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Are North Carolina Records Public?

North Carolina records are generally open to the public. The North Carolina Public Records Law preserves the public's right to access, inspect, and make copies of public records. The Act defines public records as all documents, files, and digital archives stored, maintained, and owned by a governmental agency. However, the Act also provides exemptions where confidential records or information must be redacted and made private. Governmental agencies typically have designated record custodians to process requests and maintain the agency’s records. 

Note: Under North Carolina's public record laws, records maintained by partnerships, individuals, corporations, and agencies sanctioned by a government contract or agreement may be considered public. 

Who Can Access North Carolina Public Records?

Almost anyone can access public records under the North Carolina Public Records Law. Residents, non-residents, and media personnel can approach any governmental agency to request public records. Access isn't restricted to just individuals. Organizations, LLCs, and partnerships can also request public records from any governmental agency.

Accessible records include memos, minutes, reports, surveys, and other documents or digital archives created for a governmental body or paid for with public funds.  Government agencies must ensure their records, which fall under the public records umbrella, are open during reasonable hours on weekdays for anyone to inspect and make copies.

Anyone making a record request in North Carolina must follow the guidelines provided by the governmental agency. The right record custodian must also be approached to ensure resources and time are well-spent. Each governmental agency can have specific guidelines on how and when the public can access their records and make copies.

Generally, public records can be requested by anyone through a written application or orally. However, a written record request is advisable over oral requests, as the former will leave a trail of evidence for filing a civil action. Written requests will also aid the custodian in processing large record requests. Requesters must also be prepared to pay a fee to get the records. This fee can be charged differently depending on the governmental agency or the use of the records. There is no stipulated period within which the custodian must respond or settle record requests, but it must be done within a reasonable time frame.

Do I Need to State My Purpose and Use When Requesting Public Records in North Carolina?

Requesters do not have to give a statement of purpose or use to obtain public records. In addition, record custodians do not require any form of ID from requesters except when identity confirmation is required for a fee waiver or to confirm authorization. Fee waivers are given at the custodian’s discretion where the requester meets certain conditions. All requesters must be treated equally.


What Records are Public in North Carolina?

The North Carolina Public Records Law defines public records as documents, files, and digital archives owned and maintained by governmental bodies. These records also include documents created and maintained by quasi-public agencies who create, own, and maintain such records under an agreement or contract with a public body.

North Carolina public records cover different types of information, including the following:

  • Sex offender registry details
  • Police reports
  • Civil or criminal case details
  • North Carolina court records
  • Inmate and correctional facilities information
  • Real estate deeds and other property documents
  • Criminal history

North Carolina Public Court Records

North Carolina public court records include files, memos, documents, and digital archives created and compiled for a court case. The court clerks function as the designated record custodians for each court to maintain records and handle requests. Public court records include criminal cases, divorce judgments, police reports, real estate deeds or documents, and civil or special proceedings.

Anyone in North Carolina can make a public court record request via mail, in person, or using the North Carolina Judicial Branch online. Physical requests involve going to the courthouse to make an oral request to the court clerk or submit a formal written request. You can view the North Carolina Public Records Policies and Procedures on accessing public court records. The North Carolina Judicial branch also maintains a Public Records Platform for requests. 

North Carolina Public Criminal Records

North Carolina public criminal records refer to files, documents, and recordings that evidence an individual or group’s criminal history and convictions. Criminal records are public records in North Carolina except where certain information is classified or redacted by law. Requesters can freely approach criminal courts physically or online through the North Carolina Judicial Branch to request public court records on criminal cases. The Administrative Office of the Courts is also available for conducting background checks.

The Department of Adult Correction has a comprehensive records archive of criminal histories and convictions in North Carolina. Requesters can use various parameters like name search or offender information to conduct a criminal record search. Approaching the closest police station or local sheriff’s office will also provide requesters with updated arrest and jail inmate records.

Department of Adult Correction
214 West Jones St. Raleigh
5201 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-5201

North Carolina Public Arrest Records

North Carolina arrest records include information and documentation created and compiled by law enforcement agencies for arrests made within their jurisdictions. Arrest records are public in North Carolina and are open to members of the public except for details and information made private or classified by law.

Requesters can approach the relevant local sheriff’s office or police station to get an updated arrest record for the relevant county. Arrest record requests can be made orally or in a written request submitted at the state police department or the local sheriff’s office. Requesters must provide adequate details about the record of interest or registrant on the record, such as location, booking date, or arresting agency, to aid in easy record search and recovery.

Department of Adult Correction
214 West Jones St. Raleigh
5201 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-5201

Note: Although arrest records can form a part of an individual or group’s criminal history, they cannot serve as proof of convictions in any form.

