Georgia Court Records
Are Georgia Records Public?
Under Georgia law, most records are considered public. Access to non-confidential government records is permitted under the Georgia Open Records Act (GORA §50-18-70 et seq.). Per the act, anyone may inspect or obtain copies of a public record, except where restricted by law or court order. This includes copying any "tapes, photographs, maps, books, letters, papers, and computer-generated information" maintained or received by an agency. Upon receiving a request, government agencies must respond within three business days. Furthermore, government agencies must notify requesters if the record is unavailable or the process takes longer.
Georgia's public record law covers state departments, agencies, commissions, and political subdivisions. It also includes cities, county governments, and any other authority established under law.
Note: You must provide enough information to assist the search when submitting requests. Be as specific as possible. Record custodians are allowed to reject requests that are overly broad or vague.
Who Can Access Georgia Public Records?
Anyone can access Georgia public records, including individuals, businesses, and organizations. Unlike the laws in some US states, Georgia's public record law grants access to both state residents and non-residents. However, record custodians may request some identification depending on the document type. This is more likely to occur when requesting certified copies of a public record, such as a birth record. In such cases, acceptable options for identification may include a driver's license, US passport, military ID, employer ID card, or DMV card.
Do I Need to State My Purpose and Use When Requesting Public Records in Georgia?
Georgia's public record law does not require requesters to provide a reason when obtaining records. All you need to do is submit a request to the government agency and pay the applicable fee (if any). Requests may start with a simple sentence such as "According to the Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70 et seq.), I am requesting the following records:"
Although you can submit requests using various options, government agencies generally recommend that applicants submit written requests for multiple reasons. One of these is the ease of documentation and process. Written requests also typically provide more clarity on the type of record needed. To assist with this, most agencies will provide an application form that lists the necessary information to help with a search, such as the registrant's and requester's details.
Lastly, submitting a written request makes it easier for agencies to time their replies, as the law mandates that they respond within three business days.
What Records are Public in Georgia?
Multiple records fall under the public record umbrella in Georgia. The stipulations of the Georgia Open Records Act apply to all branches of the government, including the executive and legislative branches. This means residents can inspect or obtain copies of criminal, court, arrest, and inmate records. You can also request public bankruptcy, property, and Georgia vital records, such as birth, death, divorce, and marriage records.
Georgia Public Criminal Records
Almost anyone can obtain copies of a conviction record. Georgia statutes (O.C.G.A. § 35-3-34) permit any resident to obtain the conviction records without the registrant's consent. To obtain criminal felony records, you'll need to provide a full name, date of birth, race, and sex. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation processes requests for documents created by state-run law enforcement agencies. Requests can be submitted in person or by mail. Depending on when the record was created, some records may be accessible online.
3121 Panthersville Rd,
Decatur, GA 30034, United States,
Georgia Public Arrest Records
Most arrest records fall under the umbrella of public records in Georgia unless exempted by law or protected by a court order. To obtain copies of an arrest record, you'll need to contact the County sheriff's office or police department that processed the request. You'll also need to provide some information that can be used to process the search, such as the individual's name, the date of the arrest, and the arresting office (if known). Arrest records contain information related to the incident, such as criminal charges, fingerprints, and mugshots.
Georgia Public Sex Offender Information
The Georgia Sex Offender Registry provides information on persons convicted of sex offenses in the state. Per O.C.G.A. § 42-1-12, this information is maintained and organized by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in partnership with the Department of Corrections and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. The search tool provides flexible options for finding sex offenders. You can refine results using a known first or last name, county location, gender, or race. Results can also be filtered to reveal sex offenders living in a particular zip code or within specified miles from an address.
Georgia Public Inmate Records
Georgia Inmate records provide information on individuals held in correctional facilities within the state. Per the state's public record law, such information is considered open and can be accessed by almost anyone. To look up public Georgia inmate records, you must first identify if the offender is being held in a state or county-run facility.
The Georgia Department of Corrections maintains records for the former and provides flexible access to inmate information via an online Offender Search tool. You can search through the records using details such as a known name (first and last name), race, gender, or age. Searches can also be refined using a known GDC ID or a case number. Some of the information that may show up in a public inmate record include the offender's name, a physical description, details on the incarceration, and an update on release.
