Tennessee Public Records: How to Find Public Records in Tennessee

Tennessee Public Records: How to Find Public Records in Tennessee

Public records have existed in Tennessee since the state's earliest days. Looking at the State Library and Archives, you can find a collection of land grants which hold records of land transfer from state ownership to private citizens going way back to the 18th century. 

The Tennessee Public Records Act governs public records access in Tennessee and grants residents the right to access records produced or acquired by state and county government agencies. The act covers all records, regardless of form or media, such as paper, electronic, pictures, and audio or video recordings.

Features Of Tennessee Public Records Law

The Tennessee public record law has some unique features unlike other states, one of which is that it allows residents to be refunded all court costs and attorney fees if the person has to file a lawsuit to gain access to public records which the person was denied without a just cause or withheld by the government agency in charge of the record. 


This clause ensures citizens can freely access public records and hold the appropriate government agencies accountable for complying with the law. 


documents and folders on a laptop

Records Exempted From the Public Records Law

In Tennessee, all government records are usually accessible to the public for inspection. However, a few exemptions are stipulated in the Open Records Act of Tennessee.

Some of these exempted records include:

● Unconcluded litigation records
● Records containing personal information
● Confidential records
● Certain law enforcement records
● Documents that can be detrimental to homeland security
● Records subject to attorney-client privilege
● Trade secrets

Accessible Public Records in Tennessee

These are some of the more accessible and most requested records in Tennessee:
● Vital Records
● Background checks
● Criminal Records
● Driving Records
● Property or Assets records
● Court Records
● Inmate records. Etc.

Accessing Tennessee Public Records

According to TN Code Ann. §10-7-503(a)(2)(A), public agencies are obligated to respond to requests made by any citizen of the state. This law implies that only citizens can review or duplicate public records in Tennessee. 


Regardless, there is no directive from the Tennessee Public Records Act for public entities to reject requests from individuals who are not citizens. 


A 3D render closeup view of an open filing cabinet drawer revealing generic documents inside

Public Records Tennessee: Frequently Asked Questions

People have questions when searching for public records, as the process can be rigorous. Here are some of the questions people usually pose and answers to them:

Where can I find criminal records in Tennessee?

Misdemeanor and felony convictions are included in criminal records and sex offender registry info. To find Tennessee criminal records, you have to go through the central database of criminal records maintained by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Searches on the database can be done by case number or name. You can do a criminal history background check for $29.00 per request.

Where can I find inmate records in Tennessee?

Keeping track of the records of an inmate in Tennessee is the responsibility of the Department of Corrections. An inmate's record can be accessed through the department's Felony Offender Information database.

You can enter the inmate's first and last name or their Tennessee Department of Corrections ID number to initiate your search for public records.

Where can I find court records in Tennessee?

The Tennessee judiciary is composed of multiple branches, which can make it challenging to locate specific documents. To access a court record, you'll need to search the Tennessee State Courts database using various criteria such as the case number, case style (e.g., James vs. Bennet), party name (Declan James), or business/organization name.

How can I access vital records in Tennessee?

To access vital records in Tennessee, you must contact the Office of Vital Records, which maintains the state's central repository of vital records under the Department of Health. You can request records such as birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, and divorce decrees from the department. 

To access vital records online, you have to go through the VitaChek portal to place your request. VitaChek is the only authorized website to accept online requests for vital records.

Tennessee Office of Vital Records,
Tennessee Vital Records,
1st Floor, Andrew Johnson Tower,
710 James Robertson Parkway,
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone number: 615-741-1763

How can I obtain driving records in Tennessee?

You must go through The Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the agency responsible for issuing driving records in Tennessee, to obtain your driving records. You may request your driving record by:

● Mail
● In-person at Driver Services Centers or

Each driving record requested will cost you a fee of $5, and you will have to provide information such as your name, date of birth, and driver's license number.


Woman's hand searching for documents at the filing cabinet

What is the best search database for public records in Tennessee?

There is yet to be a definitive public records search database in Tennessee that covers all records. Instead, each state government agency has its distinct database, which is utilized to comply with the Tennessee Public Records Act by providing public access to information. 

Typically, the most effective means of locating a specific record is to consult the registry or database maintained by the relevant custodial agency. For example, the inmate lookup registry for the county is the premier public records search database for Shelby County inmates. 

Accessing Tennessee Public Records with Third-Party Websites

Third-party websites can also offer access to certain public records. These external platforms often provide user-friendly tools for conducting thorough searches. Individuals searching for single or multiple records may utilize these tools. However, users are usually required to provide sufficient information to aid in their search, such as:

● The name of the individual involved in the record (individual must be older than 18 or not juvenile)
● The address of the requestor
● The last known or current address of the registrant
● A case number or file number (if known)
● The location of the document or person involved


Although you can always get access to any of the accessible records in the states via their appropriate agencies, having to search through different databases to gather records can be exhausting. 


Anybody searching for public records can always use third-party websites like Truepeoplesearch.io, which provides comprehensive information on various records collected from agencies within the state.

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