Are Alaska Records Public?
Yes. The state of Alaska provides broad access to a wide variety of records. Members of the public can inspect or obtain copies of Alaska public records by making a public records request to custodian government officers and agencies. According to the Alaska Public Records Act (APRA), public records include any document maintained, received, or developed in connection with official business. Public records may include photos, drawings, documents, letters, microfilm, paper, paper tapes, or maps. Records may also be stored as digital files. Some examples of public records in Alaska include:
- Alaska criminal records and criminal history records
- Court records generated by Alaskan judicial systems
- Alaska arrest records
- Alaska inmate information
- Public Alaska divorce records
- Alaska public property records
- Public Alaska marriage records
- Alaska death records
- Non-confidential Alaska birth records
For a public record to be made available to an inquirer in Alaska, the inquirer's public records request must feature information needed to facilitate a record search. Inquirers must note that while selected agencies can offer a free public data search, some may charge fees for copying, processing, etc. Third-party sites also allow users to conduct public data searches online.
What is the Alaska Public Records Act?
The Alaska Public Records Act is a set of statutes that ensures public access to all records generated by the state, regional, and municipal government agencies in the state of Alaska. This includes records held by executive, legislative, judicial, and quasi-judicial branches of government, as well as documents from local governments such as school districts, cities, and boroughs. Under this act, members of the public have the right to access these records for inspection or copying. Fees for copies may be charged but must not exceed the actual cost incurred by the agency for reproduction. With certain exceptions, agencies are required to respond within 10 days with either granting access or denying access with an explanation. Refusal to provide requested information can result in legal action from the requester or citizens seeking access to the records. The Alaska Public Records Act is an important resource for citizens and organizations seeking access to public records in the state of Alaska. It is essential in preserving transparency, integrity, and accountability within government agencies.
Who Can Access Alaska Public Records?
Almost anyone can access public records in Alaska. The state’s public records act establishes the right of “every person” to inspect, examine, or request public records in Alaska—except in cases otherwise exempted by law. It places no restrictions on how these records may be used. While most agencies prefer written applications, record seekers can also make verbal requests in person. Depending on the record, requesters may need to provide a reason for the application. For instance, an employer or landlord requesting a record for a background check is required to disclose this on their application. State laws also mandate that requestors disclose any close connection to a record (i.e. if applicants are involved in litigation with the state).
Do I Need to State My Purpose When Requesting Public Records in Alaska?
No. Record seekers can obtain Alaska public records without providing a reason for the request. Alaska’s public record laws state that public agencies do not have the right to ask for an explanation or justification behind a request. That said, the APRA permits public officials to find out if the requester is involved in litigation with a public agency or the state. Individuals who fall in this category must obtain records in accordance with prevalent court rules.
What is Exempted Under the Alaska Public Record Law?
Although the Alaska public record act provides broad access to various records, it restricts access to records containing protected information. Record custodians are permitted to deny requests for public files that contain exempted information such as:
- Records related to juveniles (except where otherwise authorized by law)
- Records detailing private medical records
Government agencies may also redact records containing information used by law enforcement agents in cases where:
- The information violates a party’s right to privacy
- The information could endanger the physical safety of a named party
- The information may deprive a person’s right to a fair trial
- The information might reveal procedures and techniques used by law enforcement during prosecution and investigation
- The information might interfere with enforcement proceedings
- The information could reveal the identity of a protected source
- The information could expose law enforcement guidelines that bad-faith actors might exploit
- The information is contained in confidential records protected by state or federal law; this may include adoption records, vital records, and state personnel records, including their employment application, assessment materials, examinations, etc.
How Do I Find Public Records in Alaska?
Except for confidential records and those protected by state and federal statutes, Alaska public records are open to free inspection. However, if an individual requires copies of the requested records, the public agency concerned may charge fees for the production of copies. Record holders are required to respond to requests within 10 business days. To access public records, requesters must take the following steps:
Step 1. Determine the type of record required.
To access a record, requesters must determine the type of record and the corresponding agency from which it may be requested. Some examples include
- Criminal records: These provide information on a person’s criminal history, such as arrests, probation, warrants, and incarceration information. They can be obtained from Alaska’s Department of Public Safety (DPS). Individuals can also request Alaska public records from the DPS Public Information Office through its electronic system.
- Vital records: Records of births, adoptions, deaths, and other life events such as marriages, and divorces are classified as vital records. They are available to request at the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Vital Records Office. Vital records may also be requested online through the approved portal.
