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Are Mississippi Records Public?

Most Mississippi records produced or maintained by the government are open and available to the general public. The Mississippi Public Records Act (MPRA) defines a public record as any form of information used, retained, possessed, or retained by a public body to perform government-related activities. A public record may appear in different formats such as books, papers, records, cards, tapes, recordings, photographs, films, books, accounts, letters, maps, and other materials capable of storing information.

Interested persons can obtain public records in Mississippi by contacting the public body responsible for the desired document. Such persons must submit a record request to the record custodian. The Mississippi Public Records Act permits anyone to request public records regardless of their residential status. Examples of Mississippi public records include:

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

Note, a public record shall not include personal information about government officials.

Who Can Access Mississippi Public Records?

According to the Mississippi Public Records Act, anyone can access Mississippi public records. The Act allows both residents and non-residents of Mississippi to obtain public records. Interested individuals must submit a record request to access or inspect copies of their desired records. Note, all record requests must be submitted to the appropriate public body. The Mississippi Public Records Act ensures that any public member can perform their civic duty of checkmating the government.

Nevertheless, a public agency may restrict certain information or records from the general public view. The decision may be as a result of a court order or exemptions permitted by the state laws. Examples of Mississippi records exempted by a public body include personnel files, medical history records, trade secret information, and more.

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

Interested persons who wish to obtain Mississuppi public records do not need to state the purpose or use of the documents. To obtain a public record, requestors must contact the public body responsible and submit a record request. Also, they must provide their full names, contact details, and detailed description of the record to the public body. The Act mandates public bodies to respond to all public record requests as soon as they receive the request. However, the Mississippi Act also permits public bodies to deny certain records exempted or protected by law. For instance, documents that contain information obtained through attorney-client privileges are exempted from public records. Such records are restricted from public views.

What is Exempted Under the Mississippi Public Records Act?

The Mississippi public records act prohibits public bodies from disclosing certain documents to the general public. Such documents are considered exceptions, as established in sections 25-61-11 and 25-61-12 of the Mississippi Public Records Act. A record may be exempted from Mississippi public records for some of the reasons below:

  1. Private Information: Records that reveal the personal details of an individual may be restricted from public view. Such private information may contain unique identifiers as well as sensitive information about the person. For instance, the name, home address, telephone number, and other private information of an individual with a weapon permit shall be exempted from Mississippi public records.
  2. Personnel Information: The Mississippi Public Records Act may exempt personal information about law enforcement officials or court personnel. Records that may jeopardize the safety of the officials are restricted from public view. For instance. the home address and telephone number are often restricted from public view.
  3. Confidential or Privileged Information: Records obtained in confidentiality or due to certain privileges are exempted from Mississippi public records. For instance, information acquired through attorney-client privilege is restricted from the general public. Also, information that may reveal trade secrets or jeopardize the safety of a witness is exempted from the public record.
  4. Law Enforcement Investigation Files: The Mississippi Public Records Act permits some law enforcement investigation files to be restricted from the general public. For instance, information about an ongoing investigation shall be exempted from public view.

How Do I Find Public Records in Mississippi?

To obtain public records in Mississippi, interested parties must contact the appropriate public body responsible for keeping such records. Public agencies are required by the Mississippi Public Records Act to provide access to public records upon request. Different agencies handle different documents. Therefore, the requirements may differ from one another. The following are some of the steps required to obtain a public record in Mississippi:

Know the Type of Information or Record

The first step in obtaining a public record in Mississippi is to determine the kind of record. For example, is the document a vital record or a bankruptcy record? Interested individuals who wish to obtain public records must provide relevant information that will aid in the record search. More often than not, a public body may decline a record request due to a lack of clarity in the description. A requestor may be required to provide information such as the requestor’s full name, names of parties involved, case type, case number, date range of the record, and more.

Contact the Public Body in Charge

After determining the kind of document, interested individuals should contact the public body in charge of the record. Requestors must contact the appropriate record custodian due to the different public bodies in possession of various documents. For instance, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (MDPS) maintains a sex offender registry, while the Mississippi State Department of Vital Records & Statistics handles record requests concerning vital records.

Create a Written Request

Interested individuals can obtain copies of Mississippi public records from different public bodies by filling out request forms. Nevertheless, certain public bodies may require that requestors submit their records requests in writing. A record custodian can easily track the progress of requests and prevent confusion by using written requests. A written request must include some of the following information:

  • The requestor’s full names and alias (if any)
  • The requestor’s contact information
  • The type of record
  • The record’s date range
  • A piece of detailed information about the record
  • Names of parties involved in the record
  • The preferred mode of delivery for the record
  • Any other vital information to facilitate the record search

Review and Submit the Request

Before submitting a record request to the record custodian, interested persons can review the information they entered. Interested persons may use any of the public body's contact information to submit a record request. Most times, a public body accepts record requests in person, via fax, mail, or online. A public body's contact information is commonly found on its contact us page.

