Colorado first enacted the open records act in 1969 to guarantee residents access to public records in the custody of government agencies at the state and municipal levels. Over the years, this law has changed to broaden access and protect sensitive and confidential information that may harm the state or persons whose records are accessible to the public. Today, all state and municipal agencies adopt policies that intending requesters must follow to obtain public records of interest.
Although all government agencies are subject to this law, here are some commonly requested public records in Colorado and how to obtain one:
Arrest records refer to documents that law enforcement officers create when they take a person into custody following a warrant or warrantless arrest. The record will contain information on the individual’s alleged offense and the date and time of report or arrest. It will also include the arrest outcome, i.e., indictment and released on bond or bail.
You can get arrest records from the arresting agency – usually the Sheriff’s office or the local police department. The contact information of these agencies is available on the county website. Some agencies maintain their dedicated websites too.
Note that this record does not provide definitive proof of guilt for the offense. For that, you will need to get a criminal record from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Criminal Records In Colorado
Criminal records, also known as a rap sheet, contain descriptions of a person’s arrests and prosecution in Colorado. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation is the central repository for these records. To obtain a person’s criminal records, you can perform a name-based Internet Criminal History Check (ICHC). This service is available immediately and costs $5.00. However, you cannot use it for official purposes since the search result is not notarized.
For notarized criminal records, you will need to request Criminal History Record Information (CHRI). This service costs $13.00, and unlike the ICHC, it is not available immediately. You must complete a request form and enclose it in a self-addressed stamped envelope along with payment for the service.
Generally, the Bureau of Investigation accepts credit cards for its services. So, kindly attach the completed credit card authorization form along with your request. You can also pay with a pre-printed business check for mail requests or pay with cash if you submit the request in person.
Mail the request to:
690 Kipling Street, Suite 3000
Denver, CO 80215
Phone: (303) 239-4208
Email: [email protected] (for inquiries)
Colorado Sex Offender Information
Besides criminal records, the Bureau of Investigation also maintains a database for convicted and registered sex offenders in Colorado. You can perform a name-based search or a map search for the person of interest. However, this database may not contain complete information on local sex offenders.
Thus, your primary source of information for sex offenders should be the Sheriff’s office or the local police department in the city or county of residence. Many of these law enforcement agencies maintain online databases. Generally, there is no cost for accessing sex offender information from any law enforcement agency in Colorado.
Inmate Records In Colorado
Persons convicted of crimes in Colorado will spend time in jail or prison, depending on the gravity of the offense. Generally, misdemeanor offenders spend time in county jails, and felony offenders spend time in state correctional facilities.
The Colorado Department of Corrections has custody of the latter group of offenders and maintains a publicly available database to search for inmate records in Colorado. You will need to know the inmate’s name or their unique offender number to perform a search.
For persons serving sentences in the municipal jail, you can visit the Sheriff’s website for inmate information. Inmate records accessed online are typically free. However, if the Sheriff or police department does not maintain an online log, you will have to visit the jail in person and submit a formal request for inmate records. You may need to cover the administrative cost of reproducing the inmate records.
Colorado Court Records
The Colorado judiciary handles nearly 250,000 civil and criminal cases annually. Case documents created through the history of these cases are available to public requesters at the clerk’s office in the county of filing or where the trial happened.
You can use this court directory to find the location and contact information of trial courts in your county.
Generally, you will need to know the litigants’ names and the case number. Knowing the date of filing or the verdict date can also let court administrative staff find the court records of interest. If you cannot visit the courthouse in person, you can prepare your request in writing and mail it to the courthouse. However, ensure to call ahead and inquire about the associated fees for copying and mailing.
You can also get court records online if you need them quickly. Colorado judiciary does not maintain a statewide portal for court records. Thus, you must contact a trusted independent service provider to access the case documents of interest.
Meanwhile, note that case records containing sensitive or confidential information will not be available online. These include cases of domestic abuse or those involving juvenile defendants or witnesses. Some litigants also petition the court to place their case documents under seal. In such cases, you will need to ask the court to unseal the records by demonstrating reasons that outweigh the sequestration from the public domain. If the court grants your request to unseal, the documents containing the sensitive information will go through a redaction process before the record custodian releases it to you.
The need to protect sensitive information also plays out in vital records in Colorado.
Birth, marriage, divorce, and death are life events in Colorado. Government agencies create documents certifying these life events actually happened – that vital records. The Colorado Department of Health is the central custodian of these records, but you will need to contact the municipal agency if you need a copy.
- Birth and death records – County vital records offices
- Marriage records – County clerk and recorder’s offices
- Divorce, separation, or annulment records – District court clerk offices
- Vital records for genealogy research – Colorado State Archive
Generally, you must be eligible to contact any of these municipal agencies for a vital record. Eligible persons include the persons named on the record, their immediate family members, and legal designees. Furthermore, you must download and complete the appropriate request form for the vital record of interest. You will need to attach proof of eligibility and payment for the request.
Send all requests to the municipal agency or the Department’s vital record section.
Vital Records Section
4300 Cherry Creek Drive South
Denver, CO 80246
Phone: (303) 692-2200 (general inquiries)
Email: [email protected] (general inquiries)
Business Information & Records
Colorado Secretary of State’s office maintains records and information that businesses authorized to operate in Colorado submit. Some of these include trade names, trademarks, periodic reports, statements, articles, certificates, and UCC filings. These records are available to public requesters on the business search portal.
Colorado Bankruptcy Records
The US Bankruptcy Court handles bankruptcy filings for counties in the District of Colorado. These bankruptcy documents become public records the moment the clerk receives them. You can get bankruptcy records from the clerk’s office at:
Colorado District Bankruptcy Court
721 19th Street
Denver, CO 80202
Phone: (720) 904-7300
Alternatively, you may access Colorado bankruptcy records online. This method is faster, and the copying fees are about the same as when you visit the courthouse. You can also print out the bankruptcy records you obtained online.
Limitations to Obtaining Colorado Public Records
The Colorado Open Records Act makes it possible for you to request and obtain copies of public records and information from state and municipal agencies in Colorado. However, there are limitations to this law.
For one, the record custodian can only provide you with existing information and records. It is illegal for an agency or public official to create a new document or information to satisfy your request. So, you want to make sure the documentation for the record you seek exists.
Furthermore, a record custodian cannot provide you with records that contain the financial information of an individual or business. If the court orders the custodian to release the record following a petition, the documents will undergo redaction before they become publicly accessible.
Finally, any document that will expose a person or the state to security threats is generally unavailable.