Are Louisiana Records Public?
The Louisiana Public Records Law ensures public access to most records generated by government agencies in the state. According to the law, interested requesters can submit official requests to inspect these records or purchase physical copies. Louisiana also requires governmental entities to respond to all requests for records in their custody.
According to the law, public records include information used by an agency, under the Louisiana Constitution or other regulation, to transact or perform public business. Public records may be books, writings, letters, maps, tapes, recordings, memoranda, and other documentary materials regardless of characteristics and physical form. The law’s definition also includes duplicates, copies, or other reproductions of these materials (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:(2)(a)). Some examples of public records Louisiana agencies create or maintain include the following:
- Public court records
- Public bankruptcy records
- Public inmate records
- Public sex offender records
- Selected vital records like public Louisiana divorce records
- Public property records
- Criminal history records and criminal records
Generally, Louisiana encourages public agencies to interpret the public records law literally. Except otherwise provided by statute, interested requesters should not be denied access to information in the custody of public agencies. Louisiana law also states that, following a public records act request, record custodians must see the provision of public records as an official responsibility (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:31(A)). To obtain a record, requestors may conduct a public data search using the online resources maintained by government agencies and third-party aggregate sites. To search public records, requestors must provide information required to facilitate the public record search.
Who Can Access Louisiana Public Records?
According to the Louisiana Public Records Law (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:31(B)(2)), “any person” may inspect public records or obtain reproduced copies. The law states that where there is uncertainty about a record’s public status, the burden of proving that the public record is not subject to disclosure rests with the public agency or its appointed records custodian. Public records in Louisiana that are exempt from public disclosure may be available to requestors eligible to access background check information.
What is Exempted Under the Louisiana Public Records?
Louisiana is a closed records state and restricts access to several government-generated records. Although the public record law ensures access to most records, some sensitive or confidential information may not be open to the public. Under the Louisiana public records laws, the following records are exempt from public disclosure in Louisiana:
- Personal information on public employees, such as personnel records, performance evaluations, medical and insurance information, organizational memberships, transcripts, and letters of recommendation. Information such as telephone numbers and home addresses are also exempt if the employee requests confidentiality (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:11).
- Personally identifiable student records, such as birth dates, test scores, and grades. Other student records, including assessments, statistics, and reports, may be open to public disclosure if they do not identify any students, classes, or teachers.
- Records created or maintained by law enforcement officials, prosecutors, intelligence agencies, correctional agencies, and communications districts (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:3(A)). This exemption covers a wide range of records used by these parties for investigative and prosecution purposes. Some examples include records identifying a confidential source, containing investigative or security data, identifying personnel working undercover, or containing information used in pending criminal litigation.
- Records of persons applying for or receiving entitlement payments, including blind and old persons, and dependent children (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:2).
- Records generated by employees or agencies whose functions are to examine, investigate, manage, or liquidate a private person’s business, a corporation, or a firm (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:3).
- Governor’s records containing intra-office communications, details of the governor’s family, security information, financial data, and other details required to discharge the governor’s duties (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:5).
- Medical records of patients in hospitals, correctional institutions, public schools, and public mental health centers. This also includes related charts, documents, reports, and memoranda created by surgeons, physicians, nurses, psychiatrists, and other health employees (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:7).
- Criminal records are generated or maintained by the Louisiana Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information. However, the bureau can allow access to eligible criminal justice agencies and other governmental entities as specified by law (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:587). Some eligible agencies include the Louisiana Department of Education, the State Bar Association, and the Department of Children and Family Services.
- All documents, including selected court records of proceedings and evidence, filed with the Louisiana Judiciary Commission. However, records filed with the Louisiana Supreme Court by the Commission are not confidential.
- Selected vital records such as certified marriage and divorce records
- Arrest records and criminal records of juvenile persons
Where Can I Access Public Criminal Court Records in Louisiana?
