Colorado regulated access to public records with the Colorado Open Records Act which was enacted in 1969 and has since then been amended to reflect wider legislative changes. Like in all other states, there is no single agency in Colorado that keeps all public records, which is why the starting point for any journey into public archives is to identify the record custodian that you need. Once you do this, you can submit a written open records request plus the required fee and expect an initial response within, most commonly, three working days.
Colorado Vital Records
Colorado birth and death certificates, adoption records, and marriage and divorce certificates, among others, are held by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. To be eligible for access to these, you would need to supply the records custodian with proof of your direct relationship to the person whose record you want to access or, alternatively, with evidence of direct and tangible interest. In other words, if you are not seeking information about an immediate family member, you need to present proof of, for instance, client relationship, if you are a legal representative, or any other relevant document that will confirm the legitimacy of your records request. There are also two lists of IDs that the Vital Records Office accepts as proof of identity. You can apply for vital record access with either one ID from the primary list -- these include driver’s licenses, college IDs, temporary resident cards and foreign passports -- or with two documents from the secondary list. The secondary list includes documents pertaining to the record in question, such as a divorce decree or acknowledgment of paternity, to mention but two, or documents such as professional IDs (pilot license, craft or trade license, etc.) and social security or Medicare cards. If you do not possess the correct identification, you should first obtain these before initiating any public records request.
The DPHE maintains a Voluntary Adoption Registry which allows Colorado-born individuals aged 18 or older who have been adopted to get in contact with their birth parents if both parties agree to do so. It also facilitates contact between adoptees and their birth siblings on the condition that both parties are over 18 years of age. One can register after completing a consent form, notarizing it, providing a valid ID and proof of their relationship to the person they wish to contact, and then paying an administrative fee. Applications take no more than three weeks to process and the applicant is notified if and when a match is found.
Colorado Criminal Records
Criminal records are in custody of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, including the sex offender registry. The Colorado Department of Corrections is the place to go for any information about incarceration records, including current records on escapees, absconders and walkaways.
The custodians of legislative public records are the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate. An exception to this rule regards public records held by individual members of these houses, as stipulated in the ‘Legislative Policies Related to Public Records and E-mail’ regulation from 2013. The public records that one can request access to include any writing produced by or kept by any of the two houses’ members related to the exercise of their functions. Constituents can approach directly their elected representatives with an open records request. There are, however, some cases when access to such information is denied, including when the request concerns confidential information, documentation around the drafting of bills or some research projects, as these do not qualify as public records.
Business Public Records
To make a reference regarding a business entity, the place to go is the Business Division of the Secretary of State’s office. The Division provides copies of filed documents and certificates in good standing for free; these could be printed directly from the Secretary of State office’s website. Other reference documents, such as certificates of existence and certificates of fact related to business entity records, trademarks and trade names are available on order. The Division also provides other information, including type of business entity, date of registration, office address and identification number, among others. The website of the Business Division has search capabilities by business name, trade name or trade mark as well as by document ID or number if filed documents are what you are looking for. If you are setting up a business, you can search the website’s database for name availability as well – a good step to take before committing yourself to something that may turn out unusable.
The Colorado State Archives is an agency of the Department of Personnel and Administration and it stores historical records dating as far back as the second half of the 19th century. This is the place to go for genealogical or historical research. The Archives have a user-friendly website where you can browse for the type of reference you need, be it a vital record -- birth certificate or marriage certificate, for instance -- a military record, or a record of a court case. You can submit an online request and get the information you need at a reasonable fee.
Basically, every specialized government agency is the keeper of public records regarding its activity and any open records request should be made to the relevant agency. In case you are unsure which the relevant agency is, you can simply write to the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, where you can also find a template for an open records request.