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General Information About North Carolina Public Records and Laws
In North Carolina, public records information is available through the North Carolina Open Records Act, Chapter 132 of the North Carolina State Statutes. This law provides key information to the general public that was not previously available. The goal of it is to allow for individuals to have access to the workings of the government. This law outlines what the available records are, how they are to be made accessible and who can obtain them. There is some information considered private records and therefore not available.
What Are Public Records?
In North Carolina, public records include most types of government information and data. This is information available in all forms, written, electronic, photographs, audio and other types. It may be available from any of the state's local, county or state level government agencies or offices, or the associates of those agencies. This information may or may not be readily available in all cases, but the law does state that agencies must preserve information and make it accessible upon request.
There is some information considered private record, meaning it is not available to the general public. This information includes the following.
  • Any confidential communication is protected. This includes attorney records, medical records, most types of personal records, all tax records, student information and documents, and any other information that would provide the contact information for individuals.
  • All images, videos, audio and other recordings made during an autopsy unless given to law enforcement or prosecutors
  • All trail preparation materials
  • All criminal investigation information and records for ongoing cases
  • All emergency response plans and public safety or security information that could endanger individuals
In some situations, court records are available, but it is possible for judges to rule that some data is too sensitive to be given to the public in general. In addition, most juvenile records remain sealed unless ruled otherwise by a court of law. Most other types of government information are a part of the state's public records.
Obtaining Public Records
In North Carolina, public records are to be made accessible, but this does not always mean they are immediately available to individuals. In most cases, this information is available through a formal request and the departments governing the information must be available during normal business hours.
Information may be available through a visit to the governing agency or by doing a search online. In some cases, third parties provide this information as well. The following are some of the agencies that individuals most often need.
  • For vital statistics including birth and death certificates and marriage licenses, visit the Center for Health Statistics, Vital Records Branch.
  • The public information relating to businesses, public corporations and nonprofit organizations is available through the Attorney General's Office, Justice Department.
  • The State Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Information and Identification Section manages the state's sexual offender registry.
Information obtained through the North Carolina public records is readily available in some cases. However, there may be a small, administrative fee required to obtain this information.
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