- Government financial reports: These include records of government budgets, expenditures, travel and compensation reports, payment reports, and cost allocation plans. They can be requested from the Department of Administration, Division of Finance.
- Court Records: This encompasses information pertaining to all judicial proceedings within the state's jurisdiction. Alaska court records can be accessed by querying the office of the court clerk in the court where the case was held. Otherwise, requesters may obtain them using the Alaska CourtView System which offers online access to records of court cases heard in the state.
Step 2. Determine the government agency with the records.
Each government agency only keeps records pertaining to its functions. Therefore, public records can only be requested from the agency in which they were created or received. For instance, hospitalization reports and other health analytics can be requested from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Vital Records Office. Similarly, the Alaska Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing stores records of Businesses and professional licensing. Requesters may make requests through electronic or physical mail. A guide to records management and a list of records officers are available through the Records and Information Management Service.
Step 3. Determine accessibility.
Confidential information and other exempted records are not accessible to the public. Exempted records are those excluded from public access by state and federal statutes. They may also include records available only to authorized persons. Examples are juvenile records or records sealed by a court order. Other confidential records are adoption registry information, birth and marriage certificates. Records containing personal or private information are only accessible to the subjects of the record or their immediate relatives. Some other exempted records, such as sealed court records, may only be available to state law enforcement agencies. Requests for confidential or exempted records by unauthorized persons will be denied.
Step 4. Determine the Availability.
Many government records are available for inspection in electronic databases. Some records are only available at state libraries or government agencies. To access these records, requesters can make requests through dedicated electronic portals. Alternatively, requests can be made in person at the agency’s facility or by mail.
Step 5. Contact the Record Holder
To facilitate ease of access to Alaska public records, government agencies designate records access officers. Once the record holder has been identified, requesters must:
- Make a written request: Many government agencies in Alaska provide public records request forms. Others have dedicated electronic portals from which requests may be made much like the Alaska Courtview System. Requests may also be made orally; however, in the case of a denial, a written request is required to file an appeal. It is important to ascertain the agency’s chosen method before making requests.
- Where necessary, provide valid identification: To access confidential and exempted records, requesters may be required to provide identification or authorization. For example, to access a birth certificate, requesters must prove either that they are the subject of the record or otherwise authorized to inspect the record. For mail requests, the required documentation must be attached to the Alaska public records request form.
- Pay applicable fees: Public records are free to inspect during agencies’ regular business hours. However, if a requester requires copies of the record, they may be charged a fee. In accordance with Alaska’s Public Records Laws, the fee may not exceed the cost of production of the copies. Records officers may waive applicable fees if a record is provided more than 20 days after its request was received. Fees may also be waived if the records officer determines that is in the public interest. Requestors are required to pay fees before receiving copies of the records requested. Government agencies may also require payment before the record search.
Some Alaska public records may also be accessible from third-party websites. These non-government platforms come with intuitive tools that allow for expansive searches. Record seekers may either opt to use these tools to search for a specific record or multiple records. However, users must typically provide enough information to assist with the search such as:
- The name of the subject involved in the record (subject must be older than 18 or not juvenile)
- The address of the requestor
- A case number or file number (if known)
- The location of the document or person involved
- The last known or current address of the registrant
Third-party sites are not sponsored by government agencies. Because of this, record availability and results may vary.
How to Use Third-Party Sites to Find Public Records in Alaska
In addition to state-sponsored sites, many third-party sites allow members of the public to access public records in Alaska. These sites offer a convenient way to search for and locate public records, although they may not always provide up-to-date or comprehensive information. It is important to keep in mind that some of these sites charge fees for their services, and the quality of their data can vary from one site to another.
For persons who opt to use a third-party site for their public record search, it’s important to ensure that the provider follows all applicable laws and regulations when collecting and distributing public records. Additionally, the inquirer must ensure that any personal information obtained through such searches is kept private and secure. Still, government-owned repositories are considered to have the most reliable resources to process a public records request.
How Much Do Public Records Cost in Alaska?
The cost of obtaining a public record varies. The exact fee will depend on the type of record, the amount of time it takes to find the record, and the custodial office. Alaska’s Public Record Act allows government officers to charge a fee for making copies (as long as the set fee does not exceed the standard cost of duplication). In some instances, public officials may opt to waive the fee. For records that take longer than five hours to find, requesters may be obligated to pay an hourly rate decided by the office. Payment will need to be made prior to the search.
