Tennessee Public Records
The Tennessee Public Records Act stipulates that all government records be open for public inspection during business hours unless otherwise exempt.
Public records such as documents, tapes, maps, photographs, and data stored in any format are available for viewing or copying.
Tennessee has no central repository for public records; therefore, each government agency, county, or municipality maintains its records.
How to Find Tennessee Public Records
A citizen of Tennessee, as stipulated in the Tennessee Open Records Act, has the right to access government records. The record custodian should be able to provide the desired documents as soon as possible.
The process for requesting records may vary from one government agency to another; however, most agencies require a written request.
A record custodian also has the right to deny a records request from a non-citizen. You can request records by:
- In-person visit
- Through phone
Some agencies offer online access to public records like the Public Case History of the Tennessee Supreme Court, which is available on the court's website.
Other agencies may require a visit to their office to inspect records.
Are Tennessee Public Records Available Online?
There are many online resources for finding public records in Tennessee.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has a central repository of criminal records that can be searched by name or case number.
For ordering vital records, the Tennessee Office of Vital Records also offers an online ordering system for birth, death, and marriage records.
Some counties also offer online access to public information, like property records, deeds, and genealogy records.
For example, the Shelby County Register of Deeds offers an online database of property records that can be searched by owner name, address, or parcel ID.
What Records are Available in Tennessee?
Generally, all government records are open for public inspection in Tennessee. However, a few exceptions are stipulated in the Tennessee Open Records Act.
Records that are exempt from disclosure include:
- Confidential records
- Records containing personal information
- Records subject to attorney-client privilege
- Pending litigation records
- Certain law enforcement records
- Trade secrets
- Documents that will compromise homeland security
What Records are Non-Public in Tennessee?
As stated above, the following records are exempt from public disclosure in Tennessee.
Also, a non-citizen can be denied access to public records since government agencies require proof of citizenship when making a records request.
Types of Public Records Available in Tennessee
Below are some of the most commonly requested public records in Tennessee:
Tennessee Public Criminal Records
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation maintains a central database of criminal records that can be searched by name or case number.
Criminal records include felony and misdemeanor convictions and sex offender registry information.
You need to supply the following information before a search can be conducted:
- Last name
- First name
There is also a corresponding fee once you have submitted your request.
The criminal records in the state are based on fingerprints, so traffic and misdemeanor offenses might not appear.
A Tennessee criminal record may contain the following information:
- The person's full name
- The person's date of birth
- A physical description of the person
- The person's address
- A list of the person's past and present offenses
- The person's criminal history
- The person's sex offender registry information
Police Departments and Sheriffe Office in Tennessee :
Arrest Records and Warrants
An arrest record in Tennessee will contain information on the person's full name, date of birth, physical description, address, and a list of the person's past and present offenses.
Warrants will also be included in the arrest record.
Arrest and warrant records are public records and available to anyone requesting them. You can get these records from the local county sheriff's office or the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Inmate and Jail Records
The Department of Corrections is in charge of inmate records in Tennessee. The agency has an online database called Felony Offender Information Lookup (FOIL) that can be searched by name, race, gender, TDOC ID, and State ID.
The database will provide the inmate's name, date of birth, physical description, address, and a list of the person's past and present offenses.
The MyTN app can also be downloaded to access the database.
Jails and Prisons in Tennessee :
Tennessee Background Checks
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) is the agency in charge of conducting background checks in the state.
Again, you may search the TBI's central database of criminal records by name or case number.
A background check will provide the person's full name, date of birth, physical description, address, and a list of past and present offenses.
The fee for a Tennessee background check is $29 and is non-refundable.
How to find Sex Offenders in Tennessee
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is also in charge of the state's sex offender registry. The online registry is available to the public and can be searched by name. You can simply input the offender's name, alias, and ID; the results will show you their current address, offense, and photo.
You can also search by county or zip code. The registry is updated regularly so you can be sure you are getting the most accurate information possible.
