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Are Kansas Records Public?

Most Kansas records are public except when exempted by law. The Kansas Open Records Act asserts that all citizens have a right to access public records. Doing this usually involves finding the agency that created or received the record as well as contacting the custodian in charge of maintaining the record. A requester’s right also extends to taking photographs and videos of the record while it is with the custodian.

Record custodians may create conditions for obtaining Kansas public records, including charging fees and requiring written requests. However, the condition should not be unreasonable. Also, any fee charged should not exceed the actual cost of making the record available. This includes the cost of delivery, making copies, and staff time. Kansas public records that are open to the public generally include:

  • Public court records
  • Public incidence reports
  • Public bankruptcy records
  • Public sex offender information
  • Public arrest records
  • Public inmate records

Requesters interested in obtaining public records will need to submit a request to the custodian. Before fulfilling the request, the record custodian may require a written request and fees, and the requester is obliged to provide both. Record custodians may deny requests if either requirement is not complied with. Requests for exempted records may also be denied.

Note: The Kansas Open Records Act binds only government officials, including state subdivisions, officers, offices, agencies, or instrumentalities. Record custodians do not have an obligation to provide audio or visual items unless they have been shown at a public meeting of the government entity maintaining the record.

Who Can Access Kansas Public Records?

Any individual, corporation, partnership, or limited liability company within or outside Kansas is entitled to make a request for access to public records. Kansas Statutes allow any person to access Kansas public records. The state law provides that access to public records is open to any person unless prevented by law. It further states that the Open Records Act should be interpreted liberally to promote a policy of transparency. This includes the right to both inspect and make copies.

Inspecting records is generally carried out within business hours. Requests can be made in person, by mail, email, or through any other electronic means allowed by the custodian. The record custodian may deny a request if the record is exempted by law or sealed by a court order. Denial of confidential records only applies to records that are fully exempted. If only part of the record is exempted, the confidential part should be redacted with the rest of the record disclosed.

What is Exempted Under the Kansas Public Record Law?

The Kansas public records law exempts confidential records of information that do not have an overwhelming public interest in disclosure. Kansas Statutes Annotated 45-221 contains a list of exempt records. These exempted records are closed to the public and can only be accessed through court order or pursuant to law. Record custodians shall decline any request for exempted records. The denial may either be partial or complete. A partial denial occurs when only part of the record is confidential.

In this case, the record custodian would separate the confidential part of the record from the rest. The custodian may then disclose the record with the confidential parts redacted. A complete denial would occur if the record is confidential in its entirety. Confidential records should only be disclosed to qualified persons and pursuant to a court order. Records that are confidential under Kansas state law include:

  1. Records that are prohibited from disclosure by law. This includes records confidential under federal law, state law, Kansas Supreme Court rules, or Senate Committee rules. It also includes records that are made confidential pursuant to the exercise of authority recognized by those laws and rules. Kansas Statutes Annotated 45-221(1).
  2. Medical, psychiatric, psychological, alcoholism, or drug dependency treatment records that pertain to identifiable patients. This exemption is to protect the personal information of the subjects of the information. Disclosing the information would be a breach of the right to privacy of the record's subject and there is no overwhelming public interest in the disclosure of such records. Kansas Statutes Annotated 45-221(3).
  3. Personnel records, performance rating, and individually identifiable records relating to employees or applicants for employment. This exemption does not prevent the disclosure of the names, positions, length of service, salaries, and other compensation of officers and employees of public agencies. Kansas Statutes Annotated 45-221(4).
  4. Any record that would disclose the identity of an undercover officer or any informant reporting an illegal act. This exemption protects undercover law enforcement agents and individuals reporting crime from harm. It also protects ongoing investigations. Kansas Statutes Annotated 45-221(5).
  5. Any record that reveals the identity of a lawful donor to a public agency. This exemption only applies where the anonymity of the donor is a condition for making the donation. However, it would not apply if the donation is to be given to a named public officer or employee. The public has an interest in knowing the identity of donations made to named public officers and employees. Kansas Statutes Annotated 45-221(8).
  6. Records containing some testing and examination material. This exemption only applies to those materials if the examination or test is to be given or given again. Information regarding the specific scores of students in tests and examinations is also confidential. However, records that only show passage or failure are not confidential under the exemption. Kansas Statutes Annotated 45-221(9).
  7. Criminal investigation records. This is to preserve the public interest in the confidential investigation of crimes. However, a district court may order the disclosure of criminal investigation records. In doing this, the court would consider various factors. The disclosure should be in the public interest. It should also not interfere with law enforcement action and prosecution or disclose undercover agents or informants. Furthermore, the disclosure should not reveal investigative techniques not known to the public. No life should be kept at risk through the disclosure. A public agency may also discretionarily release the records if they provide a written citation upon request on the reasons for the release. The reasons should take into consideration the same factors that would be considered by a district court in ordering a disclosure. Kansas Statutes Annotated 45-221(10).
  8. Records of emergency or security information. This exemption includes procedures of public agencies and plans, drawings, specifications, or other related buildings for purposes that require security measures. Such buildings include facilities for the generation or transmission of power, water, fuels, or communication. The exemption applies if the disclosure of the record may potentially jeopardize security. Kansas Statutes Annotated 45-221(12).

