Florida Court Records
Are Florida Records Public?
Under the Florida Sunshine Law, most of the records maintained by public agencies in Florida can be considered public. Florida's public record laws apply to any document made or received by a public agency while conducting government transactions. It includes everything from documents, letters, papers, and books to digital recordings, tapes, photographs and data processing software.
Florida's public record laws also apply to state, county, or municipal agencies for each of the three main branches of government, namely:
- The executive branch (e.g., records maintained by agencies such as the Office of the Governor, Florida Attorney General, and the Florida Secretary of State)
- Legislative branch: (e.g., documents created or maintained by agencies such as the Florida Senate and House of Representatives)
- Judicial branch: (e.g., Florida Supreme Courts, Florida District Courts of Appeal, or Circuit courts)
Note: Public records also include documents maintained by any public commission, division, board, or bureau, as well as any other private agency, partnership, or person acting on behalf of the government.
Who Can Access Florida Public Records?
Anyone can access public records in Florida. According to Chapter 119 of Florida Statutes, state, county, and municipal records can be inspected by "any person." State laws also describe access as a "mandated duty." To obtain a record, you must contact whoever's been appointed or elected to maintain the records. Most agencies often have a department or office to process public record requests.
Unlike some states, Florida does not specify how long agencies must take before responding to requests. However, state laws direct that record custodians acknowledge whenever the receipt of any request. Public agencies must also respond "promptly" to such requests "in good faith." This means agencies must make "reasonable efforts" to identify if a record exists and its location before responding.
Do I Need to State My Purpose and Use When Requesting Public Records in Florida?
You don't need to provide a statement of purpose when requesting open records. Unlike the FOIA in some states, the Florida Sunshine Law doesn't require that applicants show a particular interest or unique purpose as a condition to inspect records. You also do not have to reveal your name, address, or contact details unless expressly required by law. The only constitutional stipulation for obtaining records is submitting a request and paying the required fees.
As a general rule, you can submit a request in person, over the phone, or in writing. However, most agencies typically prefer that record seekers submit a written request because it makes it easier to track and document, especially for complicated or lengthy requests. Your submitted request should also include enough information to assist with the search, such as:
- When the record was created
- A case or file number (if known)
- The name of the public office assigned to the record (if available)
- Name of registrants
Applications must also clearly state that the request is being obtained under the Florida Public Records Act. For instance, "Under Article I, section 24 of the Florida Constitution, and Chapter 119, F.S., I request to inspect or obtain copies of the following public records….."
What Records are Public in Florida?
In Florida, record seekers can obtain various public documents, including records maintained by courts, law enforcement agencies, vital records departments, and other divisions. Some general records include court records, criminal records, arrest records, bankruptcy records, birth records, and divorce records.
Florida Public Criminal Records
Florida criminal records document the interaction of individuals with the state's justice system. They contain details of any arrests, criminal court cases, and incident reports. Criminal records may also include mugshots, arrest reports, and charge details. The court clerk maintains judicial criminal records, while non-judicial criminal records fall under the purview of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
The FDLE serves as the state's central repository for criminal history information. It maintains records and provides public access to data when requested. To find or obtain criminal records in Florida, you must provide some information about the subject, such as the registrant's full name or a known case number. You'll also need to pay the appropriate fee.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE),
500 W Robinson St,
Orlando, FL 32801,
Florida Public Arrest Records
Arrest records provide information about alleged criminal activity that occured in Florida. Such records do not necessarily prove that the registrant has been found guilty of a crime. Instead, they show that the registrant was suspected of one. Arrest records can be found by contacting the local law enforcement agency that handled the arrest. For instance, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office maintains an online arrest inquiry tool that includes information on individuals currently in jail. To search for an arrest record, you'll need some basic information such as the subject's name, booking date, and booking number if known.
