Government agencies in Ohio maintain databases and archives of information collected as a result of their functional activities. The contents of these documents are available for members of the public by the Ohio Public Record Acts. In some instances, there are federal or state restrictions in accessing sensitive documents. The government agency could exempt such information from public inspection.
To control, regulate or minimize access to sensitive information, public offices provide guidelines and procedures for individuals to access public records.
Outlined below are some common records members of the public frequently request to view or copy.
Arrest Records in Ohio
When a law enforcement agency detains criminal suspects in Ohio, the office responsible for the arrest keeps a record. These are arrest records, and the general public is allowed by law to view such information. The arrest record contains a comprehensive account of the arrest, from the offense to the issuer of the warrant. The arrest record also carries information about the arrestee, the arresting officer, and the detention location.
It is important to note that arrest records are not criminal records.
Criminal Records in Ohio
For there to be a criminal record in Ohio, there must be a conviction for a crime. By law, the general public can view criminal records. Criminal records include a detailed description of the convict, fingerprints, previous convictions, and arrest records. Conviction details such as the crime and duration of incarceration are also part of the criminal record. The Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI) is a subsidiary of the office of the Ohio Attorney General that maintains the criminal records database in Ohio.
Note that access to criminal records is generally restricted. Businesses and organizations typically carry out background checks before hiring an individual in the state. To do so, the attorney general’s office allows interested persons to carry out a web-based fingerprint check in different locations across the state.
It is also important to note that criminal records can be expunged or sealed. In such instances, the information may no longer exist or be inaccessible.
Ohio Sex Offender Information
Any individual convicted of a sexual offense, such as rape, sexual battery, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, and public indecency, is a sex offender.
Sex offenders in Ohio by Section 2950.03(A) of the state law are to register with the local sheriff’s office. Information on registered sex offenders is available to the public with the exemption of sensitive details.
The Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation keep a national database of sex offenders. The Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) also operates a registry of sex offenders in the state.
Sex offender information is available locally across the state in all sheriff’s offices. Interested persons can search for offenders through local law enforcement agencies.
Ohio Court Records
Court records in Ohio are available to the public for inspection or copying by law. The courts may seal certain records if it deems the documents to contain sensitive or confidential information. Interested persons can access court records online through the court’s website. Alternatively, you can walk into the courthouse where a case of interest was filed and make a physical request. Interested individuals can also access a list of all the Courts in Ohio provided by the Supreme Court of the state. Note that requesting a copy of a record from a court clerk may attract a fee.
Ohio Inmate Records
Inmate or jail records are cataloged information about convicted felons admitted into the prison system in Ohio. All relevant prisoner information such as name, crime committed, date of incarceration, and date of release make up inmate records. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction keeps a searchable database of inmates in the state. This database is available to the public online, and interested persons can look up an inmate.
Vital Records in Ohio
Vital records in Ohio are records of birth, death, marriage, and divorce maintained by government agencies.
The Bureau of Vital Statistics is responsible for birth and death records in the state. This bureau is a subsidiary of the Ohio Department of Health. Getting certified copies of birth certificates and death certificates attracts a fee.
It is important to note that only eligible individuals are allowed to access vital information. Typically, persons named in, a legal guardian, or a direct relative of the individual in the document can access vital records. Interested persons can access certain vital records online through the Bureau of Vital statistics. You can also request certified copies of vital records by completing an Application for Certified Copies and sending it to:
Ohio Department of Health
Bureau of Vital Statistics
P.O. Box 15098
Columbus, Ohio 43215- 0098
On the other hand, the various county probate courts maintain marriage and divorce records. The clerks of the county courts keep records of marriages and divorces conducted and finalized in the county. Interested persons can contact Ohio Clerks of Court through the Ohio County Clerks Association.
Ohio Property Record
The Ohio Treasurer’s Office maintains a database of all real property under the control of the state. The information in this database is available for public viewing online according to the Ohio Revised Code Section 113.41. Interested persons can search and download Ohio state-owned property inventory database as an excel file online through the state’s website. Individuals can also access state-owned property records by visiting the Ohio Treasure’s Office at:
30 East Broad Street – 9th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Note that there is no charge for inspecting public records, but making copies would attract a charge.
The counties in Ohio keep a record of all properties listed in their jurisdictions. Individuals searching for information on private-owned properties can access details through the various county records offices. Interested persons can access the county property records office online by filling a form or by physically making a request.
Ohio Business Records
The Ohio Secretary of State maintains a database of registered businesses in the state. This database is accessible through an online portal provided by the office of the secretary of state. Interested persons can search for business information, trademarks, trade names, corporations, and more. The office of the Secretary of State is open for visits from Mondays to Fridays, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm at:
Office of the Secretary of State
22 North Fourth Street, 16th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Ohio Bankruptcy Records
Bankruptcy records are available for public viewing in Ohio. Individuals interested in accessing bankruptcy records can do so through the offices of the clerks of the bankruptcy district courts. The United States Bankruptcy Court has two district courts in Ohio:
- Northern District of Ohio with court locations in Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Toledo, and Youngstown.
- Southern District of Ohio with court locations in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton.
Alternatively, you can obtain bankruptcy records online. Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) allows individuals to access recorded documents from federal courts, including bankruptcy records online.
Public records are available for inspection and even copying in Ohio. This access is made possible by the Ohio Public Records Act, giving individuals the right to request any information held by a public office. However, the different government agencies reserve the right to dictate how they grant access to public records. Some offices require requesting individuals to fill out forms with many fields, while others only ask for identification.
Some public records have restricted access, and only individuals who qualify for viewing can inspect them. This restriction typically comes with sensitive information. Also note, that the public officer may require a court order to release confidential, restricted, or sealed records in Ohio.