Georgia Department of Corrections
300 Patrol Road
FORSYTH, GA 31029
Note: You can look up public information on offenders held in Georgia county jails by contacting the local sheriff's office.
Georgia Public Birth Records
Birth records provide official information on births that occurred within the state of Georgia. They're used for a variety of reasons, ranging from obtaining health insurance to filing taxes. Records are generally accessible from the Vital Records office. However, to obtain copies of an older birth record, you'll need to determine the year of the event as well as the location. That's because, although the Georgia State Office of Vital Records maintains birth records from 1919 till date, older records can only be obtained by contacting the Georgia Archives or the county where the birth happened.
Note: While birth records are public, birth certificates aren't. The Georgia Department of Health only issues certificates to authorized persons, namely the registrant, immediate family members, spouses, grandparents, or a legal representative.
Georgia Department of Public Health
200 Piedmont Avenue, SE
Atlanta, GA 30334
Georgia Public Death Records
The Georgia Department of Public Health serves as the main repository of death records for the state and maintains records of all deaths that have occurred from 1919 till the present. However, depending on the year, older records may also be accessible by contacting the county vital records office. To obtain copies of a death record, you'll need to submit a request online, in person, or via mail to the public health department. Mail requests take an average of eight to 10 weeks, while in-person requests take less time. Some of the information needed to obtain death records include the decedent's full name, sex, the date of the event, age, ethnicity, and the county where the death occurred. You'll also need to provide your address (or any return address) where the records can be mailed.
Per Georgia law, death records are generally open to the public. However, certified copies of the record can only be issued to eligible parties, namely individuals with a direct or tangible relationship with the requester.
Georgia Public Marriage Records
Georgia marriage records provide information on marriage unions within the state, such as the names of the married couple, the date of marriage, and the marriage location. These records fall under the umbrella of public records, which means almost anyone can access them. However, access to certified copies of a marriage application is only available to the named registrants (bride or groom/party one or party).
To obtain a copy of a marriage, you must submit a completed marriage request form that includes details of the name of the registrant, the date of the marriage, the location of the marriage, and the address where the records will be mailed. You'll also need to submit a valid form of ID, such as a US passport, DOC identification card, driver's license, DMV ID card, or a Georgia Weapons Carry license, among other options.
Georgia Public Divorce Records
In Georgia, divorce records are generally open to the public. However, unlike other vital records such as birth, death, and marriage records, the Office of Vital Records doesn't maintain divorce records except for those that occurred between 1952 and 1996. Residents can request divorce verifications for events during this window. Beyond that, copies of a divorce decree can only be obtained by requisitioning the Clerk of the Superior court in the county where the marriage was dissolved.
To obtain copies of a Georgia divorce record, you'll need to provide specific information connected to the divorce, such as the name of the parties involved (as at the time of the divorce) and the date of the event.
Georgia Public Court Records
Multiple laws govern access to court records in Georgia, including the Georgia Open Records Act and the Georgia Uniform Rules of the Superior Court. That said, court records are generally open to the public, except where restricted by law. You can request copies of a record by contacting the court clerk where the case was filed. Having related details such as a case number, the name of the presiding judge, or the names of the defendant and plaintiff can help expedite searches.
Note: The majority of court records containing juvenile information are usually restricted from public access as they contain details protected by law.
Georgia Public Bankruptcy Records
Bankruptcy records provide information on individuals, companies, or other parties who have filed bankruptcy action in the state. It includes details such as the gross income of the subject, the list of creditors, and the amount owed to different creditors.
Bankruptcy records are public and can be accessed by almost anyone. However, unlike most public records in the state, Georgia bankruptcy records are maintained by the federal court and covered by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
To look up bankruptcy records, you'll need to have some details about the event. You'll also need to identify the court where the case was filed. Although Georgia has multiple courthouses, most of these fall under three main districts.
- United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia
- United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Georgia
- United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Georgia
What is Exempted Under the Georgia Public Records Act?
