North Carolina has a state public records law that decrees public records are the property of the taxpayers, and therefore can be viewed and obtained by anyone who requests these records. The law allows people to obtain records from any governmental body, agency or board. Records that people can obtain from the state of North Carolina include reports, letters, photographs, videos, recordings and electronic data that is related to public business and transactions. There are several exemptions to the state law, such as trade secrets, criminal investigation matters and emergency response plans, to name a few.
In the state of North Carolina, vital records are defined as birth certificates, death certificates, divorce decrees and marriage certificates. People who are seeking this information from the state must contact the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Vital Records Office. People who want to obtain these records must provide a government ID card before they can obtain the records they are looking for from the office. While requests can be made through the mail or online, people can receive expedited same-day service at the Raleigh location of the Vital Records department.
Birth certificates from 1913 through present day are available at the Vital Records department, while death certificates are available from 1930 through today. Marriage certificates can be obtained from 1962 through today and divorce certificates are available from 1958 through today. Fetal death records are available from 2001 through present day.
Criminal records, such as background checks and fingerprint records, are available through the North Carolina Department of Justice. People can also get information about the sex offender registry through the Department of Justice.
People who are searching for court records should contact the court that has jurisdiction over the case that they are seeking information about. They may have to contact a state court, county court or local courthouse.
The North Carolina state public records law does not provide for a specific time frame in which an agency has to respond to a public records request. Instead of giving a deadline, such as 10 days or 30 days, it simply mandates that any agency must comply with the request as quickly as possible. Public records requests in this state must be made either in person, over a fax machine, in writing or through the mail. Most agencies do request a written request be filled out and turned in, even if a person shows up to make a request in person. Requests made should be very specific, so to quicken the response time and ensure that a person gets the information they are seeking from the agency.
The law also states that records should be provided for free, or at the very least minimal cost. The term minimal costs means that North Carolina government departments and agencies can only charge a person the cost of reproducing the original records. They cannot profit off of public records documents and requests.