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Are Oklahoma Records Public?

In Oklahoma, most records generated or maintained by government agencies are public records. The Oklahoma Open Records Act defines public records as all documents created, received, owned, used by public bodies, public officials, or any of their representatives while performing official duties. Examples of Oklahoma public records may include the following:

  • Public bankruptcy records
  • Public arrest records
  • Public divorce records
  • Public criminal records
  • Public marriage records
  • Public court records
  • Public inmate records
  • Public sex offender records
  • Public property records
  • Public birth records
  • Public death records

Per the Oklahoma Open Records Act, members of the public can obtain public records by contacting the government agency in charge of the records. As established in the definition of the public record, Oklahoma public records may exist in different formats such as a book, paper, photograph, microfilm, data files, computer tape, disk, record, sound recording, film recording, video record, or other material used to store information.

Note, Oklahoma public records do not include any non-government activities. Private activities by government officials are not considered open to the public.

Who Can Access Oklahoma Public Records?

The Oklahoma Open Records Act specifies that anyone can obtain or request public records. Residents and non-residents of Oklahoma may request, inspect, or access copies of public records without restriction, as established by law. Also, the Open Records Act allows interested persons to access these records without stating the purpose of the request. The Oklahoma Open Records Act ensures that the public rights to access and review government records in the course of their duties are not infringed upon. It also allows members of the public to exercise their civic obligation of keeping the government in check.

Requestors who wish to obtain Oklahoma public records for commercial purposes may need to state it. Such persons will be charged for document collection. In addition, public bodies may restrict certain records from the public due to the information it contains.

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

Any interested person can inspect or obtain copies of Oklahoma public records without submitting a statement of purpose. Under the Oklahoma Open Records Act, individuals who wish to inspect or obtain the state's records must contact the government agency in charge of such records. Also, requestors are to provide adequate information that will aid record search. Such information may include the requestor's name, requestor's contact details, case number, date or period of record, and more.

However, as established under the Oklahoma Open Records Act Section 24A.5.4, interested persons who wish to obtain Oklahoma public records for commercial purposes may need to inform the public body in charge.

What is Exempted under the Oklahoma Open Records Act?

The Oklahoma Open Records Act allows public bodies in charge of certain records to restrict such records from members of the public due to the information it contains. These records are considered exemptions under the Oklahoma Open Records Act. Examples of exempted records include:

  1. State Evidentiary Privilege: Oklahoma Open Records Act permits public bodies to exempt records obtained through privileges and may have remained confidential. Examples of such information may include any information obtained through attorney-client privilege, work product immunity, etc.
  2. Records of Public Body Meetings: The Act permits the exemption of records or recordings of any public meeting closed to the public. Such details of the meeting are restricted from the public and would not be available upon request.
  3. Law Enforcement Investigative Files: The Oklahoma Open Records Act allows public bodies to exempt certain records compiled and maintained by law enforcement agencies. For instance, records of an ongoing investigation, intelligence file, or criminal file that may constitute an invasion of privacy may be restricted from the public.
  4. Personal Information: A public body may exempt records that disclose a person’s personal information. Such information is considered private and may result in an unwarranted invasion of privacy. Examples of personal information include a person’s medical history, financial record, or information covered by the Drivers Privacy Protection Act.

How Do I Find Public Records in Oklahoma?

Interested persons who wish to obtain public records in Oklahoma must contact the public body responsible for keeping such records. As established under the Oklahoma Open Records Act, public bodies must respond promptly to all public records requests. That said, the process of obtaining public records differs from one public body to another. However, requestors can obtain copies of a record by following these quick steps:

Decide on the Type of Record

The first step to obtaining public records in Oklahoma is to identify the type of record. Interested persons must provide relevant information about the record they seek. For instance, is the record a vital record or property record? Some other information that may be required includes names of the parties involved, date or period to be covered, case number, and more. More often than not, record requests with vague descriptions are denied.

Contact the Public Body in Charge

Different public bodies are responsible for specific records. For instance, the Oklahoma County Sheriff Department provides access to inmate records within its jurisdiction, while the Oklahoma State Courts grant access to its court records. Therefore, interested persons must contact the specific public body in charge of the record they seek.

Prepare a written request

Interested persons who wish to obtain Oklahoma public records may have access to online request forms, depending on the public body in charge. Although, some departments or bodies recommend that requestors make their requests in writing. A written request enables record custodians to track requests with ease and reduce confusion. Information required in a written request may include:

  • A detailed description of the record
  • The full name of the requestor
  • The contact details of the requestor (phone number, address, and more.)
  • The date range of the record
  • The preferred delivery method for the record
  • Additional information that may aid the record requests

Review and Submit the Request

Here, requestors may review the information provided in their request and proceed to submit via the available channels. Depending on the public body responsible for the record, requestors may be able to submit in person, by mail, by fax, or online. For instance, interested persons may choose to visit the public body office location or send a mail to the official mail address. Most times, the official contact details of a public body are listed on their website.

