Wisconsin Background Checks & Public Records

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The State of Wisconsin

Wisconsin, also referred to as America’s Dairyland and The Badger State, is situated in the Great Lakes Region located in the Midwest portion of the United States. It’s bordered by four states – Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan – and two Great Lakes – Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. While Madison is its capital city, the largest city in the state is Milwaukee.

The State of Wisconsin is the 23rd largest state and the 20th most populous one. Wisconsin’s economy greatly depends on the production of dairy, lumber, and beer. Activities-wise, the state showcases great venues for fishing, hunting, and snowmobiling. Wisconsin is also well-known for its Native American culture and several tourists visit the state to experience the Dells vacation. Hence, though not that populated, Wisconsin’s population is fluid. So when acquiring public records or conducting Wisconsin background checks, be sure to look into its neighboring states as well. 

Counties in Wisconsin

AdamsDouglasKewauneeOutagamieSheboygan
AshlandDunnLa CrosseOzaukeeSt. Croix
BarronEau ClaireLafayettePepinTaylor
BayfieldFlorence CountyLangladePierceTrempealeau
BrownFond du LacLincolnPolkVernon
BuffaloForestManitowocPortageVilas
BurnettGrantMarathonPriceWalworth
CalumetGreenMarinetteRacineWashburn
ChippewaGreen LakeMarquetteRichlandWashington
ClarkIowaMenominee RockWaukesha
ColumbiaIronMilwaukeeRuskWaupaca
CrawfordJacksonMonroeSaukWaushara
DaneJeffersonOcontoSawyerWinnebago
DodgeJuneauOneidaShawanoWood
DoorKenosha

Wisconsin Public Records Laws

Like in most states, Wisconsin has its own versions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Wisconsin Open Records Law, for instance, has been designed to regulate public records search and/or access. This state law was enacted in 1981 and since then, it has served as one of the major guidelines in managing the state’s over 50 million records. 

Wisconsin allows anyone, including non-residents, broad public access to the information within its jurisdiction. While they have not assigned specific records custodians, they made sure all branches of the government are open for such requests. Also, the state attorney general has been assigned to oversee processes related to public records access, including complaints and disputes.

While there are no definite timelines states, all respective agencies are expected to respond in an acceptable timely manner. In fact, delays without sufficient explanation could lead to disputes with fees involved. Should an appeal be deemed necessary for a rejected request, you may file one within 45 days from the final response.

For the fees, you can rest assured these are nominal. You’ll only have to pay for the copies which typically vary depending on the ink used (colored or black and white). For requesters who are from media or those individuals requesting records to be used for the public interest, the fees can be waived.

Accessing and Acquiring Public Records in Wisconsin 

Public records access and criminal background check in Wisconsin are handled by different agencies, depending on the nature of the information involved. Vital records, for instance, are managed by the Department of Health Services. They maintain all records relating to birth, death, marriage, divorce, and partnerships. Note, however, that though listed as part of public records, vital records are only disclosed to certain people who are verified to be a directly involved party or at least an immediate family.

Wisconsin circuit court access and court case lookup are also open to the public. The Wisconsin Courts are in charge of all court records, including case files, court minutes, court orders, witness and judgment documentation, jury records and files, and dockets.

The Department of Corrections oversees all offenders held in various facilities across the state, including prisons, correctional inmate facilities, detention centers, and penal institutions. They allow access to inmate records via the Offender Locator portal. 

For criminal records, the Department of Justice handles these. They are also in charge of background searches in the state. These records entail arrests, convictions, and incarcerations from any or all of the state’s four prisons. 

Property records are also considered public records in Wisconsin. The Department of Revenue maintains various databases like the Real Estate Transfer Return database where anyone can freely search for land records, property tax records, and deed records. Most records, however, are kept at the local level so it’s best to reach municipal assessors, county treasurers, or local property listers.

Wisconsin Background Check Reports

The Wisconsin Open Records Law also states that any background check in Wisconsin is open to the general public, including those who are not permanent or legal residents of the state. The Crime Information Bureau under the Department of Justice is the agency assigned to handle background check reports.

Wisconsin criminal background check has been made accessible and convenient through the Wisconsin Online Record Check System (WORCS). While this system only runs name-based searches, it allows users to initiate a general search for $7 only and a so-called Wisconsin caregiver background check for $10.

While the bureau also keeps fingerprint-based criminal history records, Wisconsin promotes the use of name-based background check reports mainly because it’s less expensive and more convenient to acquire. Nevertheless, should you need an in-depth search, you may always request an FBI fingerprint-based background check. 

Like in most states, Wisconsin background checks are regulated by federal laws including the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The state has also adopted and imposed a Ban-the-Box policy which states that no employers should inquire about a potential applicant’s past criminal records during the interview process, especially during the initial meeting.

Wisconsin Official Websites

Frequently Asked Questions About Wisconsin Background Checks

How Do I Get A Background Check In Wisconsin?

To acquire a name-based background check, simply navigate to the Wisconsin Online Record Check System (WORCS). Then, of course, should you need a hassle-free and more efficient way of acquiring such records, you may always use trusted and reliable third-party people search engines like Kiwi Searches.

How Do I Get A Criminal Background Check In Wisconsin?

You could also use the Wisconsin Online Record Check System (WORCS) to run a criminal background check. For fingerprint-based checks, you may reach out to the Department of Justice Crime Information Bureau or utilize the FBI fingerprint-based background check. Then, of course, should you need a hassle-free and more efficient way of acquiring such records, you may always use trusted and reliable third-party people search engines like Kiwi Searches.

How Long Does A Wisconsin Background Check Take?

There’s no definite time frame stated in the Wisconsin Open Records Law. All government agencies, however, are expected to respond in a timely manner, and any delays without proper or formal explanation are encouraged to be reported to the State Attorney General’s office for proper and immediate actions.

Are Criminal Records Public In Wisconsin?

Yes, criminal records are considered public in Wisconsin. These include all criminal history reports from local and county sources, enlisting all arrest, conviction, and incarceration records. While the details could vary, you can typically find these details in a criminal record: (1) the individual’s personal information like legal name, nickname/known alias, date of birth, and nationality; (2) distinguishing features or physical body marks like dimples, moles, birthmarks, and tattoos; (3) mug shots and fingerprint sets; (4) details of the offense, including the type and description of the crime they’re involved with.

Are Police Records Public In Wisconsin?

Technically, police records in Wisconsin can be accessed by the general public. However, any records related to an ongoing investigation, sensitive witness or victim data as stated by the local laws, or any records that could cause a general threat to public safety aren’t allowed to be disclosed or accessed.