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Illinois Court Records

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Are Illinois Records Public?

Illinois records are generally considered public. The Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives the public the right to access government documents and records. This law applies to all units of government in the state. It states that anyone can request access to public records, which must be responded to promptly (within five to ten business days). The law outlines the procedures for requesting public documents, the time frame for responses, and any fees associated with obtaining copies of records. 

Who Can Access Illinois Public Records?

In Illinois, any person can access public records. The FOIA does not provide any specific eligibility requirements to access public records in the state. The law permits custodian agencies to charge fees to cover the cost of responding to a public records request. While Illinois public records are presumed to be accessible to everyone, certain documents or information are exempted from public viewing. Some of these include records or information prohibited from public disclosure by federal or State law or regulation.

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

You do not need to state the purpose and use when requesting public records in Illinois. The FOIA does not require requesters to state their purpose or intended use when requesting public records. The FOIA focuses on a requester's right of access rather than their intent.

What Records are Public in Illinois?

In Illinois, public records encompass a wide range of categories. Illinois public records include, but are not limited to, court records, criminal records, arrest records, bankruptcy records, birth records, marriage records, divorce records, property records, and government meeting minutes. While these records are generally accessible to the public, certain exemptions and restrictions may apply, and requesters may need to follow specific procedures outlined in the FOIA or custodian agency to obtain records.

Illinois Public Court Records

Illinois court records encompass documents and information relating to legal proceedings and cases handled by courts in the state, including case files, court proceedings, and judgments. The Circuit Clerk of each county keeps the court records of the cases handled by the court. Requesters can access court records by: 

  • Visiting the clerk’s office and providing the case number.
  • Searching the clerk’s computer for the case by name.

Some county courts provide online platforms that allow the public to search court records. You can find the clerk of each county’s website here. Public court records typically contain case numbers, parties involved, court orders, hearing dates, and other legal documents. However, certain court records are exempt from public access, such as those related to juvenile cases, matters deemed confidential, and sealed or expunged records.

Illinois Public Criminal Records

Criminal records in Illinois usually include information about a person’s criminal history, arrests, charges, convictions, sentences, and other related information. The Bureau of Identification of the Illinois State Police (ISP) maintains criminal records in the state. Illinois criminal records include the individual’s name, aliases, mugshots, arrest warrant information and records, booking information, charges, court documents, conviction records, sentencing details, and probation and parole records.

Criminal records are generally accessible to the public in Illinois. However, there are certain records that are exempt from public viewing. They include victim information, juvenile records, and sealed or expunged records.

In Illinois, criminal records are available through:

  • Fingerprint search requests: A fingerprint search costs $20 for a manual form and $15 for an electronic/live scan. Anyone can request a search by contacting the ISP or approaching any Illinois law enforcement correctional facility or licensed fingerprint vendor agency. Once the fingerprints have been taken, they will be sent to the ISP with the information of the search subject. The ISP will send an encrypted version of the report to the email provided. To read the report, you will need an online permission certificate and an encryption application for your computer. You can also pick up the report at the office where you ordered the transcript.
  • Name search requests: You can run a name-based inquiry through the Criminal History Response Process (CHIRP). You will need to register an account and pay the applicable fee. Name-based inquiries are $16 for paper documents and $10 for electronic records. A fingerprint search requires the consent of the search subject, while a name search does not.

For more specific information or to request criminal records, residents can contact the ISP at:

Illinois State Police

Bureau of Identification

260 North Chicago Street

Joliet, IL 60432

(815) 740-5160

Illinois Public Arrest Records

Public arrest records in Illinois are generally accessible to the public. Arrest records provide information about individuals who have been arrested. The Illinois State Police or local law enforcement agencies typically maintain and provide access to arrest records in the state.

To access arrest records, individuals may need to submit a request to the relevant law enforcement agency, specifying details such as the individual’s name and, if available, the date of the arrest. Although arrest records are generally public, certain restrictions or redactions may apply, particularly in cases involving juveniles or ongoing investigations.

Illinois Public Bankruptcy Records

Bankruptcy records in Illinois are official documents containing information related to bankruptcy cases filed under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. They have information about the party(ies), type of bankruptcy, assets, debts, creditors, and court proceedings. The federal bankruptcy courts in Illinois handle bankruptcy cases and the records of such cases.

There are three federal courts in Illinois with jurisdiction over bankruptcy cases in the state:

  • The U.S. Bankruptcy Court Northern District of Illinois comprises two divisions (Eastern and Western Divisions).
  • The U.S. Bankruptcy Court Central District of Illinois comprises three divisions (Peoria, Springfield, and Urbana Divisions). 
  • The U.S. Bankruptcy Court Southern District of Illinois comprises two divisions (East St. Louis and Benton Divisions).

The clerks of the respective court division are in charge of maintaining Illinois bankruptcy records. Requesters can get bankruptcy records in Illinois online, by mail, or in person. To obtain bankruptcy records online, you can register for a Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) account. PACER is an electronic public access service that allows registered users to access electronic case information from bankruptcy courts. You should note the applicable electronic access fee.

