How do I get Copies of Municipal Court Records?

Larry Ray Palmer

Municipal court records, including city and county municipal court records, are generally available and open to the public. To obtain these records, you must file the appropriate paperwork with the court clerk in the particular county or city municipal court where the records were filed. There is usually a copying and research fee associated with requests for municipal court records and notarized copies of the record may cost extra. Some records may be considered as sealed, or unavailable, to public use.

Older court records may be stored on microfiche.
Older court records may be stored on microfiche.

The most common requests for municipal court records include requests for criminal histories, birth certificates, marriage certificates, and death certificates. Depending upon your location, these records may be available through the municipal court at a city or county level, or they may be administered by another regional or national agency. If the agency that maintains the records you are seeking has online record storage, it may be possible to buy a copy of the requested court records online.

Municipal records may be stored at a courthouse.
Municipal records may be stored at a courthouse.

In many cases, municipal court records may be obtained via postal mail. To request the record, you must find the appropriate agency and fill out a request form with the proper fees attached. The local agency will then grant or deny your request for a copy of the records within a period of 30 days after receiving your request. If the agency is unable to fulfill the request within 30 days, the agency may also send you a letter stating that the records are believed to be on site and request an additional time period to fulfill the request.

If the municipal court records you seek are not available online or via mail, you may have to visit the local court office to get them. In some cases, the records are kept on computers for easy research, but older records may be stored on microfiche or even in paper files. The local court may have researchers available to locate the files for a fee or you may be required to search for the file yourself.

Under the Government in the Sunshine Act of 1976, most United States government records, including municipal court records, are available for public scrutiny. When requesting a copy of municipal court records from a U.S. agency, be sure to include a mention of this act, commonly referred to as the Sunshine Law of 1976, to be certain that your request will not be denied off-hand. While the act was put into place to ensure transparency of government, many local agencies will try to tell a researcher that a record is unavailable or deny access to the records if the protections of this act are not invoked.

Notarized copies of court records will likely cost extra.
Notarized copies of court records will likely cost extra.

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