Anyone, resident or not, has the right to retrieve non-sensitive public records in New Hampshire. These records are documents or information that relate to New Hampshire citizens and the activities of all state governments-owned offices.
The New Hampshire Public Records law allows the general public to acquire and review readily available records that can provide information on a state official or a citizen's criminal background, business accounts, driving history, and vital information.
In this article, we will take you through requesting and obtaining non-confidential public records in New Hampshire.
Classification of Public Records in New Hampshire
Public records in NH date back to the colonial period before the state was carved out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. At the time, the town clerks were responsible for keeping records of council meetings, land purchases, birth, death, marriages, and divorces.
Officially the state passed its first public records bill in 1959, and by 1967, the legislative branch of NH finally passed a modified public records act, known as the Right-To-Know Law.
However, the law has been amended several times since then, the most recent being in 2021.
To promote transparency and accountability, the records law mandates New Hampshire and its municipal organizations to create, maintain, and make available all records in their care.
Every local government agency in New Hampshire has its public records maintained by the city and town clerks.
The agencies classify these records based on their dates, subject matter, format, or creator.
Some also classify these documents based on their design of storage, either paper, digital records, or microfilm. And they have the right to organize individual records based on their agency's policies and procedures.
Non-public Records in New Hampshire
The Right-To-Know law allows state agencies to exempt some records from the general public. These records may include specific information that could endanger someone or reveal highly sensitive information about other state agencies.
For instance, any agency can redact or deny the public from accessing public records bearing social security numbers, ongoing investigations, or guidelines about law enforcement recruitment or operations.
How to Find Public Records in New Hampshire
Here's a general but comprehensive process to assess readily available public records in this state.
1. Determine the type of public record you need
There are various types of public records in New Hampshire. They include:
● Vital records: These contain relatively personal information like a person's place of birth or death, the full names of the person and next of kin or partner, and date of birth. These records are readily available to qualified applicants who show proof of direct or tangible relationship with the record's subject.
● Criminal records: These contain all information about New Hampshire citizens or non-residents who have been arrested, charged, and convicted by the state's law enforcement agencies. They're available to everyone who seeks them.
● Court records: These contain information about criminal and civil cases held in all courts across the state. Most court records are accessible to all.
● Property records: These contain information about property value, location of real estate, and location. Not all counties consider property records to be public records.
2. Find the appropriate agency or department that maintains the record
Here is a list of custodians maintaining the most common public records in New Hampshire:
● Vital Records: Division of Vital Records in the New Hampshire Department of Health
● Court Records: The New Hampshire Judicial Branch
● Criminal Records: New Hampshire State Police and the Department of Safety
● Property Records: The local county assessor's office
3. Choose the method you want to use to make the request
There are three ways of making requests from all public offices. They are through written mail, in person, or online. Here is a list bearing relevant information on obtaining common public records in New Hampshire using these methods.
New Hampshire Vital Records
Office Address: New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, 129 Pleasant Street, Concord, NH 03301.
Online Requests: Vital Records Request Service
New Hampshire Criminal Records
Office Address: New Hampshire Safety Department, Division of State Police, Central Repository for Criminal Records, 33 Hazen Drive, NH 03305
Online Requests: State Police Criminal Records Unit
New Hampshire Court Records
Office Address: Office Address: New Hampshire Judicial Branch, Administrative Office of the Courts, One Charles Doe Drive, Concord, NH 03301
Online Requests: New Hampshire Judicial Branch Online Services
Office Address: Individual city and town clerks or the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration, Property Appraisal Division, 109 Pleasant Street, Concord, NH 03301
Online Requests: Individual city or town websites or the New Hampshire Assessing Standards Board website
4. Pay the required fees associated with the public record requests
Here are the required fees for obtaining common public records in New Hampshire. Note that each agency can change its rates at any time.
Vital Records: The first copies cost $15.00, while additional copies are made for $10.00 per page
Criminal Records: A statewide criminal records check costs $25.00 per name, while fingerprint-based criminal background checks may be as high as $37.25.
Court Records: A certified printed duplicate copy costs $10.00; additional costs are calculated at $0.50 per page.
Property Records: This varies by municipality. You can budget $25.00 for the first page of a deed and $3.00 for each additional copy.
5. Submit a request for the record
Once you're confident of the above details, go to the office in person or visit the agency's website to download and fill out their request forms. Attach the requested fees to the written mail or pay with a credit card before submitting your requests. Once you're done, wait patiently for a reply within ten business days.
Here are some tips to know before submitting
● Be conversant with the laws and regulations governing public records in New Hampshire.
● Be specific in your requests. Ensure the name spellings are accurate, as well as your contact information.
● Be prepared to wait for a reply from the agency, but once it exceeds ten business days, contact them.
● Consider using a third-party search website instead.
New Hampshire encourages the public to exercise their rights to access public records. However, the process may get overwhelming, time-intensive, and costly.
We recommend using a third-party website to conduct your search for free without compromising on the quality and accuracy of the report.
Truepeoplesearch.io is the best tool to find public records in New Hampshire within minutes. It gets better when you discover that you can run more than one public search at once