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Kentucky Court Records

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Are Kentucky Records Public?

Most of the records maintained by the government agencies are open to the public. Under the Kentucky Open Records Act, government agencies (at all levels) must provide access to anyone who wishes to exercise their right to view public records. The term "public records" includes all records "prepared, used, or retained by a public agency." It also includes emails, electronic records, photographs, and databases. You can obtain copies by submitting a request to state and local government offices, departments, or legislative bodies. The Open Records Act also applies to records maintained by county and city government bodies or municipal corporations and agencies created and controlled by public agencies. 

Note: The Kentucky OPRA covers any non-governmental body that receives at least 25% of its funding from state or local authorities. 

Who Can Access Kentucky Public Records?

Under Kentucky law, access to public records is restricted to only residents. The state's public record act specifies that "..all public records shall be open for inspection by any resident of the Commonwealth'' except as otherwise provided by law. The OPRA defines "residents'' as any of the following:

  • An individual residing in the Commonwealth
  • A domestic business operating in the Commonwealth
  • An individual or business entity that owns property within the Commonwealth
  • A news gathering organization
  • A foreign business entity legally registered with the Secretary of State
  • Any employed or working at a location within the Commonwealth

To ensure that an applicant satisfies the requirements of the Open records law, record custodians may request an ID card or documents to establish eligibility. Most agencies also provide standardized open record request forms with a section for a signed statement attesting to the applicant's right to obtain records in line with state laws.

Note: Prior to June 2021, Kentucky's open records law stated that " ..any person shall have a right to inspect public records”. However, the state amended this law to restrict access to only Commonwealth residents.

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

You don't need to provide an official statement of purpose when requesting public records in Kentucky, but you must inform the record custodian if the record will be used for any commercial purposes. Once declared, your use must be restricted to only the declared activity. Public record requests are generally granted. However, record custodians have the discretionary right to reject the request for any record that burdens the government unreasonably. Public agencies may also deny requests if they decide that the application is merely submitted to disrupt the functions of the government.

Note: Residents who obtain records without a declaration for a commercial purpose cannot later use the obtained records for commercial purposes.

What Records are Public in Kentucky?

According to the Kentucky Open Records Act, almost all records created by public agencies fall under the public records umbrella, meaning members of the public can inspect or access these documents. Furthermore, records aren't restricted to just books, files, and paper documents. Records can also exist in other forms, such as photographs, tapes, discs, recordings, software, or other documentation. Some examples of public records in Kentucky include criminal records, bankruptcy records, inmate information, sex offender information, arrest records, and court records. 

Kentucky Public Court Records

In Kentucky, court records refer to documents, files, and data created by the circuit and district court during legal proceedings. The maintenance and oversight of these records typically belong to the court clerk. Some information in a public court record includes summons and complaints, arrest warrants, pleas, motions, dockets, transcripts, orders, and judgments.

To obtain public court records in Kentucky, you must contact the appropriate court clerk at the district or circuit court where the case was filed. Some records may be accessible online. For instance, the Kentucky Court of Justice provides an online searchable platform for looking up docket information.

Kentucky Public Criminal Records

Kentucky criminal records provide official documentation of committed crimes and convictions. These records are generally open to the public, except for protected records involving domestic violence, mental health, and juvenile offenders. Criminal records contain different types of data, such as the registrant's name and physical description, details of the filed charges, and sentencing information.

Criminal records are publicly available through official agencies at the state and local levels. Residents can search through criminal record reports by contacting the Administrative Office of the Courts. Additionally, the Kentucky State Police processes criminal history and open records requests. Residents can also obtain record copies by contacting the local county sheriff’s offices and jails.

To obtain criminal records, you must provide enough details for a search, such as the individual's name or a known correction number.

Kentucky State Police,

Public Records Branch,

Attn: Stephanie Dawson, Records Custodian,

1266 Louisville Road,

Frankfort, KY 40601,

502-782-1873

Kentucky Public Arrest Records

Kentucky arrest records provide a listing of offenses for which a person was arrested. These records are generally open to the public, except where exempted or protected by law. Arrest records are maintained by law enforcement and criminal justice agencies in the state. To obtain copies of a record, you must provide some information about the subject, such as the registrant's full name, the arrest date, and the location.

Note: Arrest records aren't evidence that the registrant was convicted of a crime. Not all arrests lead to criminal convictions.

Kentucky Public Inmate Records

Inmate records provide official documentation of an offender's status while in custody. Per the Kentucky Open Records Act, such records are public, which means residents can access them. To look up public Kentucky inmate records, you'll need to contact either the state Department of Correction or the local county authority. While requests can be submitted in person or by mail, most agencies provide convenient online search forms for obtaining inmate information.

For instance, the Kentucky Department of Correction serves as the central repository for inmate records in the state. Residents can search through the list of offenders housed in state-run facilities using the Kentucky Online Offender Lookup platform. Some of the information that may be contained in an inmate record includes the inmate's full name, parole eligibility, maximum sentence date, date of incarceration, and convicted offense.

