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Are Connecticut Records Public

Connecticut public records are generally accessible to state residents and non-residents and may consist of data from government bodies and external sources. The Connecticut Public Records Act or Freedom of Information Law outlines the process and procedure of accessing Connecticut public records. In addition, the public records law dictates the type of records accessible to the public. Under the law, the record custodians are responsible for maintaining, storing, producing, and issuing copies of public records to interested public members. Examples of public records in Connecticut may include:

  • Connecticut arrest records
  • Connecticut criminal records
  • Connecticut court records
  • Connecticut divorce records
  • Connecticut sex offender information
  • Connecticut inmate records

Per Section 1-200 of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Law, public records or files may include typed, handwritten, tape-recorded, photocopied, videotaped, photographed data, such as emails, maps, graphs, charters, books, memoranda, folders, symbols, music files, and videotapes. Irrespective of the public record format, record custodians are required under the FOIA to provide copies of non-confidential public records to requesters. The FOIA prohibits the disclosure of sensitive and confidential public documents.

Who Can Access Connecticut Public Records?

Under the Connecticut Freedom of Information Law, all public members can access public records in Connecticut. The Sec. 1-210. (Formerly Sec. 1-19) enables record seekers to perform the following functions:

  • Inspect public records at a custodian agency during business or office hours;
  • Copy public documents at a custodian agency in line with subsection (g) of section 1-212;
  • Receive a copy of the record under sections 1-212.

Records containing confidential information are often restricted to only the record bearer or other eligible requesters. For example, Connecticut vital records are only accessible to the record bearer, family relations, and representatives such as attorneys, funeral directors, and physicians.

What is Exempted Under Connecticut Public Record Law?

Certain Connecticut public records and files are not available to the general public. Record custodians restrict access or redact sections or whole documents classified as sensitive or confidential under state law. Per the Connecticut Public Records Law, exempted documents include:

Law Enforcement Files and Documents

Documents or files used in an investigation or detection of crime are exempt from public access if the record will lead to the disclosure of:

  • The identity of minor witnesses to a crime;
  • The identity of principal witnesses whose safety would be endangered or subject to threats and harassment;
  • Arrest records of juvenile offenders;
  • Name and contact details of a sexual assault victim under under section 53a-70, 53a-70a, 53a-71, 53a-72a, 53a-72b or 53a-73a;
  • Name and contact details of victims of voyeurism under section 53a-189a.

Trade Secrets and Financial Information

Under the FOIA, exempted documents include information that may result in the loss of a commercial or potential value if publicly accessible. In addition, trade secrets that may lead to the loss of a business’s competitive edge over other competitors are excluded from public access. Exempted trade secrets may include formulas, information, compilations, patterns, film or television scripts, programs, techniques, and programs

Likewise, confidential commercial or financial information in the custody of a custodian agency is excluded from public access.

The FOIA also excludes statements of personal worth filed with a licensing agency to apply for a license, permit, or certificate. Tax reports and statements excluded under federal or state statutes are not obtainable by the public.

Professional to Record Bearer Communications

Connecticut Freedom of Information Law protects attorney-client communications from public access. In addition, excluded records include tax reports, financial information privileged by therapist-patient relationship, marital relationship, doctor-patient relationship, clergy-penitent relationship, or other privileges protected by common law.

Correctional and Mental Institution Records

The Whiting Forensic Hospital and the Connecticut Department of Corrections may restrict the disclosure of records, leading to safety risks or causing escape from a mental institution or correctional facilities. These exempted records include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Architectural drawings and engineering plans of correctional or whiting forensic hospital facilities;
  • Training manuals that detail information on security procedures, security equipment, or emergency plans;
  • Internal security audits of Whiting Forensic Hospital facilities and correctional facilities in the state;
  • Portions or whole recordings of whole staff meetings at the Whiting Forensic hospital facilities or correctional centers;
  • And security manuals, including emergencies outlined within the security manual.

Intra-agency or Interagency Data

A public official’s preliminary drafts and notes which are subject to revisions before discussion by members of the agency are excluded from public view. However, public members can access intra-agency data such as memoranda, recommendations, or advisory opinions via which government policies and decisions are created.

Educational Records

Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, 20 USC 1232g, educational records are not accessible to the public. Exempt academic records include the following:

Addresses and contact details of students enrolled in a public school or higher institution without the consent of the record bearer or parents and guardians if the record subject is below 18 years of age.

Nevertheless, a student’s records are accessible to the town’s finance board when verifying the tuition paid into the school account.

Where Can I Access Public Criminal Court Records in Connecticut?

Persons and entities can access public criminal court records in Connecticut via the Clerk of the Court overseeing the region where the conviction occurred. In addition, the Connecticut Judicial Branch maintains an online repository of all pending and finalized criminal court cases in the state.

