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Are Utah Records Public?

According to the Utah Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA), most records generated by Utah government agencies are public records. The act allows members of the public to inspect and obtain copies of non-confidential public records. It also states that agencies must promptly respond to these requests. Some examples of Utah public records include:

  • Public court records
  • Public Utah divorce records
  • Public sex offender information
  • Public property records
  • Public bankruptcy records
  • Public arrest records
  • Public Utah death records

Utah law describes public records as records that are not private, protected, or controlled, and not exempt from public disclosure under the state’s public records act (UT Code § 63G-2-103(21)). The GRAMA defines public records as documents, letters, books, photographs, recordings, electronic data, and other documentary materials regardless of characteristics or physical form if created or used for official business (UT Code § 63G-2-103(22)). Except otherwise provided by statute, all records should be open to the public (UT Code § 63G-2-201(2)).

Who Can Access Utah Public Records?

The GRAMA provides all persons with the right to inspect or obtain copies of Utah public records (UT Code § 63G-2-201(1)). Utah law does not state any citizenship or residency requirements for access to public records. Interested requesters who submit applications to custodian agencies will gain full access to public records unless the records contain confidential portions that cannot be removed from the public parts (UT Code § 63G-2-201(1)(b)).

What is Exempted Under the Utah Public Records Law?

The GRAMA provides classifications of Utah records not subject to public disclosure and describes different levels of exemption for each one. Record custodians may prevent access to three categories of government-generated records, including the following:

Private records (UT Code § 63G-2-302) mostly contain personal or sensitive details about individuals and may be an unnecessary violation of the individual’s privacy if disclosed. Some examples include the following:

  • Medical Records: Medical records detail an individual’s medical history or similar medical data. The information may include data on evaluation, diagnosis, condition, or treatment.

  • Employment Records: Utah prevents access to employment records of former or current employees or records of applicants for employment. Exempt details include a home address, social security number, phone number, insurance coverage, payroll deductions, or marital status.

  • Criminal Records: Criminal background checks and related records are not subject to disclosure unless the requester applies for their own record.

  • Voter Records: The GRAMA prevents access to voter registration records that reveal personal identifying information, such as an ID or driver’s license number, email address, social security number, phone number, or date of birth.

  • Private as Classified by a Governmental Entity

The GRAMA provides an additional category of private records. According to the law (UT Code § 63G-2-302(2)), some records are private if properly classified by a public agency. Based on each entity’s discretion, the following records may be exempt from public disclosure:

  • Employee Records: These are records of former, current, or prospective public employees, including personal status information such as religion, disabilities, or race. Exempt information also includes performance evaluation records but excludes the employee’s name, job title, job description, business contact information, and job qualifications.
  • Financial Records: Financial information on Utah residents is not open to public access unless disclosure is required to comply with a financial assurance requirement or in accordance with another statute (UT Code § 63G-2-302(2)(b)).
  • Recordings: All audio and video recordings from body-worn cameras that reveal the inside of a home or residence are exempt, unless the recording:
  1. Contains the commission of an alleged crime
  2. Records an incident between a person and a law enforcement officer if the officer fired a weapon, or the incident led to bodily injury or death
  3. Shows an incident related to a legal proceeding or complaint against a law enforcement agency or officer
  4. Records the occurrence of a critical incident (UT Code § 76-2-408(1)(f)) involving an officer
  5. Was requested for reclassification by a person featured in the recording or their authorized agent

Controlled records (UT Code § 63G-2-304) contain personal information related to a person’s medical status. According to state law, a record is controlled if:

  • It contains a person’s medical, psychological, or psychiatric information
  • The custodian agency reasonably believes that:
  1. Disclosure could be harmful to the subject’s mental health or to any person’s safety
  2. Disclosure would violate the normal professional practice

Unlike private or controlled records, most protected records do not contain personal information. Instead, they contain data restricted from disclosure in the public interest. Protected records include records that contain security, legal, economic, and private business interests, such as (UT Code § 63G-2-305):