Florida Public Inmate Records
Almost anyone can obtain inmate records. In compliance with FOIA laws, the records of inmates incarcerated in federal, state, or local correctional facilities are open to the public. However, access to the information will depend on where the offender is held. While the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) maintains records of inmates housed in state-run facilities, details of inmates held in county or city jails can only be obtained by contacting the county sheriff or city police.
To look up public Florida inmate records, you must provide the first and last name of the inmate, as well as the inmate's DC number. Record seekers can look up public information about offenders held by the DOC using the department's online offender information search tool. Residents can also submit a public records request to the Department of Corrections public record custodian at:
Custodian of Public Records
Attention: Raymona Washington
Department of Corrections
501 S. Calhoun Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Note: The Florida Department of Corrections oversees 128 facilities across the state, including 50 major centers.
Florida Public Sex Offender Information
Florida provides online access to public sex offender information via an online Sexual Offenders and Predators Search database, which the FDLE maintains. The database includes all registered offenders who have been convicted of sex-related crimes. Information on the portal is compiled from multiple agencies, including the Florida Department of Corrections and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. To search for sex offenders in Florida on the database, you'll need to provide some of the following information:
- First and last name of the offender
- Street Address
- City and zip code
- Offender status
- Offender type (sexual offender or sexual predator)
Residents can also obtain more information by contacting the department at:
2018 Florida Department of Law Enforcement,
Enforcement and Investigative Support
Post Office Box 1489,
Florida Public Court Records
Court records contain information generated during court proceedings across the different courts, including the circuit and Florida county courts. Except where sealed by law or court order, most of these records are considered open and can be accessed by almost anyone.
In Florida, the clerk of courts serves as the official custodian of records generated for each respective county. Court clerks maintain different files and documents, including civil records, family records, criminal court cases, and probate records.
Access to some records may be available online, while others require requesters to submit an application in person or via mail. For instance, the Florida District Courts of Appeal provides an online Appellate Case Information System (ACIS) for accessing public case documents and dockets.
Note: Circuit Courts have general jurisdiction over all criminal and civil cases, while county courts have limited jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases.
Florida Public Bankruptcy Records
Florida bankruptcy records contain information on individuals and companies that have filed for bankruptcy. Such information is considered public and can, therefore, be accessed by almost anyone. However, the federal courts maintain these records.
Florida has three different bankruptcy court districts, namely:
Record seekers can access bankruptcy case information filed in any of these districts using multiple methods. Requests may be able to access records using PACER, a public access court electronic records tool that grants access to federal court records. With it, users can search for specific cases in specific courts. Alternatively, you can search for documents using public terminals available at the local clerk's offices.
Florida Public Birth Records
Birth records provide information on births that occur across the state of Florida. The Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics serves as the state's main custodian of birth records, with records dating back to the 1850s. Birth records generally contain the following information:
- The child's name
- The exact time and date of birth
- Place of birth (city and county)
- Names of both parents (if provided)
Under state laws, birth records are partially open. While members of the public can access older birth records, information on births less than 100 years remains confidential and can only be obtained by eligible persons. To get a birth certificate in Florida, you must be the registrant or a direct relative, such as a parent or legal guardian. You may also need to provide a copy of a valid government-issued ID, such as a driver's license, military ID card, or US passport.
As of 2024, the department charges $15 for the first copy of a birth certificate and $10 for each additional copy. Completed applications for a birth record can be submitted via mail to the following address:
Department of Health
Bureau of Vital Statistics
P.O. Box 210
1217 Pearl Street
Jacksonville, FL 32231-0042
Note: Children and adolescents under 18 will require an attorney to obtain their certificates.
