk of court of the specific county court that maintains the desired record.
The New York Police Department also maintains prosecution records that are submitted to the court. In some cases, these records may be accessible to the public.
Public Records New York: Inmate Records
New York inmate records contain information about offenders incarcerated in any correctional institution in the state. These records are also accessible to the public, according to FOIL.
How to Access New York Inmate Records
The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) in the state of New York is the agency that maintains inmate records in the state.
This agency makes inmate records available to the public through a free online inmate search tool.
Interested individuals may perform a search by providing the inmate's name or identification number.
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