Using Third-Party Sites

Some public records may also be accessible from third-party websites. These non-government platforms come with intuitive tools that allow for expansive searches. Record seekers may either opt to use these tools to search for a specific record or multiple records. However, users must typically provide enough information to assist with the search such as:

  • The name of the subject involved in the record (subject must be older than 18 or not juvenile)
  • The address of the requestor
  • A case number or file number (if known)
  • The location of the document or person involved
  • The last known or current address of the registrant

Third-party sites are not sponsored by government agencies. Because of this, record availability and results may vary.

How Much Do Public Records Cost in Mississippi?

The cost of public records in Mississippi depends on the service rendered by the public body in charge of the records. Usually, the fees payable consist of actual fees for duplicating, searching, reviewing, and the staff time required to prepare the documents. The fee is in line with section 25-61-7 of the Mississippi Public Records Act. The amount payable for staff time is calculated based on the pay grade of the lowest level employee capable of handling the record request. Generally, a public body may determine a fee by considering the type of record requested, the purpose of the record request, and the commercial value of information.

How Do I Lookup Public Records for Free in Mississippi?

In Mississippi, interested persons can search for public records for free by inspecting or accessing electronic versions of the records. Obtaining Mississippi public records for free, on the other hand, is dependent on the type of record and the public body responsible for such records. Interested persons who wish to only inspect a public record must contact the record custodian. In most cases, public bodies allow visitors to walk in and inspect their records during business hours.

Another way to find public records for free in Mississippi is to search for electronic versions of the records. Most times, public bodies maintain an online database that grants interested persons access to their records. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety (MDPS), for example, maintains an online sex offender registry within its jurisdiction. Residents can search and access information about sex offenders in any area. Interested persons can access sex offender information by filling out the first name, last name, street, county, city, zip, and other relevant information.

What Happens if I Am Refused a Public Records Request?

Requestors whose public record requests in Mississippi have been denied will be contacted by the public body in charge. The response is a written statement that includes an explanation for the request denial, the statutes that support the decision, and the right to appeal. Requestors may also appeal to the public body to provide partial access to a record. In addition, interested individuals may seek redress in court within 30 days of the record denial.

How to Remove Names From Public Search Records?

By obtaining a court order or enforcing a state statute, interested persons can remove their names from Mississippi public search records. However, a record can only be removed if it is covered by Mississippi law. Applicants with convictions as well as those without convictions can petition for expungement in Mississippi.

Expunging an Arrest Record

In Mississippi, interested persons can expunge an arrest record without any conviction. Such applicants must petition the court in the location the arrest occurred. According to section 99-15-59 of the Mississippi Code, a person may petition for expungement if:

  • They were not prosecuted or formally charged within a year of their arrest
  • The charges were dismissed

Expunging a Criminal Record

An applicant may expunge their criminal record as long as they meet the requirements. Interested persons who are first-time offenders and were convicted of a misdemeanor can expunge their records. Although, the offense must not be a traffic violation. Also, applicants convicted of a felony can expunge their records.

An applicant convicted of a felony can only petition for expungement five years after they have completed all the terms of their sentence. However, convictions that involve violent felonies cannot be expunged. Examples of such offenses include manslaughter, rape, robbery, and murder. In addition, as established in section 99-19-71 of the Mississippi Code, an applicant is only eligible to expunge a felony once.

What is the Best Public Records Search Database?

Finding the best public records search database depends on the type of record and the agency responsible for keeping the records. For instance, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (MDPS) keeps a registry of sex offenders within its jurisdiction. Interested individuals can access and obtain sex offender information without restrictions. The online registry allows users to access sex offender information using last name, first name, street, city, zip code, county, and other search combinations. The Mississippi Department of Corrections allows interested public members to access inmate information through its online inmate search database. Interested individuals can search for inmates using their names or ID number.

How Long Does It Take to Obtain a Mississippi Public Record?

Under section 25-61-5 of the Mississippi Public Records Act, a public record request may take as long as a day to up to seven days. The Act mandates public bodies to respond to all records requests within seven days of receiving the request. A public body must inform a requester if a document cannot be available within seven days. Typically, the record custodian shall provide a written statement that contains the reason for the delay. The Act permits a public body to seek a seven days extension if it cannot produce the records within the first seven days. However, a public record can only extend a record request more than 14 days if it is agreed upon with the requestor or the information required is part of an active case.