North Carolina Public Records: How to Find Public Records in North Carolina

North Carolina Public Records: How to Find Public Records in North Carolina

The easiest way to find information about someone in North Carolina, whether a colleague, friend, family member or even oneself, is to run a public records search. 


The clause is that getting access to these records may be tricky if you don't know where to look. 

As you go through this article, prepare to learn all the information you need to find public records in North Carolina for free or at an affordable cost. 

Examples of public and non-public records in North Carolina 

North Carolina's Constitution defines public records as any document, paper, letter, map, book, photograph, film, sound recording, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data-processing records, artifacts, or other documentary material made or received by a government agency or its subdivisions. 

The law clarifies that all information in connection with the transaction of public business, regardless of physical form or characteristics, is basically the people's property.

Examples of public records in North Carolina include: 

● Birth and death certificates
● Marriage and divorce records
● Property deeds and tax records
● Court records, such as criminal and civil case filings and court orders
● Police reports and incident reports
● Legislative documents, such as bills and committee meeting minutes
● Financial records, including budget and audit reports
● Environmental documents, such as pollution permits and inspection reports
● Business licenses and permits
● Public school records, such as transcripts and student records 
● Land use and zoning records
● Transportation department records, such as road and bridge inspection reports
● Environmental impact statements and assessments
● Public transportation schedules and routes

In contrast, non-public records are highly sensitive data that disclose government secrets or put a resident, or the general public, at risk. 


colorful hanging file folders in drawer

Examples of non-public North Carolina records include:

● Emergency response plans
● Innocence Inquiry Commission records
● Law enforcement agency recordings
● Criminal investigations
● Intelligence information records
● Trial preparation materials
● Attorney-client privileged communications
● State tax information
● Public enterprise billing information
● Sensitive personal identifying information
● Alarm registration information
● General security information related to emergencies and disasters
● 911 call center database

Overview of where to find public records in North Carolina

If you need copies of vital records such as birth or death certificates, NCDHHS Vital Records is your go-to source. For marriage or divorce records, they can help you out as well. 


As for court records, including criminal or civil cases, police reports, and traffic citations, you can reach out to NC Judicial Branch Services

You can contact the Clerk of Court there if you know the county where the citation was issued. If you're looking for real estate records or deeds, you should check with the Register of Deeds office in the district where the property is located. 


Lastly, the NC State Bureau of Investigation offers criminal background checks to the public and authorized agencies.

How to Find North Carolina public records

Since there is a uniform procedure on how North Carolina government organizations allow checking or copying public records, you may follow these general steps to retrieve your desired records. 

Step 1: Be familiar with the basics of requesting North Carolina public records

In North Carolina, you must submit precise and accurate descriptions of a subject before you can gain access. 


For instance, you risk receiving a denial response from the state's Department of Health and Human Services if you fail to provide the record subject's name, year of birth, or exact county where the event occurred in your request to obtain a birth certificate.


Close-up Of Businessperson Hand Using Stamper On Document

Step 2: Confirm the requested records are available per public records law in North Carolina

As mentioned, the state's constitution declares some records non-public if they contain confidential details. For instance, death certificates, marriage and divorce certificates, and adoption and income tax records are sealed by court order and inaccessible to the general public. 


It is best to confirm if your desired records are available under the state's public laws. You can accomplish this by visiting the relevant office to make inquiries or conducting research online.

Step 3: Find out the agency's method of issuing public records 

Contact the agency that serves as a custodian for the record you seek and inquire about the actual unit holding the documents and the various methods you can obtain them. Most North Carolina organizations provide public records access to residents in person, through the mail, or through online portals. 

To retrieve vital records, visit the NC DHHS office at 225 N McDowell St, Raleigh, NC 27603. You can also mail your request to their postal address at 1903 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1903, or order the certificates online using their website. 

To retrieve court records in person, visit the North Carolina Judicial Branch at 901 Corporate Center Dr., Raleigh, NC 27607 or get in touch with the clerk of court in the locality where the case occurred. You can also use the NC Courts Electronic Filing System (eCourts) online service

To retrieve criminal records, visit the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, 3320 Garner Rd, Raleigh, NC 27610. Or you can use their online service portal for background checks. 

Step 4: Create and send a request

All record seekers are required to submit a written request to the specific department responsible for maintaining the records. 


Remember to include an accurate and detailed description of the documents to enable the department to locate and provide them. Alternatively, you may complete a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request form


3d renderer image. File cabinet with folders on the computer keyboard

How to find North Carolina public records using website offers user-friendly tools that allow for wide-ranging general information searches on residents. To obtain a detailed history or multiple records on, you must provide specific details such as the subject's name (if they're over 18 or not a juvenile) and their address. 

You will receive your reports within minutes as the search engine immediately scours through billions of public data in search of related records. 

It is worth noting that executing public data searches with carries no risks. It abides by all North Carolina public records laws and provides no illegal service.

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