Kentucky Department of Correction

275 E Main St.

Frankfort, KY 40601

(502) 564-4360

Kentucky Public Sex Offender Information

Sex offender records fall under the umbrella of public records. In compliance with Kentucky laws (KRS 17.580), the Kentucky State Police provides online access to a public registry of convicted offenders. Public information that may be found using the registry includes the offender's name, date of birth, registration status, and sexual orientation. It also includes the offender's primary address. To use the sex offender registry, you'll need to provide some related data, such as the offender's last name, street address, or offender number. Residents can also filter searches to create a list of offenders within a particular radius. 

Kentucky State Police

Criminal ID and Records Branch

1266 Louisville Road

Frankfort, KY 40601

Note: The sex offender registry does not include all offenders who have ever been convicted of sex crimes in the Commonwealth. It only includes offenders convicted after 1994. In addition, convicted sex offenders may either be required to register for life or 20 years, depending on their offense.

Kentucky Public Birth Records

The Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics maintains Kentucky birth records. The office has records of everyone born in the commonwealth from 1911 to the present day. To obtain copies of a birth record, you'll need to provide some information to the record custodian. Some of the required info includes the following:

  • Full name of the registrant at birth
  • The month, day, and year of birth on record
  • Full name of the mother
  • Father's full name
  • County of birth 
  • Name and address of the requester (where the record will be sent)
  • Number of copies required.

Requests can be submitted in person or by mailing an application to the:

Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics

275 East Main Street, 1E-A

Frankfort, KY 40621

Kentucky Public Death Records

The Office of Vital Statistics (OVS) serves as the main repository for death records. The office collects, maintains, and issues certificates for all deaths in the state. To obtain Kentucky death records, your application must include the following information:

  • The decedent's full name.
  • The county where the death occurred.
  • The day, month, and year of the death.
  • Name and address of requester (where the record will be sent).
  • Number of copies required.

The completed application must be sent (alongside a check or money order payable to the Kentucky State Treasure) to the following address:

Office of Vital Statistics,
Department for Public Health.
Cabinet for Health and Family Services,
275 East Main Street 1E-A,
Frankfort, KY 40621

Kentucky Public Marriage Records. 

Kentucky marriage records provide official documentation of marriages that occurred in the state. Some of the details contained in a record include the name of the bride and groom, names of witnesses, and the date of the event. In Kentucky, the Office of Vital Statistics serves as the central repository for marriage information, with records dating back to 1958.

Office of Vital Statistics

Department for Public Health

Cabinet for Health and Family Services

275 East Main Street 1E-A

Frankfort, KY 40621

When requesting marriage records from the Office of Vital Statistics, you'll need to provide the following information:

  • The full names of both parties 
  • The day, month, and year of the marriage 
  • The name of the county where the marriage license was issued. 
  • Name and address of requester (where the record will be sent)
  • Number of copies required.

Note: Marriage records created prior to June 1958 can be obtained by contacting the county clerk where the marriage occurred.

Kentucky Public Divorce Records

Kentucky divorce records provide information on marriage dissolutions granted within the state. These records are maintained by the Kentucky State Registrar of Vital Statistics and can be obtained by eligible parties. To obtain copies of a divorce certificate, you must submit an application to the Office of Vital Statistics providing the following information:

  • Name of the county where the divorce decree was issued. 
  • The full name of both parties 
  • The day, month, and year of the divorce
  • Name and address of requester (where the record will be sent)
  • Number of copies required.

You must pay a non-refundable fee with each application. The Office of Vital Statistics does not issue photocopies or non-certified copies of a record. Upon receipt of the application, the record custodian will perform a search and send a certified copy of the record if it's found. Applications can also be submitted in person at the main lobby. The office opens for record requests between 8:00 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. from Monday to Friday at the following address:

Office of Vital Statistics

Department for Public Health

Cabinet for Health and Family Services

275 East Main Street 1E-A

Frankfort, KY 40621

Note: Divorce records created prior to June 1958 can be obtained by contacting the circuit court clerk where the divorce decree was issued.

Kentucky Public Bankruptcy Records

Bankruptcy records provide information on individuals or companies who have filed for bankruptcy within the Commonwealth of Kentucky. They include details such as the source of the debtor's income, the list of assets, and the businesses they own. Bankruptcy actions in the Commonwealth fall under the jurisdiction of the federal bankruptcy courts, operating in two main districts:

  • Eastern District of Kentucky
  • Western District of Kentucky

To look up bankruptcy records, you must provide some information related to the case, such as the subject's name or case number. Members of the public can search for bankruptcy records using the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) online portal. Alternatively, you can obtain records by writing to or visiting the Clerk's Office or any U.S. Bankruptcy Courts Districts in Kentucky using the following addresses.