You can also visit the clerk’s office of the applicable court division to use the public PACER computers to search or request the clerk to search the document and print out the documents. There are search and copy fees applicable.

To access bankruptcy records in Illinois in person, you can visit the relevant bankruptcy court division:

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Northern District of Illinois - Eastern Division

219 S. Dearborn Street

Chicago, IL 60604

(312) 408-5000

 

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Northern District of Illinois - Western Division

327 South Church Street

Rockford, IL 61101

(815) 987-4350

 

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Central District of Illinois - Peoria

100 N.E. Monroe Street

Room 216

Peoria, IL 61602

(309) 671-7035

 

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Central District of Illinois - Springfield

600 E. Monroe Street

Room 226

Springfield, IL 62701

(217) 492-4551

 

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Central District of Illinois - Urbana

201 S. Vine Street

Room 203

Urbana, IL 61802

(217) 974-7330

 

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Southern District of Illinois - East St. Louis

Melvin Price Federal Courthouse

750 Missouri Ave.

East St. Louis, IL 62201

(618)482-9400

 

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Southern District of Illinois - Benton

United States Bankruptcy Court

Federal Courthouse

301 West Main Street

Benton, IL 62812

(618) 435-2200

Illinois Public Birth Records

Illinois birth records typically include essential information about an individual’s birth, including the person's full name, date and place of birth, parents’ names, and additional details like birth weight and attending physician. The Illinois Department of Public Health is responsible for maintaining birth records in the state.

Birth records are not public records in Illinois and are accessible to persons over 18 years, the parents on the record, and the legal guardian or representative of the child. To obtain a birth record in Illinois, you must fill out the Application for Illinois Birth Record form. Mail the filled-out form along with a valid ID and fees to:

IDPH Vital Records

925 E. Ridgely Avenue

Springfield, IL 62702-2737

Illinois Public Death Records

Death records in Illinois contain vital information about an individual’s death, including the deceased person’s full name, date and place of death, and cause of death. The Illinois Department of Public Health maintains death records in the state. The agency does not categorize death records as public records. Death records are only available to persons with personal or property right interest with the decedent. Hence, a person who is not a relative of the deceased person requires a letter or document from the office or agency that needs the death certificate to accompany their request.

To obtain public death records in Illinois, complete the Application for Illinois Death Record form and mail it with a valid ID and fees to:

IDPH Vital Records

925 E. Ridgely Avenue

Springfield, IL 62702-2737

Illinois Public Marriage Records 

Marriage records in Illinois include information about a couple’s marriage, such as the full names of the individuals, the date and place of the marriage ceremony, the officiant’s name, and sometimes details about witnesses.

Certified copies of Illinois marriage records are available at the county clerk where the marriage occurred. Contact the county clerk where the marriage happened to obtain marriage records in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Public Health allows individuals to verify the facts of a marriage, such as names, dates of birth, date of event, and city/county of event. Complete the Application for Verification of Marriage Record Files and mail it along with a valid ID and fees to:

IDPH Vital Records

925 E. Ridgely Avenue

Springfield, IL 62702-2737

Illinois Public Divorce Records

Divorce records in Illinois include vital information about the dissolution of a marriage, including the full names of the divorced spouses, the date and place of the divorce, and the grounds for the divorce.

Certified copies of divorce records in Illinois are available from the circuit court clerk in the county where the dissolution of marriage was granted. To obtain divorce records in Illinois, contact the county's circuit court clerk where the divorce occured. You can also verify the facts of a dissolution of marriage (names, dates of birth, date of event, and city/county of event) from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Fill out the Application for Verification of Dissolution of Marriage form and mail it along with a valid ID and fees to:

IDPH Vital Records

925 E. Ridgely Avenue

Springfield, IL 62702-2737

Illinois Public Inmate Records

Public inmate records in Illinois are generally accessible to the public. The Illinois Department of Corrections maintains inmate records for state facilities. It provides a custody search portal that allows members of the public access information about individuals incarcerated in state facilities. It can be searched using the inmate’s last name, date of birth, or identification number. Public inmate records may include information such as the inmate's name, mugshot, conviction details, release date, and current incarceration status.

To access information on inmates in county or city jails, contact the Sheriff’s Office or Police Department in the jurisdiction.

For inquiries regarding inmate records or to obtain information, you can contact the Illinois Department of Corrections at the following address:

Illinois Department of Corrections

1301 Concordia Court

P.O. Box 19277

Springfield, IL 62794-9277

(217) 558-2200

Illinois Public Sex Offender Information

Public sex offender information in Illinois is typically available and accessible to the public through the Illinois Sex Offender Registry. This registry is maintained by the Illinois State Police and is designed to provide information about registered sex offenders residing in the state. You can search the registry for specific offenders or view a list of registered sex offenders in a particular area. The online registry allows users to search for offenders based on various criteria, such as name, location, or ZIP code.

It is crucial to highlight the importance of responsible use and dissemination of sex offender information. While providing this information enhances public safety, it is essential to use it responsibly and within the legal framework. Misuse of sex offender information, such as harassment or vigilantism, is not only illegal but can also undermine the effectiveness of the registry and compromise community safety. It is vital for individuals to be aware of the legal and ethical considerations surrounding the use of sex offender information and to promote responsible and informed community engagement.

