The regulations for public records in Alaska can be found under Alaska Statute 40.25.110, which outlines what records are available and when. Unless otherwise specifically and explicitly provided in another law protecting an agency or certain information, all public agencies are open to inspection of any of their records during normal hours of operation.
Also stipulated within the law is the ability for public agencies to charge a few for public records retrieval and copying. While these fees are subject to change at any time, they are supposed to only be to cover the working expenses of the records search and copy materials. In 1990, this cost was established based upon a small expense to the agency, and the same rules established then are followed now, meaning agencies are only supposed to increased prices as to keep in line with inflation.
Court Case Records
Court case records are a common type of public record request, thought the legal language and organizational systems surrounding them can sometimes make them a pain to get at. In Alaska, information on a court case is available as soon as court clerks have entered it into their internal system, which then uploads the relevant information online; this is different from many other states where open cases may not be viewable until completely resolved. Exceptions include cases labeled as "confidential" for any reason, which may be a result of a case being potentially compromised by public reporting (an example being jury pool contamination), cases that involve small children, emancipation cases among teens, and certain medical emergency cases.
Disclaimers: The Courts of Alaska stipulates that several disclaimers be considered by anyone attempting to access public record based in court documents including but not limited to...
- Identity should be verified by date of birth or other means. This is especially relevant when employers or background check agencies are looking into someone's background – it isn't uncommon for someone with the same first and last name to be wrongly associated with a case or conviction.
- Charge types can change with the structure of a case, though in its record titles and some supporting documents will only appear with the initial charges that were filed. This could be mean that someone searching assumes a person committed a felony crime based on initial filings, but in reality no felony convictions were made.
- The date which the case you're looking for appeared in will have a large influence on how easily located it is. Cases prior to 1990 will still be available at the physical location or jurisdiction where they took place, but will not be in the state's CourtView online record, by far the easiest way to search and find cases in the state.
To submit a request for court records you must do so in writing, either via mail or in person. Any request should include the names of any parties in the case, the case number, the case type (such as civil, criminal, small claims, etc.), your name, and your contact information (address and phone). Contact the court district responsible for handling the case. No courthouse except Anchorage accepts requests via email.
Vital Records – Birth, Death, Marriage, Divorce
The laws for confidentiality on records of birth, death, marriage, and divorce vary greatly from state to state, and the state of Alaska has a fairly closed off stance on the matter. All of these record types are held within the Division of Public Health and are "strictly confidential" until a certain statute of limitations has been reached. For birth records this is 100 years, for deaths, marriages, and divorces this is 50 years after the date of the event. This means that only the people named on the vital record, their immediate relatives or other legally authorized parties may access them.
The good thing is that, when these limitations have been reached, the process is fairly painless to get copies of any certificates you want. In fact, all of these records can now be ordered online from the Division of Public Health. You'll find separate links for each on the right hand side of the homepage, with detailed instructions on how to submit a request. For any record, you will need to have detailed information on the person whose record you're seeking and, if the statute of limitations has not expired, you'll need to also provide a government issued ID that proves your relationship to the party in question.
Division/Department Specific Records
For records not held centrally by a court or government office, you'll need to get in touch with that office directly. This applies to law enforcement, public service, city, county, and state-level government officials, offices, and any supporting infrastructure bodies. Most offices only accept written requests, and they will often be ignored if the proper information is not included (explicit statement that you're seeking public records under Alaska state law, details of exactly what you're looking for including names, dates, times, and the nature of your search, and contact information so that the records can be sent back to you).
Public records are a vital tool to keeping public agencies accountable and for maintaining our links to the past. That said, many agencies might not have a person specifically assigned to handle public records requests, which means your request might get dumped on a secretary or administrator who already has regular work to handle on a given day. Because the request may conflict with normal workload, be patient and polite when dealing with any agency to increase your chances of compliance without any hiccups.