Using Third-Party Sites

Some public records may also be accessible from third-party websites. These websites are not limited by geographic location and come with expansive search tools. Record seekers can use these sites to start a search for a specific record or multiple records. To use a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the document or person involved

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party websites may vary.

How Much Do Public Records Cost in Oklahoma?

Although the Oklahoma Open Records Act allows interested individuals to access records for free, it also permits the public bodies to charge a cost for duplicating a record. This complies with Section 24A.5.4. For example, a public body may charge a record copying fee of $0.25 for each page of an 8½ x 14 size paper or less. To obtain a certified copy of each copied page costs $1. Also, public bodies charge varying prices for duplicating oversized copies of their records.

How Do I Lookup Public Records for Free in Oklahoma?

Looking up public records in Oklahoma for free depends on different factors such as the type of record, purpose, and the public body in charge. Inspecting public records only provides a cost-free alternative for individuals who ask, “where can I search public records for free?”. The Oklahoma Open Records Act permits public bodies to grant interested persons access to their records for free. Such persons may only pay a fee if it involves duplicating the records or for commercial purposes. Requestors who wish to inspect public records in Oklahoma may contact the custodian’s office during business hours.

As an alternative, interested persons can use the online resources provided by certain public bodies to look up public records for free in Oklahoma. For instance, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections maintains and provides access to the Sex and Violent Offenders Registry. Any interested person can inspect sex offender information in Oklahoma using any of the search combinations available on the database. Examples of such combinations include first name, last, address, city, county, zip code, offense, and more.

What Happens if I am Refused a Public Records Request?

Requestors denied access to inspect or obtain copies of public records in Oklahoma can review the decision by contacting the record custodian. Interested persons can write to the public body asking for the statute backing their decision. Based on the response, interested persons can also write a letter of appeal to the record custodian to release parts of a record.

As an alternative, requestors can choose to appeal a request denial. Interested persons who wish to contest the decision may file a petition at the Oklahoma Department of Justice. The petition to appeal must be within 60 days of receiving the denial letter. After the petition is filed, the Department of Justice may investigate the government agency’s decision to deny the requests.

How to remove names from public search records?

Interested individuals can remove their names from public search records by petitioning a court order or enforcing a state statute. However, such individuals must be eligible to file for exemptions and ensure the record they seek to remove is permitted by Oklahoma Statute. For instance, interested persons can remove records that disclose their personal information to the public. Individuals who wish to remove such records may choose to seal or expunge the records.

Sealing a Record

In Oklahoma, interested individuals may seek to seal their records by petitioning the district court of the district in charge. Only eligible persons identified under Oklahoma Statute, Title 22 Section 18 are allowed to file petitions. If the petition is granted, such persons are not obligated to disclose any information about the sealed records.

Expunging a Record

Expungement is another way for interested persons to remove their names from public search records. It allows applicants to erase their records. As established under Oklahoma Statute, Title 22 Section 18, some of the reasons a person’s record may be expunged include:

  • if the person was acquitted
  • if the person's innocence was proven by DNA
  • if the person received a full pardon by the Governor for the crime
  • If the person was below 18 and has received a full pardon for the offense

What is the Best Public Records Search Database?

The best public records search database depends on the type of records and the public body in charge. More often than not, the public body in charge of a specific record may maintain an online database accessible by members of the public. Interested persons seeking to inspect or obtain copies of an Oklahoma public record may achieve that through the database maintained by the public body. For instance, Oklahoma County Sheriff Department maintains an inmate search database that enables members of its public to access inmate records. Similarly, the Oklahoma State Court Network grants the public access to its court records via an online services database.

How Long Does it Take to Obtain an Oklahoma public record?

Unlike most states, there is no stipulated time to how long it takes to obtain an Oklahoma public record. Although Section 24A.5.6 of the Oklahoma Open Records Act mandates the public bodies in charge to respond promptly to record requests, the Act also allows a public body to put in place procedures that protect the integrity and organization of its records without disrupting its essential functions. More often than not, the delay in obtaining public records in Oklahoma is limited to the time allocated to prepare the documents. Interested persons who wish to obtain these records may be treated on a first come first serve basis. In addition, the Act mandates a public body to ensure there is always an official ready to attend to requestors during business hours.