Florida Public Death Records
Death records contain information about deaths in the state. Such records are generally accessible to members of the public, depending on the type of certificate. While death certificates without a cause of death are considered public, certificates containing a cause of death remain confidential for 50 years and can only be accessed by authorized persons, such as:
- The decedent's parent or spouse
- Decedent's sibling, child or grandchild
- Individuals authorized to act on behalf of any of the above
To obtain public Florida death records, you must provide details about the decedent as well as your personal information. These include details such as:
- The full name on the death record
- The decedent's sex
- The decedent's date of birth and date of death (if known)
- The city or county of birth
- Your full name
- Your relationship with the decedent
- A mailing address and contact phone number
The Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics offers walk-in services between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p., from Monday through Friday at the following address.
Department of Health
Bureau of Vital Statistics
217 N Pearl Street,
Jacksonville, FL 32202
Alternatively, requesters can obtain copies of records by visiting any local county health department in Florida. The Bureau also processes applications sent via mail to the:
Department of Health
Bureau of Vital Statistics
P.O. Box 210
Jacksonville, FL 32231-0042
Note: Members of the public may be able to obtain copies of a confidential death record via a court order, even if they have no direct relations with the deceased.
Florida Public Marriage Records
Marriage certificates provide documented proof of legal unions that have occurred in Florida. Such records include information such as the full names of the parties (at the time of marriage, the marital status, the full name of the birth parents, and the date of the marriage.
In Florida, the Bureau of Vital Statistics files and maintains state-wide records of unions established across the circuit courts, with marriage certificates dating back to June 6, 1927. Eligible parties can obtain copies of a record by either contacting the Bureau of Vital Statistics or the court clerk at the Circuit Court where the marriage license was issued. Requesters are charged $5 for the first certified record and $4 for each additional copy.
To obtain public Florida marriage records, you must provide specific details linked to the event, such as the following:
- The full name of the married parties
- The location of the marriage (county, city, or circuit court)
- The date (or date range)
Florida Public Divorce Records
Under the Florida Public Records Act, divorce records are generally open to the public. The Florida Health Bureau of Vital Statistics maintains records of divorce certificates issued from June 6, 1927. Records of divorces filed prior to this period can be found by contacting the clerk of the circuit court where the dissolution was granted.
To obtain a Florida divorce record, you'll need to provide some information to assist with the search, such as the following:
- When the dissolution occured (specific date or date range)
- The full name of the parties
- The location of the event (the county where dissolution was granted.
You'll also be expected to provide your full name, mailing address, phone number and a stated relationship. The Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics offers walk-in services between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p., from Monday through Friday. Requests for certificates typically take three to five business days to process. However, records created before 1970 may take longer.
Note: Records that provide details of the actual judgment can only be obtained at the circuit court that finalized the divorce.
Florida Public Property Records
Florida property records contain ownership details of real property or land in the state. Such records fall under the umbrella of public records that can be accessed by almost anyone. County residents can search for Florida property records by contacting the county's registrar. To obtain the right records, you'll need to provide some information to filter search results, such as any of the following:
- Owner's name
- Property address (or lot number)
- County location
What is Exempted Under the Florida Public Records Act?
Florida has broad public record laws, but it lists over a hundred categories of records exempt from public disclosure. Some of the main categories include records containing the following data or information:
- Records with information marked as proprietary or trade secret.
- Documents containing medical or insurance records.
- Records containing social security numbers.
- Documents containing security blueprints, schematic drawings, building plans, or any information that may jeopardize public safety.
- Records containing the home addresses and telephone numbers of government employees.
- Records containing protected financial information, such as the financial statement submitted by a prospective bidder for a public works project.
- Information containing examination questions and answers used for licensing or certifications.
- Documents containing bank account numbers as well as credit or debit card numbers.
- Procurement documents such as sealed bids, rejected bids, proposals, or bid responses.
Note: If a document is found to contain exempted information, record custodians must redact or conceal the protected information before providing the remainder to the public. The release of any record classified as confidential or protected is considered a Felony in Florida. This includes the release of documents containing trade secrets.
How Do I Find Public Records in Florida?