Illinois Public Property Records

Property records in Illinois include various information about real estate and land ownership. Some of the common types of property information found in public records include property ownership details, assessments, tax information, legal descriptions, transaction history, and details about liens or encumbrances.

There is no state-level repository for property records in Illinois. Property records are available at the county with the county recorder’s office or the county assessor’s office. Contact the county recorder’s office or the county assessor’s office to obtain property records. The procedures for accessing property records may vary by county, but they often involve visiting the county office in person, submitting a written request, or utilizing online platforms if available. You may be required to provide information about the property or property owner to access such records.

Note: While property records are generally public, there may be restrictions or considerations to accessing parts of property records. Certain details, like the personal information of property owners, may be redacted or restricted to protect privacy. Also, some property records related to ongoing legal proceedings or certain sensitive matters may have limited public access.

What is Exempted Under the Illinois Public Records Act?

Illinois is an open records state, and the Illinois Public Records Act (IPRA) allows for the disclosure of government records, promoting transparency and accountability. However, there are some exemptions to accessing particular records. Exemptions under the IPRA are mechanisms by which certain records or information can be withheld from public disclosure.

Examples of records that may be exempt from public disclosure in Illinois include:

  • Records or information particularly prohibited from public disclosure by federal or State law or regulation.
  • Private information unless disclosure is required by another provision of this Act, a State or federal law, or a court order. Private information includes unique identifiers such as Social Security Number, driver’s license number, employee identification number, biometric identifiers, personal financial information, passwords or other access codes, medical records, home or personal telephone numbers, personal email addresses, home addresses, and personal license plate numbers.
  • Law enforcement records that, if disclosed, could interfere with an ongoing or reasonably anticipated proceeding or that would reveal the identity of a confidential source.
  • Information that may endanger a person’s life or physical safety if disclosed.
  • Preliminary drafts or notes that contain opinions or policy formulations, unless the record is publicly cited and identified by the head of the public body.
  • Trade secrets or commercial or financial information that is proprietary, privileged, or confidential and disclosure.
  • Proposals and bids for any contract until a final selection is made.
  • “Unduly burdensome” requests.

How Do I Find Public Records in Illinois?

Finding public records in Illinois mostly depends on the type of record you want. You should visit the website of the relevant government agency that keeps the record or contact them for information on the record request procedure. The Government of Illinois’ website contains the websites of various governmental agencies. A good starting point is to narrow your search for the record you seek.

You should also note that arrest, marriage, divorce, and property records are available only at the county level. Hence, you may need to contact the county office to obtain them. When requesting records, ensure you provide accurate and sufficient information to assist the custodian agency in providing the requested record(s).

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

Certain third-party sites offer access to Illinois public records. However, it is recommended that you exercise caution when accessing these websites. These websites may provide public record access but are associated with risks and benefits. Potential risks include disclosing personal information, which raises privacy concerns, and receiving erroneous or incomplete information due to restricted access to records. The benefits include convenience, access to additional services like data analysis, and access to aggregated information.

Double-check the information offered on third-party websites for accuracy by cross-referencing it with legitimate government sources. Additionally, you should choose reliable websites and pay attention to their terms and conditions and privacy policies.

How Much Do Public Records Cost in Illinois?

In Illinois, the cost of obtaining public records varies depending on the type of record and the agency maintaining the record. The Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows government agencies to charge fees to cover the costs of responding to public record requests. These costs may include search and retrieval, copying, certification, and redaction fees.

The FOIA also allows for fee waivers or reductions in certain circumstances, such as for media organizations and non-profit organizations or where the records are for personal use and not for commercial purposes. Waivers and reductions are at the discretion of the custodian agency.

What Happens if I Am Refused a Public Records Request?

If a public records request is refused in Illinois, it may be due to exceptions or limitations outlined in the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. Some grounds for refusal include:

  • Protection of sensitive personal information or records exempt from public access to protect individual privacy.
  • Records that relate to security measures, emergency response plans, or infrastructure vulnerabilities.
  • Records that relate to ongoing law enforcement investigations to maintain the integrity of the process.
  • Information that constitutes trade secrets or proprietary data.

Custodian agencies must state in writing the legal reason under the FOIA for the request denial. If you are denied access to public records or if a response to your written request is not given timeously, you have two courses of action:

You can file a Request for Review with the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor (PAC) within 60 days of the request denial. A Request for Review can be a formal letter or email asking the PAC to look at the request and the public body’s response (or lack thereof) and determine if a FOIA violation occurred. The request must be in writing, be signed by the requester, and include

  • A copy of the FOIA request
  • Any response(s) from the public body.

Public Access Counselor

Public Access Bureau

500 S. 2nd Street

Springfield, Illinois 62706

E-mail: public.access@ilag.gov 

FOIA Hotline: 1-877-299-FOIA (1-877-299-3642)

Alternatively, you can bring an action in the circuit court to seek access to the public records within two years from the request denial.

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Illinois Public Records