Public Records Search

Arkansas Public Records

While some states have adopted public records laws that provide wide access to these documents to anyone, regardless of whether they live in the state or not, Arkansas has opted for more limited access to its public records. Under the original Freedom of Information Act, passed in 1968, only residents of the state could access records, as the state authorities aimed to curb the risks of people disseminating and abusing public record information outside the state. However, federal courts have ruled that such a limitation of access to information runs counter to federal law, so Arkansas, like other states with a limited access legislation, have allowed for non-state residents to access their public records upon request. One thing to note, however, is that there are restrictions as to what constitutes public record; for birth and death certificates, a certain period has to pass before they become public records. See more on that below.

The Arkansas FOIA defines as public record “any writing, sound or video that reflects the performance or lack of performance of an official function”. The open access regime for documents falling under this definition also concerns public meetings, with a special open-meetings provision for government agencies that meet to make decisions on the behalf of the public.

Arkansas Vital Records

Vital records in Arkansas are stored at and managed by the state Department of Health. Arkansas birth records are only provided to either the person whose birth record it is or their parents. If you are neither, you will be asked to supply a valid reason for accessing the documents, such as academic research, for instance. In fact, birth records are not even considered public records until 100 years have passed from the date of issuance of any given certificate. After that, anyone can access them. What this means is that birth records from 1914 are openly accessible from this year on. Request for a copy of a birth certificate can be made either at an office of the Vital Records unit of the ADH or through an express service. Costs for copies of these records can vary, but in general cannot be deemed "excessive" relative to the actual cost of retrieval to the agency.

The procedure is much faster for death certificates -- you can order the issuance of a certified copy online, using the tool provided on the ADH website. However, this only applies to death certificates created between 1935 and 1961. These documents automatically become public records 50 years after being issued. Certified copies of death certificates can also be ordered and collected from the office for a small fee.

If you need to get a copy of an Arkansas marriage license or a divorce decree, you will have to contact the office of the County Clerk or Circuit Clerk for the area in which the marriage/divorce took place. However, the ADH’s Vital Records could issue certified copies of the marriage/divorce certificates in hard copy. This type of document is also accepted by all state and federal authorities. Like with birth certificates, the persons eligible for access to these records should either be directly related to one of the names on them, or prove legitimate interest. It is probably worth noting for those doing historical research, that the ADH only stores marriage records from 1917 onwards, and divorce records from 1923 onwards.

Arkansas Court Records

Most court records in Arkansas are held at Circuit Courts and there are online search resources for these, although only available for a limited amount of such information. At the Administrative Office of the Courts you can search for specific cases by a person’s name or a business name, by date of birth or license plate number, and also by county, by date of filing, by case ID and by citation number. However, information is only openly available for cases heard at the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, as well as for a list of District Courts and Circuit Courts, available on the AOC website.

Arkansas Criminal Records

Criminal records fall, hardly surprisingly, within the scope of work of the Arkansas State Police. Anyone can request a copy of their own criminal record after filling out a standard form and submitting it to the ASP along with an administrative fee.  Among the types of information available in criminal records are convictions for felony and misdemeanor crimes and whether someone is a registered sex offender. These are all public records, but if you are an investigative journalist and need information about pending charges for misdemeanors or arrests related to cases that have been dismissed or acquitted, you are out of luck as only law enforcement professionals have access to this information.

Business Records

Business records in Arkansas are openly available from the Secretary of State Business and Commercial Services, which handles business registrations and a range of related services. On the website of the agency you can search for and obtain information about business entity registration, trademarks, notary public certifications, and any other relevant information about business entities and non-profit organizations.

Historical Records

For those doing historical research for academic or literary purposes, the Arkansas History Commission is the place to go for county court records, marriage certificates, wills, deeds, and probate and tax records. You can request a photocopy of the document you need using the request form on the agency’s website and the History Commission will send it to you by mail.