Finding public records in Florida largely depends on the record type you seek. To inspect or obtain copies of a record, you'll need to contact the government agency that's tasked with maintaining the records. For example, the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics maintains vital records, including birth, death, marriage, and divorce. In contrast, the oversight of inmate records falls under the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) purview.
In general, any agency that creates or maintains a record for its public duty role becomes a custodian. That means some records may be maintained by multiple agencies at the state and county level. The following are some examples of where to find records:
- For arrest records, contact the Sheriff’s Office where the arrest was made.
- For vital records, visit the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics.
- For inmate records, visit the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC).
- For court records, contact the clerk at the appropriate court.
- For bankruptcy records, contact courts located within the Middle District of Florida, the Northern District of Florida, or the Southern District of Florida (depending on where the case was heard) or search using Public Access to Court Electronic Records.
- For property records, contact the Register of Deeds of the county.
- For sex offender information, visit the Sex Offender Registry.
When searching for or requesting records, ensure that you provide accurate and sufficient information to aid the custodian agency in providing you with the requested record(s).
Can I Find Free Public Records in Florida Using Third-Party Sites?
Depending on the type of record, members of the public may be able to find free Florida public records using some third-party sites. These sites contain data on public documents compiled from multiple jurisdictions within and beyond Florida. However, the accuracy and amount of available information typically varies on a case-by-case basis.
Some examples of free records that may be found using third-party sites include court records, criminal information, and inmate information. That said, you'll need to provide some information to process a search, such as the name of the registrant, the date the record was filed, and the location. In addition, most third-party sites will not require your ID card before processing the request.
Note: When using third-party platforms, always verify the information provided by cross-checking it with official government sources for accuracy.
How Much Do Public Records Cost in Florida?
Florida has no fixed uniform fee structure for obtaining public records from government agencies. Instead, the cost is affected by five main factors, namely:
- Existence of any fees prescribed by law
- The type of request (inspection or copy)
- The search and retrieval time
- Volume and complexity of record
- Format and delivery
If you wish to inspect a record, then access to the record will likely be free. Most agencies generally only charge a fee for inspections if the inspection involves a large volume of records or significant use of the department's resources. However, you may be required to pay a fee if you wish to obtain copies of a record.
Under Florida law, agencies may charge:
- A maximum of $0.15 for each one-sided copy of a paper record
- Up to $20 cents for a double-sided page
- As much as $1 for each certified copy.
Agencies may also include any additional cost that arises from retrieving a record. For instance, if a department enlists staff services to obtain the records, you'd be charged to cover the staff's time.
Note: Some agencies may provide copies of a record for free.
What Happens if I Am Refused a Public Records Request?
If a request is denied, your first step should be identifying why. Under state laws, if a public record request is denied, the record custodian must explain the decision, citing the applicable law. If your request was denied without any specific reason, request that the agency cite the relevant law.
Record custodians have the right to refuse requests for sealed or confidential records. But the following reasons are unauthorized.
- Denying a request because it was made orally
- Denying a record request because it is overly broad (except where statutory exempted)
- Denying a record because it contains exempted information (custodians must redact or delete the exempted sections and then provide the rest of the record)
- Denying a request because the record is not in the possession of the agency (public records must always remain under the care of official custodians)
- Denying a request because it will take too long to process (agencies are permitted to charge the cost of however long it takes to compile and produce a record)
If you identify that a public records request has been illegally denied, you have multiple options for recourse:
- Contact the Office of the Attorney General to launch an open government public records mediation. Established under Florida law, this voluntary option provides an alternative for resolving public access disputes and is overseen by a mediating third party.
- If mediation does not provide a solution, you can file a legal complaint with the state attorney. State attorneys have the power to prosecute any officer who has been found to violate the state's statutes.
- If none of these offer a solution, you can force the agency or public official's compliance by seeking a legal order from the circuit courts. If the court finds that the custodian was wrong to deny access, you'll be entitled to recover all our legal fees. But if the court decides the refusal was correct, you may be liable to cover the agency's fees.