Tennessee Public Vital Records
The Office of Vital Records under the Department of Health maintains a repository of vital public records in Tennessee.
You may request copies of birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, and divorce decrees from the office.
The office only issues certified copies of these documents, and you will need to provide a valid photo ID and other information before a search can be conducted.
You may also request these records online, by mail, or in person.
You must include a completed application form, a copy of your photo ID, and the required fee when requesting by mail.
If you request in person, you must bring a valid photo ID and the required fee. The local county health department can also provide you with these records.
You will need to create an account with the VitalChek website for online requests. VitalChek is the only official website that the state of Tennessee has authorized to accept online orders for vital records.
Tennessee Court Records
There are three ways to access Tennessee court records.
- The Public Case History: An online tool that allows users to search for court records of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Court of Criminal Appeals by case number, case style, party name, or business/organization.
- The Tennessee State Library and Archives: The agency keeps court minutes from circuit, chancery, and criminal courts.
- Local County Clerk: Each county in Tennessee has a local clerk that maintains court records. You can contact the clerk's office to request copies of court records.
State Court System in Tennessee
The Tennessee court system is divided into four levels:
- Supreme Court
- Appellate Courts
- Trial Courts
- Courts of Limited Jurisdiction
The Supreme Court is the highest in the state and is located in Knoxville, Nashville, and Jackson. The court hears appeals from the lower courts and reviews cases that raise constitutional issues.
Two courts make up the appellate level: the Court of Appeals and the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Meanwhile, trial courts are divided into Circuit Courts, Chancery Courts, Criminal Courts, and Probate Courts. These courts are where cases are first tried.
Lastly, courts of limited jurisdiction include General Sessions Courts, Juvenile Courts, Municipal Courts, and Traffic Violations Bureaus.
Courts in Tennessee :
The Department of Safety and Homeland Security is responsible for issuing driving records in Tennessee. You may request your driving record by:
- In-person at Driver Services Centers
They charge a $5 fee for each driving record requested.
You must provide your name, date of birth, and driver's license number.
You must include a notarized authorization form if you request another person's driving record.
The driver must sign the form and state the reason for requesting the record.
Civil Driving Infractions
Civil driving infractions are not criminal offenses and will not appear on your criminal record. Examples of civil driving infractions include:
- Reckless driving
- Failure to yield
You will be required to pay a fine if you have received a civil driving infraction. The amount of the fine will depend on the severity of the offense. Some points will be added to your driving record.
If you accumulate too many points, your license may be suspended.
Tennessee License Plate Lookup
There is no central repository for license plate information in Tennessee.
If you want to look up the owner of a vehicle, you will need to contact the local county clerk's office where the car is registered to know who the registered owner is.
You may also contact the local police department to run a license plate number.
However, the police will only provide this information if there is a legitimate reason for needing it.
Tennessee Property and Asset Records Online
The Comptroller of the Treasury has an online tool where real estate assessment data of each county can be accessed.
The information available includes:
- Property owner's name and address
- Physical description of the property
- Sales history
- Tax assessment details
- GIS mapping data
You can also search for unclaimed property in Tennessee using the Department of Treasury's online database here.
You need to contact the local county recorder's office to find deeds, mortgages, and other land records. Some counties have made their land records available online.
Important Government Agencies in Tennessee
Here are some essential government agencies in Tennessee that maintain public records:
- Secretary of State
- State Governor
- Tennessee General Assembly
- Tennessee Administrative Office of The Courts
- Tennessee Attorney General
- Office of Vital Records
- Tennessee Department of Health
- Department of Safety and Homeland Security
- Department of Treasury
- Tennessee Department of Motor Vehicles
- Department of Corrections
- The Tennessee State Library and Archives
Counties in Tennessee
- Van Buren
List of Content
- How to Find Tennessee Public Records
- What Records are Available in Tennessee?
- Types of Public Records Available in Tennessee
- Important Government Agencies in Tennessee