To access Connecticut public criminal court records, record seekers should contact the Clerk of the Court during office hours. The clerk might require the record subject’s name or case number to produce copies of the document. Furthermore, record seekers may provide proof of identity before obtaining confidential criminal court records in Connecticut.

Alternatively, the Connecticut Judicial Branch maintains an online database for all criminal court records filed after January 1991 at the Supreme Court, Probate Court, and Appellate Court. Thus, record seekers can use the search options listed below to obtain Connecticut public criminal court records:

Search by Case Name

Record seekers may use the “Case Name” search option to obtain criminal court records by inputting the record subject’s full name. Subsequently, record seekers must select the court handling the criminal case, case status (active or disposed), and case file date range.

Search by Docket Number

Persons and entities must input the docket number of the criminal court case and choose the court handling the court case to use this option.

Search by Attorney

The “Search by Attorney” option enables record seekers to obtain Connecticut public criminal court case records via the Juris number or Attorney name. More so, record seekers must select the court type, case type, and case file range.

The Connecticut Judicial Branch also hosts an online database for pending criminal court case records. To access pending criminal court case records in Connecticut, record seekers must input the record subject's full name, birth year or year range, court location, and type of court case.

How Do I Find Public Records in Connecticut?

Record seekers can find public records in Connecticut by contacting the custodian body responsible for producing, maintaining, or issuing the public document. For instance, persons seeking to access court records may visit the Clerk of Court, whereas the Connecticut Department of Corrections is the primary custodian of inmate records. Although record custodians have different ways of providing access to documents, record seekers may access records via the following general steps:

Know the Specifics of the Preferred Public Record

To know how to access public records in Connecticut, record seekers must identify the specifics of the requested record. First of all, record seekers must identify the record custodian of the preferred document.

Furthermore, record seekers must note the requirements for obtaining public documents. While some public records do not require a statement of purpose or identification, record seekers may need to prove a statement of purpose or a government-issued I.D when requesting public records. For example, vital records like birth and divorce records may contain confidential information. Therefore, the Connecticut Vital Records Office may issue copies of these records to only the record bearer or the record bearer's family members.

Contact the Custodian Agency in Charge of the Public Records

Under the Connecticut FOIA, record seekers must contact custodian agencies to view or get copies of public documents. Record seekers must identify the custodian agency and note the agency's mode of providing access to Connecticut public records. Access to public records in Connecticut is mostly via online and offline methods.

Record custodians may maintain an online database of public documents or allow record seekers to obtain records in-person at the agency's physical address. Likewise, record custodians may issue copies of public records or allow only public inspection of the document. That said, record custodians in Connecticut include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Connecticut Vital Records
    The Connecticut Department of Public Health is the statewide record custodian of vital records. On the other hand, vital records are also obtainable at the vital records office of the region where the event occurred. Therefore, persons seeking to obtain these records must contact the record custodian either in person or via mail. To obtain vital records in person, send a request to the Vital Records Office where the event occurred. Alternatively, record seekers may visit the State Vital Records Office at the address below:

    CT Department of Public Health

    State Vital Records Office

    410 Capitol Avenue, 1st Floor

    Hartford, CT 06106
    Interested public members may request and access Connecticut inmate records via the State Department of Corrections' online platform. Record seekers can conduct searches on the online platform by inputting this information:

  2. Connecticut Inmate Records

  • Offender’s last and first name;
  • Date of birth;
  • CT DOC number.

Create and Send Request for Connecticut Public Records

Custodian agencies may require record seekers to write and send their requests to access public records in Connecticut. Sometimes, the agency provides records seekers with a downloadable request form template. In the absence of a request form template, the record seeker must write a request to the record custodian by including the following data:

  • The requester's full name
  • Date range when the record was documented;
  • Preferred mode of delivery;
  • Record seeker’s contact details;
  • The record seeker’s full name and, or aliases;
  • The record subject's date of birth;
  • The case number (this applies to court records);
  • Purpose of the request - provide a detailed description of your request;
  • Additional information to assist with the search.

Using Third-Party Sites

Some public records may also be accessible from third-party websites. These websites are not limited by geographic location and come with comprehensive search tools. Record seekers can use these sites to start a search for a specific record or multiple records. To use a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the document or person involved

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party websites may vary.

How Much Do Public Records Cost in Connecticut?

According to Sec. 1-212. (Formerly Sec. 1-15), record custodians must not charge above $0.5 per page for a public document. However, record custodians may charge different fees due to the varying cost of producing public documents. Custodian agencies may set a fixed price for copying public documents after considering the following expenses:

  • The hourly salary of the public officials involved in retrieving the records;
  • The cost of the media or storage device provided to the requester;
  • The actual cost of producing a copy of the document.

How Do I Look Up Public Records in Connecticut?

There are two options for solving this dilemma -Where can I get public records for free in Connecticut? The first option starts with an inspection of public records in Connecticut. Some custodian departments permit record subjects and the public to inspect public records at the computer terminals in their lobbies.