Although the Georgia Public Records Act provides wide-reaching access to most of the records maintained by government agencies, it provides for some exemptions. Government departments have the right to deny requests (or redact specific sections) if a record contains information that the law has specifically exempted.
Some examples of records or information that may be exempt from public disclosure in Georgia include the following:
- Any record containing information that has been classified as confidential
- Records that reveal the natural habitat of threatened or endangered species
- Records containing vulnerability assessments or security plans for government buildings or structures
- Documents containing the athletic records of children aged 12 or younger.
- Records that may reveal details of pending regulatory or law enforcement investigations.
- Records that contain protected individual information such as social security number, insurance details, or medical information
- Records that may disclose protected electronic signatures.
- Records that contain the personal details of government employees, such as the employee's phone number, home address, or social security number.
- Records that may reveal research, trade secrets, or information considered protected under attorney-client privilege.
How Do I Find Public Records in Georgia?
To find public records in Georgia, you'll need to identify the government agency that's in charge of maintaining the records. Most departments have a designated office that processes record requests. Your request is more likely to be processed if it contains specific and straightforward information.
Some of the information that must be added to a public records request include the following:
- A clear statement that shows the request is being filed as a public record request. e.g., "Pursuant to the Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70 et seq.), I am requesting the following records:"
- A clear description of the record. For instance, a request for police records should include the specific case or incident, the date the incident occurred, and the location.
- A return address. This is mandatory for requests submitted by mail.
A request for records can be made orally or in writing. Although the law does not demand this, most departments recommend that applicants submit requests in written form. Applications or letters sent via mail must be properly addressed to the office in charge of the records. Upon confirmation of the record's availability, you'll be required to pay the cost of searching or copying the record.
Can I Find Free Public Records in Georgia Using Third-Party Sites?
Depending on the type of record, Georgia public records may be accessible using third-party sites. Although third-party sites are generally not affiliated with a particular government agency, they offer an alternative option to obtaining records by providing access to a database or public records compiled from multiple jurisdictions within and beyond Georgia. To search for free public records in Georgia using third-party sites, you'll need to have some specific registrant information, such as the name(s) of the person on record, the location linked to the record, or any known case number or ID.
How Much Do Public Records Cost in Georgia?
Although public records are generally free, Georgia's public record laws permit government agencies to charge a "reasonable fee" to cover the cost of searching, redacting, retrieving, producing, or copying public information. That said, the exact cost varies depending on the type of media. For instance, in addition to charging a fee for searching, agencies can charge a maximum of 10 cents per page for creating copies of physical records saved on legal- or letter-sized documents. If you submit a request for electronic records, agencies are permitted to charge up to the actual cost of the media (CD, disks, microfilm, etc) on which the data is stored.
In the event that the cost of obtaining a record exceeds $25.00, the record custodian must inform the requester and provide the exact estimation. In addition, government agencies may also insist on a prepayment before providing a record if the estimated cost exceeds $500.
Note: Georgia agencies do not provide refunds. Once a record is provided, agencies are permitted to collect their fee in any manner authorized by law. In addition, Georgia agencies generally do not grant fee waivers to applicants who submit FOIA requests related to their affairs. However, a fee waiver may be granted for requests unconnected to the requester's interest. In such instances, the records custodian may waive the fee if it decides that disclosure of the record is likely to "..contribute significantly to public understanding of government activities."
What Happens if I Am Refused a Public Records Request?
Under Georgia law, public records must be accessible to everyone. However, government agencies or record custodians can deny requests when required by law. In such instances, the agency must provide the specific reason for the denial by citing the relevant law. Denials aren't final. Residents who are unsatisfied with the reason for their refused requests can take steps by either filing a complaint with the attorney general or submitting an appeal to the superior court.
Georgia law allows private plaintiffs to seek civil penalties if the Open Record Act is violated. Per the Georgia Public Record law, anyone who knowingly violates the act by failing to…" provide access to records not subject to exemption from this article or by failing or refusing to provide access to such records within the time limit" is guilty of a misdemeanor. In some cases, depending on the type of violation, the state may also press criminal charges against the responsible custodian.