Access to public Louisiana criminal court records depends on the overseeing court. In Louisiana, criminal court records are available at District, Parish, City, and Justice of the Peace Courts, all of which have varying degrees of jurisdiction over criminal matters. Persons seeking access to these records may submit details of the records to the applicable courts. Submitted details should include
- Litigant and attorney names
- Court dates or date ranges
- Charge descriptions
- The court’s final judgment
- Other known specifics.
In some cases, information may also be available online. For instance, a requester may conduct a free Jefferson Parish public records search for the 24th Judicial Court’s docket on the clerk’s public search page. Similarly, Louisiana residents may initiate an East Baton Rouge Parish public records search through the clerk’s online access platform. Search services cost varying fees as the state does not provide public access to free Louisiana court records. It should be noted that criminal court records are distinguished from criminal records which are maintained by the state police department and county sheriff's office.
How Do I Find Public Records in Louisiana?
The Louisiana Public Records Law requires agencies to allow the inspection or copying of public records in custody. However, each interested person must submit an official request to the agency in charge of the record. Regardless of the agency or the record, interested parties may use the following steps on how to access public records in Louisiana:
- Determine the type of record
Each requester must first decide on the required information. Louisiana has several types of public records created or compiled by different agencies at the state and parish levels. This step also helps the requester to determine the record’s availability for public disclosure. For instance, arrest records are maintained by county Sheriff's offices, vital records like marriage, birth, death and divorce records are maintained by the parish or county clerk's offices or recorders offices.
- Identify the agency in charge
Deciding on the type of record helps the requester to confirm the custodian agency. For instance, court records are obtainable from the clerk at the court that heard the case, while inmate information is available at the sheriff’s office with relevant jurisdiction.
- Create a request
In Louisiana, a request is sufficient if it adequately describes the desired record. Since the Louisiana Public Records Law does not require that requests must be written, agencies may accept oral requests. Nonetheless, these agencies may prefer written requests and sometimes provide a public record request form for easier processing. Generally, requests for Louisiana public records should contain the following:
- The type of record
- Information contained on the record, such as names and dates
- The requester’s full name and contact information
- The requester’s preferred delivery method
- Submit the request
Record seekers must submit requests according to the agency’s instructions. Usually, available options include in-person, fax, mail, phone, and online submissions. However, some agencies may specify submission methods, limiting options to in-person or mail requests. Some options may also be available for free, while others incur varying costs or conditions. For instance, online requests may cost additional processing fees, while mail requests may have further requirements, such as a self-addressed and stamped envelope.
Using Third-Party Sites to Search Public Records in Louisiana
Some 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 Much Do Public Records Cost in Louisiana?
Except for public records of state agencies, record custodians may charge reasonable fees required to produce copies (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:32(C)(1)(a)). The law also states that the agency may request a prepayment before producing the record. However, no charge is permitted for inspecting records (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:32(C)(3)).
For public records of state agencies, each record custodian may charge fees according to the uniform fee schedule adopted by the Louisiana Commissioner of Administration. According to the schedule, state agencies may charge a maximum of 25 cents for the first copy of a microfiche or paper record not larger than 8½ x 14. Agencies may not charge more than $1 for each additional copy. For copies larger than 8½ x 14, the charge should be the actual cost of copying the record. However, there are options for accessing public records at no cost.
How Do I Look Up Public Records in Louisiana for Free?
There are several options for conducting a free public records search in Louisiana.
Free access to Louisiana public records is possible via inspection. Louisiana law states that agencies may require copy fees for producing physical copies, and also request payments in advance. However, agencies must not charge requesters for inspecting or examining non-confidential public records (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:32(C)(3)).
The Louisiana Public Records Laws also states that agencies may reduce or waive copy fees if the requester is an indigent citizen or the request is for a public purpose (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:32(C)(2)).
Free public records created by Louisiana agencies may also be available online at no cost. For instance, the Louisiana State Police (LSP) maintains an online Sex Offender and Child Predatory Registry with free information on registered sex offenders and predators in the state. In addition, interested members of the public may use self-service computers in a Lousiana county clerks office or the county recorder’s office to research public records at no cost. However, persons who search public records using this option will be required to pay a nominal fee to cover the cost of copies if they also need to obtain records and not view them alone.