ASHLAND
U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Carl Perkins Federal Building
U.S. District Courtroom
1405 Greenup Avenue, Suite 204
Ashland, KY 41101

 

COVINGTON
U.S. Bankruptcy Court
United States Courthouse
35 West 5th Street, Suite 306
Covington, KY 41011

 

FRANKFORT
U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Community Trust Building
100 East Vine Street, Suite 200
Lexington, KY 40507

 

LEXINGTON
U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Community Trust Building
100 East Vine Street, Suite 200
Lexington, KY 40507

 

LONDON
U.S. Bankruptcy Court
United States Courthouse Annex
U.S. District Courtroom C (3rd Floor)
310 South Main Street
London, KY 40741

 

PIKEVILLE
U.S. Bankruptcy Court/U.S. Post Office and Courthouse
U.S. District Courtroom
110 Main Street, Suite 201
Pikeville, KY 41501

 

OWENSBORO
Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse
423 Frederica Street
Owensboro, KY 42301

 

PADUCAH
Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse
501 Broadway
Paducah, KY 420

 

BOWLING GREEN
William H. Natcher Federal Building and US Courthouse
241 East Main Avenue
Bowling Green, KY 42301

 

LOUISVILLE
Gene Snyder Courthouse
601 West Broadway, Suite 450
Louisville, KY 40202

What is Exempted Under the Kentucky Open Records Act?

Under the Kentucky Open Records Act, the following records are exempted from public access:

  • Personal privacy: Any record that contains personal information, the release of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy. 
  • Confidential Business records: Confidential records disclosed by a business, the release of which would cause an unfair commercial advantage to competitors. 
  • Financial regulations: Records developed by an agency that may reveal protected internal audit criteria. 
  • Examination Data: Any record containing test questions or data used to administer a licensing, employment, or academic examination. 
  • Records containing internal personal communication that's unrelated to a governmental function. 
  • Federal and State Prohibitions: Any record that's classified as confidential by federal law or state statutes.
  • Any record containing information, the disclosure of which would threaten public safety.
  • Records that were confidentially disclosed and compiled for scientific research. 
  • Law enforcement investigations: records of ongoing investigations into statutory or regulatory violations.

How Do I Find Public Records in Kentucky?

Residents of the Commonwealth can find public records in Kentucky by following several general steps.

Step 1. Identify the Right Agency

To obtain public records in Kentucky, you'll need to directly apply to the appropriate government office or the custodian of the records. For instance, inmate information is maintained by the Kentucky Department of Correction, while the Office of Vital Statistics issues vital records. 

Step 2. Get Enough Information for a Search

Generally, any submitted request must have "sufficient specificity" to allow the custodian reasonable time to find the records. The only way of ensuring this is to provide enough information to assist with the search. For example, if you're requesting marriage records, your request should include the parties' names, the marriage date, and the location.

Step 3. Contact the Agency and Pay the Fees(s)

Once you've identified the right agency and have the right information, you'll be ready to begin a search. Contact the record custodian to request records. Some agencies provide multiple options for requesting records, some of which include the following:

  • In-person requests,
  • Online requests,
  • Mail requests
  • Email requests

In-person requests typically have the quickest response time, while mail and online requests take slightly longer. You may also need to pay a fee to obtain copies of the record. Certified copies generally cost more than paper copies. 

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

Public records may be accessible via third-party sites. However, record accuracy tends to vary depending on where the information was created, the type of record, and the date of creation. Most third-party sites are unaffiliated or unendorsed by specific Kentucky government agencies. Instead, the records contained are compiled from multiple jurisdictions, including counties and cities outside Kentucky. To find free public records in Kentucky using third-party platforms, requesters must provide specific information to process the search, such as the registrant's name or an identification number. 

How Much Do Public Records Cost in Kentucky?

The cost of obtaining public records in Kentucky varies depending on the record type, the medium in which it is stored, and the time it takes to find the record. In general, if you're requesting paper records, most agencies charge 10 cents for each copy of the page. However, this fee may be higher if you request records for a commercial purpose. In addition, agencies may charge higher fees for requests stored on other mediums. However, this will be the actual cost of the medium and the cost of mechanically reproducing the record.

Note: State laws allow public agencies in Kentucky to charge a reasonable fee for making copies of a record. However, at most, this fee must be the actual cost of copying the record

What Happens if I Am Refused a Public Records Request?

Public agencies refuse requests for a variety of reasons. For instance, an agency may refuse to provide copies or allow inspection if it finds that the request places an "unreasonable burden" on its resources. Record custodians will also deny any request for records exempted by law or any request that appears to be aimed at disrupting regular functions.

Record seekers can resolve some rejections by addressing the underlying challenges. However, in cases where applicants feel like their request is being illegally denied, requesters have the right to file an appeal with the Attorney General requesting a review of the agency's actions.

To file an appeal with the attorney general, your appeal must include all the following (if available):

  • The letter from the agency denying the request
  • A copy of your submitted application for records
  • A letter describing the events and denial that you received.

Decisions on an appeal are typically made within 20 days. However, appeals aren't the final step. If denied, residents of the Commonwealth can further challenge the Attorney General's decision by filing a motion at the circuit court located in the county where the public agency operates.

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Kentucky Public Records