New York Background Checks and Public Records

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The State of New York 

New York, located in the northeastern part of the United States, is the fourth most populous state in the country with around 19.8 million residents. 

The state is home to the largest and most populous city in the country, New York City. It also houses the famous Statue of Liberty, the world’s largest railway station, the Grand Central Terminal, and the One World Trade Center which is considered the tallest building in the western hemisphere. 

The State of New York, particularly New York City, is considered a cultural, financial, and media leader. This means that the state attracts people as tourists, job seekers, and permanent residents. This is important to keep in mind when conducting a background check or any record search in New York.

Counties in New York 

AlbanyDutchessMadisonOtsegoSteuben
AlleganyErieMonroePutnamSuffolk
BronxEssexMontgomeryQueensSullivan
BroomeFranklinNassauRensselaerTioga
CattaraugusFultonNew YorkRichmondTompkins
CayugaGeneseeNiagaraRocklandUlster
ChautauquaGreeneOneidaSaratogaWarren
ChemungHamiltonOnondagaSchenectadyWashington
ChenangoHerkimerOntarioSchoharieWayne
ClintonJeffersonOrangeSchuylerWestchester
ColumbiaKingsOrleansSenecaWyoming
CortlandLewisOswegoSt. LawrenceYates
DelawareLivingston

Where To Get Public Records In New York 

New York does not have a statewide records custodian; each agency has its own procedures regarding access to the public records they hold.

Vital records, which are among the most requested records, are handled by the New York State Department of Health. Vital records include birth and death records, and marriage and divorce records. 

The New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA) handles criminal records or all information about a person’s criminal history. A criminal record usually contains personal information, mugshots, a full set of fingerprints, and criminal offenses. Record search results relate to all open and pending cases and criminal convictions in cases in all New York counties.

Inmate records throughout the state’s prison system are found at the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. Information from this department includes an inmate’s personal information, location, mugshot, inmate registration number, jail transfer information, and custody status.

The New York Clerk of Court Administration handles court records including court transcripts, dockets, case files, court minutes, court orders, sentencing or judgment, jury records, and witness documentation. Requests for court records must be directed to the local clerk’s office where the case was handled.

Property tax records are handled by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Deed records are handled by the Office of the County Clerk of the county in which the real property being transferred is located.

Accessing and Acquiring Public Records in New York 

New York background checks or record searches, in general, are governed by various laws. New York City is under the New York Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). This means that access to public records in New York City may be granted differently than in smaller towns. All government agencies fall under the public information law. Also, under the State of New York laws, government agencies must respond to record requests within five days and no longer than 20 days after.

In general, information retained in the state’s public records are subject to FOIL requests unless specifically exempted under state or federal laws. Also, there is no residency requirement for public record requesters. A requester has 30 days to file an appeal in case a request is not granted. The NYPD which operates independently requires all requests to be made in writing; they can also issue a “neither confirm nor deny” answer. 

Certain data may be accessed online while others may require sending in a formal request via mail, email, or phone to the record-holding agency. Public record requests usually include the requester’s name and all contact information, the name of the document with as much detail as possible, and the specific time period when the requester wants to receive the document. Documents may be sent via mail or email except for judiciary documents which are under a different law.

The first two hours of searching are free while fees may apply on the succeeding hours. There are also copying costs and there are no provisions for fee waivers. If the aforementioned processes may seem tedious or confusing to you, you may also opt to use a third-party people search engine.

New York Background Check Reports

The New York State’s Human Rights Law specifically addresses the use of a person’s criminal history record from a background check in an employment context. It prohibits employers from asking a job applicant about arrests or criminal records that are pending, sealed convictions, and youthful offender adjudications during the hiring process. Insurers, licensing agencies, and credit companies are prohibited from seeking the same information as part of their background screening.

Any information that may be included in a background check report is closely regulated by the State of New York and the federal government. There are certain limitations and requirements in running a background check in addition to being strictly scrutinized under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Prospective employers must also comply with the NY Human Rights Law.

A general background check may be accessed online by filling an application and paying a fee. A request may also be made by mail or in person. It is recommended to request a criminal history check through the state’s Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI) by mail or in person. Online access may require the subject’s name, date of birth, and Social Security Number. A criminal history report requested in person may require a name or a fingerprint. Of course, you may always choose to use a trustworthy third-party site for your background checks.

New York Official Websites

Frequently Asked Questions About New York Background Checks

How far back do background checks go in New York?

New Background Checks reveal records going back 7 years. 

How do I get a New York State background check?

In New York State, a person may request their suppressed or unsuppressed personal records. Multiple forms must be completed, your fingerprints must be taken, and you must pay a fee to get such checks completed.  

Are criminal records public in NY?

Criminal records in New York are not viewable to the public, only by the individual themselves.  

How do I get my criminal record in NYC?

To obtain your own criminal records, you must submit to get an Unsuppressed Person Records Check. You will need to get your fingerprints scanned, fill out multiple forms, and pay a small fee. 

How do I find court records in New York?

To search for court records in New York, utilize the state’s eCourts site. There, you can Supreme Court, Civil Court, Criminal, and Family Court cases.