North Carolina Public Bankruptcy Records

Bankruptcy refers to the legal process of providing aid to a fresh start to businesses or individuals who cannot service their debts. The documents created when filing and processing bankruptcy are referred to as public bankruptcy records. They contain information on companies, partnerships, individuals, and other bodies filing for bankruptcy. It will also include records like the amount of debt, creditors’ particulars and credit furnished, bankruptcy filing chapter, and available assets. Each state has a bankruptcy courthouse where the bankruptcy records are maintained, with North Carolina’s District Bankruptcy Courthouse.

The court has self-service terminals accessible to the public where bankruptcy records can be accessed electronically. The North Carolina Judicial Branch online is another way to get public bankruptcy records. 

US Bankruptcy Court
Century Station Federal Building
300 Fayetteville St.,
4th Floor
Raleigh, NC 27601-1799
P.O. Boc 791
Raleigh, NC 27602

North Carolina Public Birth Records

Birth records refer to documentation and archives of individual births within a region. North Carolina Division of Public Health, Office of Vital Records manages public birth records and processing requests.

Getting public birth records will require certain details unique to the record of interest, like the registrant’s name, location of birth, and date. The Office of Vital Records maintains birth records dating back to 1913 and can be approached to make an oral or written record request. The initial copy of the birth record can be obtained at a cost of $24, while subsequent copies will cost $15. Other sources for public birth records in North Carolina include the North Carolina State Archives and other third-party websites.

North Carolina Vital Records
Cooper Memorial Health Building
225 N. McDowell St.
Raleigh, NC 27603-1382


1903 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1900

North Carolina Public Death Records

Death records include documentation and certificates of individual deaths within a geographical area. Death records are public by virtue of the North Carolina Public Records Law, and these records are maintained and administered by the North Carolina Division of Public Health, Office of Vital Records. The office maintains death records dating back to 1930 at its physical location in Raleigh. Public death records can be obtained at a cost of $24 for the first copy and $15 for additional copies. Requesters must have some extra details on the record, like the registrant’s name or location of death, for a streamlined records search. Other potent sources of public death records in North Carolina include the State Archives of North Carolina and the County Register of Deeds offices. Requesters must prepare to certify their identity as required with a government-issued ID, like a US passport or a valid driver’s license, and pay the requisite fees.

North Carolina Vital Records
Cooper Memorial Health Building
225 N. McDowell St.
Raleigh, NC 27603-1382


1903 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1900

North Carolina Public Marriage Records 

Marriage records include documentation on legally conducted marriages within a region. The North Carolina Division of Public Health, Office of Vital Records maintains the marriage records for the state, with records dating back to 1962. Each county maintains the records for marriages conducted within the respective counties. The records contain details like the wedding official, the couples’ particulars, the parents’ particulars, the date, and the location of the marriage. Requesters must be equipped with details like the couples’ names, dates, and places of marriage for easy records search and recovery. Requesters looking for marriage records before 1962 can check the North Carolina State Archives, the Genealogy Section of the North Carolina State Library, or the records of the relevant county.

North Carolina Supreme Court
2 E Morgan St.
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 831-5700

North Carolina Public Divorce Records

Divorce records refer to documentation and information on marriage dissolutions within a region. Divorce records can be a source for details like the divorcing parties’ particulars, the terms of the divorce, the court where the divorce is filed, and the grounds for divorce. These records are maintained by the North Carolina Division of Public Health, Office of Vital Records, which also handles record requests. Requesters can approach any court where the divorce was filed to make an oral or written records request through the Office of Vital Records. Record seekers must prepare to pay a fee of $24 for a three-year search period, which must be paid whether or not the record is located.

North Carolina Public Inmate Records

The inmate records of a state include documents, files, and information about all incarcerations and prison sentences in the state. North Carolina has an open inmate record, which residents and non-residents can inspect at reasonable official hours under reasonable supervision. Public inmate records are maintained by the North Carolina Department of Adult Correction, which also processes record requests. The department also maintains the state's inmates’ welfare and correctional center infrastructure. The Department of Adult Correction has a Criminal Offender Searches portal where information on parolees, state prisoners, and probationers is accessible. It is a database of records dating back to 1972. You can obtain public inmate records using the Criminal Offender Searches portal and a name search to locate the inmate's record of interest.

Department of Adult Correction
214 West Jones St. Raleigh
5201 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-5201

North Carolina Public Sex Offender Information

Public sex offender registry refers to a detailed and organized index of individuals convicted of sexual crimes and the crimes committed. The law requires such offenders, violent and non-violent offenders, to register as sex offenders at their county sheriff’s office. The North Carolina sex offender information is maintained by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and is open to members of the public. Record seekers can use the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry website to view the updated sex offender registry in North Carolina. The sheriff’s departments in each county may opt to publish the names of sex offenders in newspapers, while the website may offer more details. Requesters must use the information in this registry very carefully to avoid infringing on anyone’s rights and privileges.

