In Hawaii, public records are governed by the Uniform Information Practices Law. It stipulates what information constitutes a public record, who can access it and which agency is responsible for keeping it.
It’s important to know that every citizen of Hawaii has the right to access public records, although for some of these documents specific eligibility criteria may apply. Also, while some of the information is available online free of charge, copies of official documents are provided in exchange for a small fee. Also, processing times for the various records you have requested access to may vary considerably. While you can place a request for access to a record online, some record custodians require you to submit your request in writing either in person or by mail.
Hawaii Vital Records
Another thing to bear in mind is that vital records are considered confidential until after 75 years from the date they were first issued, which means that access is restricted to those who are authorized.
Hawaii birth, death, marriage, civil union and divorce records are all vital records and are maintained by the Office of Health Status Monitoring unit of the Hawaii Department of Health.
Hawaii Department of Health
Office of Health Status Monitoring
Issuance/Vital Statistics Section
P.O. Box 3378
Honolulu, HI 96801
Vital records are perhaps the most commonly requested public records, since they are required for a wide range of purposes such as school enrollment, driver’s license issuance, survivor’s benefits, proof of property rights, social security enrollment, and passport issuance.
Due to the private nature of the information contained in these records, access is restricted only to those individuals who can prove they have a direct and tangible interest in them. Proof includes a direct family relation to the person whose record it is, being the person on the record, being a legal representative, or the representative of an agency acting on behalf of the person whose certificate it is, having a court order allowing you to access the record, or evidence of another tangible interest, such as co-ownership of a property with the deceased, or if the record in question is a death certificate, or a document establishing that you owe alimony payments to the person on the record, and need to check their current marital status. Hawaii vital records become available to the general public after 75 years from the date they were first issued.
Aside from certified copies, the Department of Health can also issue a letter of verification that proves that there is such a record as the one you need in their database. The eligibility requirements listed above are equally valid for both letters of verification and certified copies. Applications for copies of vital records should be submitted in writing, with a few exceptions concerning birth and marriage certificates, which can be ordered online. For divorce records, it is important to be aware that the Department of Health only stores those issued between July 1951 and December 2002. For any divorce record prior to the former date or following the latter one, you would have to apply for access at the court where the divorce took place.
Requests for vital records are only processed after payment of the associated fees has been made, either in cash, with a cashier’s check, a certified check or a money order. For electronically submitted requests, fees are paid by credit card. One thing to note with relation to fees is that requests made online are subject to small additional fees for each copy of the document requested.
Hawaii Court Records
All court records are stored at the Hawaii Judiciary. The Judiciary has a special record-searching website, eCourt Kokua, where you can find information about cases from the Traffic Division of the District Court of Hawaii, cases heard at the Intermediate Court of Appeals and the state’s Supreme Court. A separate website, Ho’oniki, provides court records from the circuit and family courts, as well as some civil cases from the Hawaii district courts.
The eCourt Kokua website offers a paid subscription, quarterly or annual, that entitles the subscriber to unlimited downloads of single documents in pdf format. Docket entries that do not link to pdf documents are not available online and have to be requested at the respective court.
The Ho’oniki website also does not provide all court case information from the courts it covers. This information includes court pleadings that can be accessed at the respective courthouse, confidential cases and sealed cases, among others. The Judiciary warns that although it does its best to protect personal data, if this data is contained in publicly available records, it will be available at courthouses in paper, and in the future it will be available in electronic form.
County Public Record Resources
The Honolulu County Records Management Division is where all records from city government departments are stored, including vital records and real estate documentation. However, at the moment the agency is going through a major indexing project, which is why access is restricted to records from Honolulu alone.
The County of Hawaii Records Archives stores and offers the public all records regarding the work of government agencies in the county. The agency has extensive online search capabilities relating to records such as agendas, bills, resolutions and ordinances.
For Maui, the office of the County Clerk is the single hub where all public records pertaining to the function of the legislative and executive government, including property taxes, land permits, and building permits.
Hawaii Property Records
This is the agency that is responsible for keeping real estate-related documents. Copies of these documents are issued for a fee and while some can be downloaded immediately -- uncertified copies -- certified copies of property records are sent to the applicant via mail. Record searches on the Bureau of Conveyances website can be done either by grantor or grantee name, or by document number. For records dating from before 1992, there are no online search capabilities and references are made on site, at 1151 Punchbowl St, room #123.