  • Financial Information: Commercial or financial information created or received by a governmental entity if disclosure would lead to speculation in commodities, securities, or currencies, and cause financial injury to the agency or the state’s economy
  • Examination Data: Test questions, answers, and scoring keys to be used in certification, registration, license, academic, or employment examination
  • Contract Information: Any record containing information that would give an unfair advantage to a person or entity proposing a contract with a public agency. Such records may be disclosed after the agency awards the contract and all parties sign
  • Property Appraisals: The GRAMA prevents public access to all records that identify real property under consideration for acquisition by a governmental entity. Records that contain the estimated value of real, personal, or intellectual property, are also closed to the public (UT Code § 63G-2-305(8)). However, this exemption may not apply if:
  1. Public interest is equal to or greater than the public agency’s need to acquire the property
  2. The information has been disclosed to persons not employed by the entity or not under any confidentiality terms with the entity
  • Safety Records: All records with information that could compromise the safety or life of any individual are exempt from public disclosure
  • Security Records: Agencies must withhold access to any record with information that could threaten the security of government property
  • Governor’s Records: All records created or maintained by the Governor’s Office are not open to the public if disclosure would reveal the governor’s proposed policies or course of action ahead of implementation or rejection. Such records include legislative proposals, budget recommendations, and government policies
  • Legislative Records: Certain legislative data are exempt from public disclosure, including international communication that is part of a deliberative process, correspondence that would reveal notice of legislative policy or action, and personal correspondence between legislators.

Where Can I Access Public Criminal Court Records in Utah?

Utah criminal court records are available at the state’s District and Justice Courts. Record seekers can submit applications to the clerk of each court for access to non-confidential criminal court records. Clerks may receive submissions by mail, fax, phone, and in person. Each request must contain all available details and specify a date or date range for the search. Requesters seeking physical copies may be charged copy fees depending on record type and request volume.

The Utah Judiciary also provides public access to free Utah court records via a searchable online database. For instance, users can find different court records via the Appellate Docket Search by providing the 8-digit appellate docket number.

How Do I Find Public Records in Utah?

Applicable request methods may differ slightly between agencies. However, interested record seekers wondering how to check for public records in Utah may follow these steps:

  • Determine the desired type of information

Requesters must start by deciding on the desired type of record. Utah public records are available at different agencies, depending on the type of record and its content. Persons interested in public records Utah agencies create or maintain must first decide on the record and then confirm that the GRAMA provides for public disclosure.

  • Identify the agency in charge

Utah agencies generate and maintain different types of records. For instance, requesters may obtain divorce records from county courts while property records are available at each county’s assessor’s or recorder’s office.

  • Write a Request

According to the GRAMA (UT Code § 63G-2-204(1)), interested persons must submit written requests. Each request must describe the desired record with reasonable specificity and contain the requester’s contact information, including a name, phone number, mailing address, and email address.

  • Submit the request

Record seekers may submit written requests in person, by mail, fax, phone, or email. However, some agencies may not provide all aforementioned options, or may specify a preferred method depending on record type. Persons who need urgent responses should consider in-person requests.

Agencies may also require record seekers to pay for copies. In most cases, requesters may pay by cash, cheque, or money order. Debit and credit card payments may also be available for online requests. However, card payments usually cost additional processing fees that may depend on the total request amount.

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 Utah?

The GRAMA does not provide a specific fee for accessing public records. However, state law (UT Code § 63G-2-203(1)) allows government agencies to charge reasonable fees to cover the actual cost of producing the record. The law also allows agencies to charge additional costs to cover staff time and the cost of electronic services if the requester wants the record in a form not normally maintained by the agency. However, the GRAMA prohibits agencies from charging for the first 15 minutes of staff time (UT Code § 63G-2-203(2)(c)). Government agencies cannot charge a fee for reviewing a record to determine whether it is subject to public disclosure. Also, agencies may only request advance payment if fees would exceed $50 or the requester has pending payments from previous requests.