How Do I Look Up Public Records in Alaska for Free?
Interested parties may be able to find free Alaska public records by requesting to view or inspect them in person at the respective public office. For instance, to conduct a free public records search in a county in Alaska, the inquirer may visit the county clerk’s office or the county recorder’s office and submit a request. Alternatively, the requester may process their public records request using the self-service computers available in some government offices. These government agencies permit the examination of public records during set office hours. Government agencies may also provide access to free Alaska public records via an online database. The Alaska Department of Public Safety maintains a public central registry that freely provides regularly updated information on individuals convicted of particular sex crimes. Anyone can search through the portal using a known first name and last name. Searches can also be filtered by address, zip code, or city. On online portals like Alaska CourtView, users will need to provide the case number of the record, the name of the record holder or the citation number (in the case of a traffic ticket).
What Happens if I Am Refused a Public Records Request?
Residents who are refused a public records request in Alaska may be able to reverse the decision at the superior court. Requesters may also be able to obtain relief. The APRA does not specifically provide penalties for non-compliance of state government agencies. However, it allows petitioners to obtain relief from any public officer who is proven to have denied, obstructed, or attempted to obstruct a citizen from obtaining copies or viewing a record during a public data search. That said, requesters whose public records request satisfy the state’s requirements will more than likely be processed with ease.
How to Remove Names From Public Search Records?
It is generally not possible to remove Alaska public records. Alaska laws provided limited options for residents who wish to remove their names from public record searches. Nevertheless, affected persons may be able to limit public access by having a record sealed or expunged. This may be granted in cases of false accusation or mistaken identity. However, Alaska public records act does not extend the grace of expungement to most criminal records (except in cases where a person has all charges dismissed with no conviction). Individuals who wish to seal a criminal record are required to submit a completed form with basic details of their case, some of which include:
- The subject’s full name
- Applicant’s mailing address, phone number, and social security number
- Trial case number
- Details of the charge (ordinance number)
- Name of the offense
- Details of the arrest (name of arresting officer, arresting agency, prosecuting agency, and prosecutor).
They are to present the aforementioned information to the court where they were sentenced, or a superior court.
What is the Best Public Records Search Database?
The best public records search database varies on a case-by-case basis. Generally, record seekers can achieve the best results by contacting the state government agencies that are directly charged with maintaining the record. For instance, the Alaska Department of Public Safety (DPS) maintains a public database that lists the information of convicted sex offenders residing in different cities around the state. Users can search through the database by name, address type, or zip code. Similarly, the Alaska Department of Corrections maintains information on persons held in correctional facilities within the state and details of individuals out on parole.
Ultimately, Alaska public records obtained from state government agencies are often the most reliable because they are most likely to be accurate and up-to-date.
How Long Does It Take to Obtain an Alaska Public Record?
The time to process and obtain a public records request in Alaska will vary according to the state or local agency involved. Public agencies in Alaska generally respond to public record requests within 10 working days. Any person waiting to access public information maintained by a public agency should be prepared to wait for this length of time, although it may come earlier. During this period, public officials will:
- Inform the requester if all or part of the record is restricted from disclosure (with references to the state code supporting this decision)
- Provide all records that can be disclosed
In certain cases, public officials may inform requesters that the processing time will take longer than the general 10-working day period. However, the extension itself must be no longer than 10 working days. Notice of extensions must be accompanied by a reason for the delay. Permissible reasons for an extension may include:
- The agency needs time to consult with an employee or official who is on leave or official business
- The agency needs more time to consult with legal counsel
- The agency is experiencing a high volume of work
- The agency needs more time to search and obtain the requested records (this is more likely to occur when a request covers a large amount of single and distinct records)
- The agency needs to search or obtain copies of the requester records from separate offices
The agency will inform the requester if the public records act request is denied.
Is Public Data Search Safe?
Yes. Public data searches can be done in a relatively safe manner by adhering to all the state guidelines under Alaska’s public records act. All information obtained from Alaska public records should be used appropriately to avoid legal liabilities. The best way to ensure safety during public data searches is to obtain information from government offices, agencies, and other trusted sources per the provisions of the state’s open records act.
For instance, while some free public data search websites may provide criminal records of a person, such records may be incomplete or out-of-date. However, one obtained directly from law enforcement or the courts would be more reliable.