North Carolina Department of Public Safety
512 North Salisbury Street, Raleigh


4201 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-4201

North Carolina Public Property Records

Property records refer to information and documentation on real property interest alienation and title ownership within a region. North Carolina property records are public records maintained by the North Carolina State Property Office. Residents can also obtain property records in North Carolina from each county's Register of Deeds Office or the State Treasurer’s Office for unclaimed property.

North Carolina Department of Administration
North Carolina State Property Office
Albemarle Building
325 N. Salisbury Street
1321 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1321

What is Exempted Under the North Carolina Public Records Act?

North Carolina's public record law guarantees that everyone can access and make copies of public records. However, the same law specifies that certain information and details are exempted from public access. Such information includes details that violate an individual's right to privacy, security, or information subject to redaction.

Requesters must ensure that the records requested do not fall under the exemptions and are not redacted by any laws operating in North Carolina. When requests include confidential and nonconfidential information, the record custodian can make copies and release the non-confidential parts, while the confidential parts must be kept classified. Some examples of exemptions provided for by the North Carolina Public Records Act include:

  • State Tax details
  • Specific lawsuit settlements
  • Trade secrets
  • A legal counsel’s confidential communication to a public agency or board
  • Criminal investigation records
  • Industrial expansion records

How Do I Find Public Records in North Carolina?

Public records are easy to find in North Carolina when the requester knows what records to search for and what agency to approach. Each governmental agency has a designated record custodian that maintains the records archived and stored by the agency.

The first step in finding public records in North Carolina is to know the category of the records. The record category will reveal the government agencies likely to maintain them. For example, birth, marriage, and death records must be sought at the North Carolina Vital Records Department. Real estate records will be with the Registrar of Deeds, while police reports will be sought for at police stations or the State Bureau of Investigation.

Finding public records in North Carolina also involves making a valid record request. Requesters must follow the guidelines relevant governmental agencies provide when making a record request. Requesters can opt to make physical requests at the governmental agency building or use online alternatives to submit their requests or via mail.

Written requests are advisable over oral requests. Requests can be denied. When this happens, one of the options available to a requester is to file an appeal, and this process will require the written request as a vital piece of evidence. Written requests also make processing large record requests easier.

Can I Find Free Public Records in North Carolina Using Third-Party Sites?

Third-party websites are non-governmental platforms or private websites containing categorized and indexed public records archives. When using third-party websites, some basic information required to conduct searches includes the registrant’s name, filing date, or location of an event. However, third-party websites must be used carefully as such platforms cannot guarantee accurate results. Record seekers must always verify data and information using government-approved sources.

How Much Do Public Records Cost in North Carolina?

Costs are based on the services rendered by the governmental agency and the volume of Records requested. The fees charged are usually stated in the guidelines or the record laws of the States. Each governmental agency can have special guidelines for accessing records maintained by it, and these guidelines can contain specific or unique fees charged for access to records.  The fees charged can be based on copies made or the expertise required to access the records and make copies. Where charges are based on copies made, they are usually charged per page, and where they are charged for expertise involved, they are charged per hour at the regular wage rate of the governmental agency.

The fees charged for access to public records in North Carolina vary based on the governmental agency. For example, the vital records department charges $15 for paternity requests and $15 for additional copies of certificates.  Original certificates or first copies can be requested at the cost of $24.

The judicial branch of North Carolina charges $25 for records accessible through the courts. Although these fees are prescribed, the record custodian can issue a fee waiver based on the requester's status or the nature of use for the requested information. It is important to note that extraordinary requests usually require more personnel and time to process. Requesters making large requests must also be prepared for an estimate of fees that will be paid before processing the requests.

What Happens if I Am Refused a Public Records Request?

Public records requests are made physically or using any of the online alternatives.  When a public record request is denied, the requester must understand why the custodian denied access. Understanding the reason for the denial is important to understand the steps to rectify the issue and access the records.

Record requests can be refused for various reasons, including the nature of the information requested and the reduction laws it is subjected to. North Carolina Public Records law states that requesters must be given access to inspect and make copies of public records at official hours and under reasonable supervision. When record requests are refused, the record custodian must date why the request was refused and include the law backing the reason.

The options available to request following a refusal to record requests include the following:

  • The requester can try a mediated settlement.
  • The requester can file an action to compel the governmental agency to provide copies of the records.
  • The requester can file a civil action in court to challenge the refusal.
  • Submit a new request using corrections from the former.
North Carolina Public Records
  • Criminal Records
  • Arrests Records
  • Warrants
  • Driving Violations
  • Inmate Records
  • Felonies
  • Misdemeanors
  • Bankruptcies
  • Tax & Property Liens
  • Civil Judgements
  • Federal Dockets
  • Probate Records
  • Marriage Records
  • Divorce Records
  • Death Records
  • Property Records
  • Asset Records
  • Business Ownership
  • Professional Licenses
  • And More!