In addition, some maintain public terminals where record seekers can view the preferred public documents for free. For instance, crime victims and record subjects can view arrest logs and records at police departments in Connecticut.

Second, some custodian agencies and departments allow requesters to view and obtain copies of public documents for free. For example, interested persons can view and copy inmate records via an online database maintained by the Connecticut Department of Corrections. To view Connecticut inmate records for free, record seekers must type in the inmate’s full name, birth date, and Ct Doc number into the search options.

Likewise, information on all convicted and absconded sex offenders is publicly available and free of charge. The Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) maintains an online repository that provides free access to sex offender information.

Do I Need to State My Purpose When Requesting Public Records in Connecticut?

According to the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act, record seekers do not need a statement of purpose before accessing public records from any custodian agency. Nevertheless, record custodians may require proof of identification and other criteria before issuing records to requesters.

What Happens if I Am Refused a Public Records Request?

Record seekers may file an appeal or complaint with the Freedom of Information Commission if a custodian agency or department denies a record request.

Per Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 1-206(b)(1), record seekers must file the complaint not later than 30 days after the request is denied. However, in the case of a secret meeting record, record seekers must file a complaint not later than 30 days after obtaining solid evidence or notice that the meeting took place.

Most importantly, record seekers must contact an FOI Commission employee or search the FOI statutes to confirm that the request denial violates the law before filing a complaint.

Although there's no specific form for filing an appeal with the Commission, all complaints must contain the following components:

  • Name and contact details of the complainant. Also, the complainant must include an email address);
  • The date when the record custodian violated the FOIA;
  • The custodian agency's record official's name, title, office address, responsible for issuing the record denial
  • A description of the requested record if the complaint concerns a denial to the public record. In contrast, the meeting date if a public agency’s meeting records are denied;
  • A copy of the custodian agency's record denial letter;
  • Information about any unique circumstance regarding the request denial;
  • Include additional information in line with Section 1-21j-28.

Record seekers may send complaints via email, fax, or mail to the address provided below:

Freedom of Information Commission
165 Capitol Ave., Suite 1100
Hartford, CT 06105
Phone: (860) 566-5682
Phone: (866) 374-3617 (toll free)
Fax: (860) 566-6474
Email: foi@ct.gov.

After reviewing the complaints and correspondence from the record custodian, the Freedom of Information Commission may take the following action:

  • The Commission may impose a fine within $20 to $1,000 on a record custodian if there was no reasonable ground for denying a public record request;
  • Public record officials who fail with the FOI Commission's directive may be convicted of a Class B misdemeanor. Gen. Stat. §1-240(b).

How to Remove Names From Public Records Search

Record bearers can remove their names from public records search via the following options:

Pardoned Offenses

Under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-142a(d), court records, arrest records, and attorney records of an individual pardoned on or after October 1, 1974, are erased. In addition to this, the record custodian must not disclose the record to law enforcement agencies after the pardon. Furthermore, the record bearer can request the physical destruction of the record three years after the conviction.

Juvenile Offenders

Records of minors charged as adults or juveniles are erased once the offender is discharged from supervision and above 21 years old. Note that the record is erased provided the offender is not guilty of a felony before reaching 21 years of age. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-76o.

The "Clean Slate" Law

In 2021, Connecticut enacted the clean slate law to erase certain felony convictions and misdemeanor convictions recorded after 2001. According to the law, a person's criminal records are erased following a period after the most recent conviction for a crime. The clean slate law applies to class C, D, and E felonies and unclassified convictions with up to ten-year prison sentences.

Under the law, the misdemeanor records are erased seven years after the record bearer's most recent conviction. In contrast, the law erases records of Class C felonies and convictions with five-year sentences after 15 years. For criminal convictions before January 1, 2001, record bearers can file a petition on a form recommended by the Office of the Chief Court Administrator.

What is the Best Public Record Search Database?

As the primary custodian of public records, government agencies and departments provide the best public record search database. For instance, the Connecticut Sex Offender Registry is the best public record search database for all absconded and registered sex offenders in the state. In addition, the Connecticut Department of Corrections maintains a statewide database of all paroled and current inmates in the state's correctional facilities.

Likewise, the Fairfield County Police Department provides the best public search database for all arrest records and accident reports documented within the county. On the other hand, the Hartland County Town Clerk and Assistant Town Clerks are the custodians of all vital records registered in the county. Therefore, interested persons can look up birth, death, marriage, and divorce records at the Hartland County Town Clerk's Office.

Furthermore, the Bureau of Vital Statistics in New Haven County maintains the best public record search database for vital records.

How Long Does It Take to Obtain a Connecticut Public Record?

In line with the Connecticut Freedom of Information Law, all custodian agencies must provide Connecticut public records to interested persons within four business days, provided the document is not exempt under the law.