The mission of the State Records website is to provide public records to anyone who wishes to obtain, preview, or use such information. This website allows Tennessee residents to access this information in accordance with the Tennessee Open Records Act, which specifies that all government information and records are available to the public.
The goal of this website is to allow Tennessee state citizens access to Tennessee state public records easily, efficiently, and concisely, without requiring a reason for needing the information or revealing any personal information, providing the requested record is not confidential.
Tennessee State Records contain information about criminal records, court records, vital records, and over 55 million additional transparent public records.
Most records are open to the public, as provided by the Tennessee Public Records Act. Under the law, all non-confidential public records Tennessee governmental agencies create should be accessible by requesters. A record seeker can make a Public Records Act request online, in-person, by email, telephone, fax, or mail, depending on the specific government agency in charge of the record being sought.
Tennessee law describes public records as the information received or created under statute or ordinance and used to conduct official business. Per TN Code Ann. § 10-7-503(a)(1)(A)(i), Tennessee public records include documents, photographs, letters, papers, maps, and books. The definition also covers other types of data storage, regardless of characteristics or physical form. These include films, sound recordings, microfilms, and other related materials.
Public records comprise:
Tennessee public agencies, including municipal, county, and state agencies, must ensure access to all public records for inspection and copying. Record custodians in charge of these records cannot refuse access unless there is a lawful exemption. In such cases, the agency may restrict access to the records or redact confidential parts before allowing inspection or copying. (Per TN Code Ann. § 10-7-503(a)(5).
A record seeker can conduct a public data search by visiting the website of the specific Tennessee governmental agency in charge of the records they are seeking. Some public records are available for free, while some come at a low cost. For instance, a record seeker can conduct a free public data search on the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry. In contrast, it costs about $29 to access criminal records maintained by the Tennessee Criminal Justice Information Service Division.
Because there is no central repository of public records in Tennessee, the process required to find these records differs between agencies. Nonetheless, there are similarities in the steps record seekers must follow. The following steps form a general guide for how to access public records in Tennessee:
Interested persons must start the request process by deciding on the desired record. Tennessee public agencies have varying statutory functions that inform the type of records they create or maintain. The requester must first know the type of record and confirm that the desired information is open to public disclosure.
Since agencies maintain different records, requesters must identify the agency in charge of the desired record to direct submitted requests properly. For instance, access to court records should be directed to the clerk of the court that handled the case. Record seekers must also submit requests for arrest records or inmate information to the applicable county sheriff’s office or the Tennessee Department of Corrections. Additionally, vital records can be obtained from the Tennessee Office of Vital Records.
A request should properly describe the desired record, providing as much information as available. However, under Tennessee law (TN Code Ann. § 10-7-504(a)(7)(A)(i)), public agencies may not ask inspecting requesters for written requests. Nonetheless, the law allows agencies to require written requests from persons who need copies. The request may be in writing or on a public records request form.
In some cases, the agency may also require the requester to provide government-issued photo identification that includes the person’s address or another acceptable form of identification if a government-issued option is unavailable.
Record seekers can submit the created request after following the above steps. While many agencies allow a range of submission options, including email, fax, mail, telephone, online, or in person, requesters must understand the peculiarities of each one. For example, online requests may yield fast results as the process is mainly automated. Same-day responses may also only be possible through in-person requests. Furthermore, while mail requests may require longer processing times, certified copies of desired records may be restricted to mail and in-person requests.
Public city records may also be accessible from third-party websites. These non-government platforms come with intuitive tools that allow for expansive searches. Record seekers may either opt to use these tools to search for a specific record or multiple records. However, users will need to provide enough information to assist with the search such as:
Third-party sites are not sponsored by government agencies. Because of this, record availability and results may vary.
Public records can also be accessed from third-party websites. These third-party public records aggregate websites offer search services that are non-geographically limited, making the search result expansive and typically straightforward. However, users will need to provide enough information to assist with the search, such as:
Third-party public records search websites are not government-sponsored services. Therefore, the availability and accuracy of results can vary.
Access to Tennessee public records may depend on the type of record and the custodian agency. Under the Tennessee Public Records Act, agencies may charge reasonable fees before producing copies of desired records. Consequently, the possibility of obtaining free records may be limited.
Requesting physical copies of records usually costs a copy or labor fee. For instance, requesting physical copies of records from any Tennessee County Clerk’s Office or County Recorder’s Office typically comes at a cost. However, the Public Records Act does not permit custodians to charge requesters who want to inspect and not copy records. Therefore, interested persons may look up public records in Tennessee for free by requesting an inspection.
Many free public records Tennessee creates or maintains are also available online. Several agencies compile and maintain online databases with information that record seekers can look up for free. Examples of free online records include real estate assessment data provided by the Comptroller of the Treasury and the Department of Corrections’ felony offender information.
Tennessee public records were created starting in 1859, and usually include data from all 95 counties. The digitization of public records began roughly 30 years ago. This offers governmental websites and third-party organizations the ability to offer these records online with increased reliability. This ensures abiding by the commitment of the United States of America to remain a fair and just society for all.