How to find public records in Kansas

Any document created by a public institution in Kansas is available to you under the Kansas Open Records Act. Typically, a designated custodian keeps and disseminates public records for the government institution. 

As a public requester, you must follow the agency’s access policy and protocol to access the documents you seek. Often, this involves going to the physical office of the custodians or sending a mail request. Today, it is faster to query an electronic repository that a public agency maintains or use an independent service provider.

The Kansas judiciary is where you get court records on civil and criminal records on any case that interests you. To obtain a case record, you may use the online portal without going to the courthouse. Otherwise, consult the court directory to find the court that handled the case and submit an in-person request. Another alternative is to use the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system.

Arrest records and criminal history information records are also popular public records of interest. To get an arrest record, you must visit the office of the county sheriff. Many county sheriffs maintain websites and jail logs. A simple web search for the county sheriff will furnish you with the necessary information. Similarly, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation is responsible for processing requests for criminal history information. Performing a record search on anyone in Kansas requires that you create an account and costs $20.00 per search.

Meanwhile, if the individual is a current inmate in a correctional facility, you can find public records related to them from the Kansas Department of Corrections. With Offender Search, you do not have to visit the jail to find general information on an inmate. Just input the person’s name or inmate number in the search fields, and the database will return potential matches, regardless of location. If you seek information that is not available through Offender Search, contact the Department with a written request. In your request, you must describe the documents sought and the reasons for the request.  

Likewise, vital records, i.e., documents of life events in Kansas, are available through the Department of Health. Birth, marriage, divorce, and death certificates are available through the Vital Statistics Office. Each certified copy costs $15.00, although you may incur additional costs for processing and mailing the documents you requested.

The Kansas Secretary of State maintains various records regarding businesses and government activities. There, you can find records regarding corporations, US-based companies, and foreign entities authorized to conduct business in Kansas. Public records on these entities include documents on elections, mergers, dissolutions, and annual reports – all of which are available through the Business Services Division.

Recently, independent service providers have become go-to sources for public records. These websites remove the need to visit several public record custodians to get information related to a person. Instead, a single search returns all criminal, vital, and court records available.

And while KORA stipulates that access to public records is a right of every resident, it is common for public agencies to infringe on these rights. The common practice is to withhold public records until the requester seeks a court order enforcing his/her statutory right.