Do I Need to State My Purpose When Requesting Public Records in Louisiana?
Louisiana does not require statements of purpose for public record requests. The public records law states that no custodian may ask a requester for anything other than their age and identification, and to sign a register. (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:32(A)). Furthermore, no custodian or agency may scrutinize any record requested by that person to determine the reason for the request or a likely use for the record. Hence, requestors may search public records or view online public records without disclosing the purpose of their interest.
What Happens if I Am Refused a Public Records Request?
Persons denied access to Louisiana public records might file petitions in court. The Louisiana open records law permits requestors to obtain records on request or view online public records where applicable. The law further provides that requestors may file for a writ of mandamus if the agency refuses the request or does not respond within five business days. The action may also include declaratory or injunctive relief, payment of attorney fees, costs, and other damages. Requesters must file in the District Court for the parish where the agency is located La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:35(A).
The District Court may request private access to the record before ruling on the dispute. If it finds that the agency’s denial of the public data search was inappropriate, the court will order the state government agencies concerned to provide access and may also order reasonable attorney fees and other litigation costs. If the court finds that the denial was capricious or unreasonable, or the agency’s failure to respond was unreasonable, the court may award actual damages that the requester can prove were incurred because of the agency’s denial. The District Court may also grant civil penalties of up to $100 per day for each day of the agency’s failure to respond, excluding weekends and legal public holidays.
How to Remove Names From Public Search Records?
Louisiana offers legal options for removing names from public records. Interested persons may consider applying to the Louisiana superior court for expungement, a process that removes qualifying records from public access but does not result in their destruction (LA. C.CR.P. 971(1)). However, eligibility requirements make this process complex and restrictive.
In Louisiana, persons are eligible for expungement if at least one of the following applies (LA. C.CR.P. 978(A)):
- The court set aside the conviction and dismissed the prosecution
- More than ten years have passed since the applicant completed all terms of any sentence, and there has been no subsequent criminal conviction or pending charge
- The person is entitled to a first offender pardon if the conviction is non-violent and non-sexual
- The conviction or arrest record is not for a sexual or violent crime
Outside of the expungement process, options for removal may require identifying each applicable record and locating the custodian agency according to the Louisiana public records act. However, interested persons must note that their names may still be available on private records.
What is the Best Public Records Search Database?
Louisiana has no database considered the best public records search database. The best place to find a public record depends on the particular record and the creating or maintaining agency. For instance, the best public records search database for East Baton Rouge inmate records is the sheriff’s prison inmate list. Similarly, the Orleans Parish Clerk of Civil District Court maintains an online records page where interested persons can access land records, conveyance index, mortgage index, and data from the clerk’s office.
How Long Does It Take to Obtain a Louisiana Public Record?
The Louisiana Public Records Law states that records should be provided immediately the public records act request is made. According to the law, the agency must immediately present the record to the requester if it is not in active use at the time of the application. If the record is in active use, the state or local agency has three business days to send the requester a written notification with the exact day and hour that the record would be available. For instant public record searches, requestors may access public information or records maintained on online public records databases whether owned by government agencies or third-party aggregate sites.
Is Public Data Search Safe?
The short answer is yes, public data search is safe. However, there are a few caveats to keep in mind.
First and foremost, it’s important to remember that not all public data is accurate. While the vast majority of public data is reliable, there are always going to be some inaccuracies. This is why it’s important to corroborate any information found through public data searches with other sources.
Second, it’s also important to remember that public data can be outdated. This isn’t necessarily a safety issue, but it’s something to keep in mind when using public data for research purposes.
Finally, it’s worth noting that there are some risks associated with sharing personal information online. While public data searches don’t typically require requestors to share any personally identifiable information, there’s always a possibility that their information could be compromised if the requestor is not careful.
Overall, public data search is safe as long as the necessary precautions are taken.