How Do I Look Up Public Records in Utah for Free?

Looking up Utah public records for free is possible by requesting an inspection. Although the GRAMA allows agencies to charge fees for producing physical copies of public records, Utah agencies cannot charge requesters for inspecting records.(UT Code § 63G-2-203(5)).

Interested persons may look up free public records Utah agencies maintain via online options. Some Utah agencies have public online databases with free copies of records in their custody. For instance, residents can conduct a free Salt Lake County public records search for property records on the assessor’s search database.

Furthermore, government entities may choose to skip request fees in some cases (UT Code § 63G-2-203(4)). The GRAMA encourages agencies to waive request fees if:

  • Disclosure benefits the public rather than an individual
  • The requester is the subject of the record, the subject’s parent, legal, guardian, legal representative, or a person who has a power of attorney from the subject
  • The content of the record directly affects the requester’s legal rights, and the person is indigent

Do I Need to State My Purpose When Requesting Public Records in Utah?

The Utah GRAMA does not require a record seeker to provide a reason for their request or state the intended use of the record. Requesters may inspect or obtain copies of all non-confidential records upon meeting necessary request requirements and paying applicable fees.

What Happens if I am Refused a Public Records Request

A person who feels unjustly denied access to a public record can file a notice of appeal to the public agency’s chief administrative officer within 30 days of the denial (UT Code § 63G-2-401(1)). The chief administrative officer must respond to the appeal within 10 business days of receiving the notice, five business days if an expedited decision benefits the public, or 12 business days if the appeal involves business confidentiality. If there is no decision within the stipulated time frame, or the chief administrative officer upholds the denial, the requester may appeal the decision to the State Records Committee.

The requester must file with the State Records Committee’s executive secretary within 30 business days after the chief administrative officer’s denial. An appeal may also be filed within 45 days of the original request if the chief administrative officer made no decision, or the agency claimed extraordinary circumstances (UT Code § 63G-2-403(1)).

Within three days, the State Records Committee must schedule a hearing not earlier than 16 days and not later than 64 days after the filing. Following the hearing, the committee has seven days to make a decision. If there is no decision within 73 calendar days of the notice of appeal, the requester may apply for a judicial review with the District Court (UT Code § 63G-2-403(13). The court may then award reasonable fees to the requester if it finds that the agency’s denial is unjustifiable.

How to Remove Names From Public Search Records?

There is no exclusive process available to Utah residents looking to remove their names from public search records. However, persons interested in cleaning up their public records may consider the Utah expungement process.

In Utah, expungement eligibility depends on certain requirements. For instance, residents cannot expunge most felonies, registerable sex offenses, and registerable child abuse offenses. Furthermore, individuals cannot expunge records if there is a pending criminal case or the person knowingly provided false information on the expungement application. In addition, each person must first pay all fees, fines, and other restitution related to the applicable conviction.

Outside of the expungement process, residents may be unable to remove their names from public search records. However, interested persons may identify each applicable record and contact the agency for legal removal options.

What Is the Best Public Records Search Database?

Utah’s best public records search database depends on a requester’s desired record and the custodian agency. For instance, the best place to conduct a Utah County public records search for inmate information is the searchable database provided by the Utah County Sheriff’s Office. Likewise, the best public records search database for Davis County property records is the county’s online property search page.

How Long Does It Take To Obtain a Utah Public Record?

Each agency must respond to a record request within ten business days after receiving the request. If the requester proves to the agency that an expedited request benefits the public rather than the person, the agency must respond within five business days. The agency may:

  • Approve the request and provide access to the record
  • Deny the request if the record contains confidential information
  • Notify the requester that it does not keep the requested record and provide contact information of the agency that does
  • Notify the requester that it cannot immediately approve or deny the request. This response must state the reason for the uncertainty and provide a date where the records would be available