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Iowa Public Records

The Iowa Open Records Act, found in Chapter 22 of the Iowa Code, gives citizens the right to inspect and copy public records. These are defined as records, documents, tapes, recordings, or other materials belonging to the State or any jurisdiction or subdivision thereof.

Some records are made exempt.  These include law enforcement investigative files, personnel & medical files, attorney records, trade secrets, government reports that give unfair competitive advantage, and records that could compromise public safety or personal privacy.

Listed below are the online statewide databases that we think will be most helpful to you.  You may reach other resources, such as city and county databases, via the side navigation.

  • Court System - The Iowa court system has two levels. At the first level is the District Court, which is the trial court in Iowa and has general jurisdiction of all civil, criminal, juvenile, and probate matters. There are eight judicial districts in Iowa. At the second level are the two appellate courts: The Court of Appeals, which is the intermediate appellate; and the Supreme Court, the highest court. In Iowa, a case on appeal from the District Court moves to the Supreme Court, which can either review the lower court decision, or assign it to the Court of Appeals for review.  Iowa Court Records
  • Criminal Records - All criminal felony, misdemeanor, DUI/DWI, and juvenile cases are handled by the District Court. Appeals move straight to the Supreme Court.  For database access and information about official background searches, go to our Iowa Criminal Records page.
  • Vital Records – Copies of vital record certificates are provided by: Iowa Department of Public Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Lucas State Office Building, 1st Floor, 321 East 12th Street, Des Moines, IA 50319, (515) 281-4944.  Reference our Vital Records page for historical birth indexes; the Social Security Death Index for Iowa, plus statewide deaths & burials from 1850 to 1990, and available city & county databases for deaths, cemeteries & obituaries; statewide marriages from 1809 to 1992, and historical marriages in Scott County; and family court divorce records.

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