State Public Records Laws and Information
The general public in America can access a considerable amount of information held by the various government agencies at the state as well as the county levels including the courthouses. But at the same time the state as well as the federal laws has certain limitations in order to protect the privacy of the individuals and prevent instances of identity thefts or frauds.
Need for State Public Records Laws
While the details can be accessed from the public websites maintained by the various courthouses in every state in the United States, certain cases and information held in the court records are restricted, sealed or require that the individuals register in order to obtain the information. The objectives of keeping these records confidential is to safeguard the identity as well as protect the personal information such as the health history, the social security number, financial information as well as the contact details of a particular individual. The information contained in these records is only disclosed under special circumstances.
This is also ensured by the state public records laws. Each state in the United States has their own definition of what constitutes as public records for that specific state. While some states like the Oregon State have adopted a system of open records policy for the public records, other states permit a more restricted access to the information contained in the public records.
The state public records laws cover a wide range of public records. In accordance with the state public records laws, the division of the records management system of every state maintains the state archives. This archive contains all the records of the regional government agencies inclusive of the records from the counties, municipalities, school districts, special districts, records from the state universities as well as the records from the executive branch of the state government. In addition the records management division has the authority to not only advise but also assist the legislative and the judicial branches of the state government upon request.
State Public Records Laws: Public Record Definition
As per the state public records laws the definition of what constitutes as public records is as follows:
The term “public records” refers to all books, papers, maps, documentary materials and photographs irrespective of the form of the records including the copies or prints of the items that are produced or reproduced on any electronic media. These records may be either received or made by any state government agency. The public records also constitutes records used for any public business transactions that require to be preserved by a legitimate government agency or its successor as proof of the functions, decisions, policies, operations, procedures and any other government activities due to the value of the information as well as the historical significance of the information contained in them.
Management of the Records
Public records define the term “appropriate for preservation or preserved” implies whether the information contained in the document is worthy to be filed and indexed for the purpose of facilitating a quick retrieval in the future. The criterion for the retention is determined by the historical, legal, fiscal as well as the administrative value of the records. But the state laws on public records do not assume the need for a permanent preservation or defining any retention period for the maintenance of these documents.
Materials excluded from the purview of public records include records on ongoing investigation, records that are commercially sensitive, informant information and other confidential information of the government.