If you're looking to access public records in Missouri, you may have found it challenging. However, understanding the two essential laws in Missouri - the Missouri Sunshine Law and the Missouri Open Meetings Act - can be helpful in navigating the system. The Missouri Sunshine Law requires that most public records of governmental bodies be made available upon request, with some exceptions.
On the other hand, the Missouri Open Meetings Act requires that all meetings of governmental bodies be open to the public, with few exceptions. In this article, we'll guide you through finding public records in Missouri, including how to access them and what to do if you encounter any hindrances.
The Missouri Public Records Law
In Missouri, the Sunshine Law functions as the state's public records law. It stands as a beacon of transparency and accountability for all public agencies. This law boasts a remarkably open-door policy when it comes to accessing public records, with only a handful of exemptions in comparison to other states.
Notably, Missouri was among the early adopters of open records legislation after the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act.
The Sunshine Law ensures that all meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations conducted by public governmental bodies are open to the public. Under the law, there is no need to justify your request for documents, and anybody can make requests for documents.
Making Requests for Public Records in Missouri
Missouri requires a person to submit a public records request in some cases. The requester will deliver the request to the department in charge of maintaining specific records by mail, email, or phone.
Because each department is unique, expect some variation in processes and pricing, particularly when accessing records from multiple government organizations. In general, your request should include the following information:
● Your name
● Your contact information
● The name of the record you seek
● Details about the document
● An expected time frame for delivery of the records
● Method of document delivery
Types of Public Records Available in Missouri
The types of public records you can find in Missouri include Court records, Property records, Vital Records, Inmate Records, Driving records, Arrest records, Sex offender registry, Business Information records, and some more.
Below are some of Missouri's more common public records:
Missouri Vital Records
Keeping track of all vital records in the state is the responsibility of the Bureau of Vital Records, which is part of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Birth, death, marriage, and divorce records are part of the vital records. You can order vital records in person at the Bureau of Vital Records, by mail, or online through the VitalChek website.
You must mail the application form, a copy of your current photo ID, and the necessary fee to the Bureau of Vital Records if you wish to apply by mail (you can find the application form here).
The Bureau of Vital Records and the community public health organization may require an appointment for in-person applications:
Bureau of Vital Records,
Jefferson City, MO 65109,
Phone number: (573) 751-6387
Missouri Criminal Records
One of the nation's top online criminal history databases is located in Missouri. The responsibility of keeping track of criminal histories falls to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
You can search Missouri criminal history records in the online database maintained by The Missouri Automated Criminal History Site (MACHS) by providing a name or using fingerprints.
Missouri Inmate and Jail Records
All inmates in Missouri must have records kept, which is the responsibility of the Department of Corrections. Inmates can be found using the online database Missouri Offender Search Tool by name or DOC ID, a unique identifier given to each inmate.
Missouri Court Records
In Missouri, court records are regarded as public records. The county where the case was filed has a court clerk's office where you can request court records if you require hard copies. You can use the Case.net search engine to look up court cases online. This website, which the Missouri Court System maintains, enables you to look up court cases by name, case number, or filing date.
Missouri Driving Records
In Missouri, there are two different types of driving records:
Driving records without personal information
Anyone can request these driving records, which include details about your traffic infractions, accidents, and license points, without providing personal information. You can order it online or go to a local license office.
Driving records with personal information
Only you or a business with a legal right to access your personal information may request this. The request from the Driver License Record Holder (Form 4681) must be filled out in full by you and sent to the address specified there by email or regular mail.
What to Do if Your Request Gets Declined?
In Missouri, it is required by law for all local and state agencies to make their public records available to anyone who requests them. Therefore, any record that is not legally exempt can be inspected or obtained using a public data search.
As a result, if a record custodian refuses to release a public record, record seekers may file a lawsuit. In addition, record seekers must file a lawsuit with the circuit court in charge of the area where the record custodian is located.
Requesters of public records will have to prove in the circuit court that the government body has broken the state's open records law.
Until the court orders otherwise during the legal proceeding, record custodians are not allowed to change, delete, or otherwise dispose of the requested public record.
If there is strong evidence that the public agency broke the open meetings law, the court may award record seekers up to $1,000 in damages. The following factors may be taken into account by the court when determining the reward amount:
● The gravity of the offense
● Whether the government body has previously broken the open records act
● The extent of the agency's authority
Surfing through various government agency websites and search tools may become stressful over time.
When searching for or trying to access public records online, you can always use third-party websites like truepeoplesearch.io, which provides you with the tools to conduct a comprehensive search for public records online and for free.