Note: There are other exemptions under Kansas Statutes Annotated 45-221, with a total exemption list of 55 items. Also, laws, court orders, and persons authorized by law may make a record confidential.

Where Can I Access Public Criminal Court Records in Kansas?

Any person can access public criminal court records in Kansas either by making a request to a courthouse or online. The Kansas Judicial Branch allows members of the public to make requests for court records. Courts within the Kansas judicial system usually have a terminal with a computer that interested persons can use to access court cases. Requesters can also make copies of the records. Any request to inspect or copy records should be made in writing.

The Judicial Branch provides a sample request form that requesters can use. Courts usually respond to requests within three business days. If more time is required, the court would notify the requester of when the request would be fulfilled. The court may deny some requests. This will be the case where the record does not exist, the record is not maintained by the courthouse the request was made, the request is unclear, or the record is confidential pursuant to law. The request should be made to the courthouse that determined the case. The courts charge 25 cents for each copy of a page and $10 for each certified document.

Requests for appellate court records should be made to the appellate clerk. Email requests for appellate court records can also be made to appellateclerk@kscourts.org. Other requests for district court records should be made to the clerk of the court.

A request for Kansas criminal court records can also be made online. The Kansas Judicial Branch maintains the Courthouse Terminal and Public Portal Smart Search and the Kansas District Court Public Access Portal. Both search portals accept searches with either the name of the parties or the case number. The Courthouse Terminal allows searches for cases across courts, while the District Court Access Portal only provides district courts cases. Both portals are free to use.

Additionally, there is the Public Access Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. The PACER system requires users to register and log in to use the service. It provides access to nationwide cases, including criminal cases determined in Kansas. Users can view up to 150 pages of public records annually. However, there is a fee of 10 cents per page for subsequent pages viewed.

How Do I Find Public Records in Kansas?

Any person can find public records in Kansas through a request to the record custodian. The request may be to inspect or make copies of the record. The Kansas Open Records Act mandates record custodians to make records available once a request is received. If a custodian denies a record request, the custodian should clearly state the reason for the denial and the law relied upon in denying the request. A requester can use the following steps to obtain Kansas public records.

  1. Determine the record to be inspected or obtained
    Any person that wishes to obtain a public record would need to first decide on the record they want. They should also decide whether they want to merely inspect the record, make copies, or have copies delivered. Electronic records may be available for some records. If this is the case, the requester may attempt to obtain the electronic copy. However, requests should not place too much burden on a public agency. A record custodian can deny a request if complying with it will place too much burden on the custodian.
  2. Identify the record custodian
    The Kansas Open Records Act only obliges the record custodian to make the record available. Therefore, any request should be directed to the custodian. The Open Records Act defines the custodian as any public officer or employee responsible for maintaining public records, regardless of whether the records are in their personal possession. A custodian under the Act also includes individuals appointed by the official custodian to make the records available. If the requester does not know the record custodian, they may send a request to the public agency in charge of the record. Public agencies are required to provide, upon request, the name of the record custodian, office hours, fee schedules, and procedures for obtaining public records.
  3. Send a request
    The requester can send the request for the record once they know the custodian. Record custodians can insist on written requests pursuant to Kansas Statutes Annotated 45-219(a). Only the requester’s name, address, and a description of the record is necessary for the request. Any requirements by the record custodian should not require more information. Generally, public agencies would make guidelines as to how requests should be made pursuant to Kansas Statutes Annotated 45-220(a).

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 Kansas?

Kansas State laws permit record custodians to charge the actual cost of making records available. Charges may include staff time for redacting, accessing, identifying, and copying records. Clerical services are charged at $18 per hour, information technology services are charged at $38 per hour, while attorney services are charged at $50 per hour. The head of any public agency within the executive branch of government has the authority to determine a fee. However, there is a prescribed fee of 25 cents for making copies.

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

Any person can look up some public records in Kansas for free, depending on the record, the record custodian, their expectations, and the request. Record custodians often allow inspection of records without any fees. In agencies where custodians allow the inspection of records, there are usually terminals and lobbies. Interested persons may visit the records custodian during business hours to inspect the records. Courts usually allow the physical inspection of court records. With this, there is public access to free Kansas public records. Other Kansas public records that individuals can inspect for free include bankruptcy records, arrest records, sex offender information, and incidence reports. In some cases, a requester may choose an electronic copy of a record to obtain free public records in Kansas. Doing this prevents the payment of fees for making copies of the record. Additionally, some records are accessible online for free.

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

A requester does not need to state their purpose when requesting public records in Kansas. The requester may share the purpose if it will help the custodian in finding the record sought. However, there is generally no duty to disclose the purpose of the request.

What Happens if I am Refused a Public Records Request?

Any person whose public record request is refused may either appeal to the Kansas attorney general or to a district court. Appeals to the attorney general should be made with the complaint form. Submissions are made under penalty of perjury. Therefore, the complainant should make sure to verify the facts. The complaint should include information such as the complainant’s name, the public agency responsible for the denial, the requested public record, when and how the request was made, and the response.

Copies of documents connected to the request and response should also be provided if they are available. The attorney general may enforce the Kansas Open Records Act on a complainant’s behalf. If the complaint is regarding a local unit of government, the complaint would be forwarded to the district attorney. Any person whose request is denied may also bring an action in a district court pursuant to Kansas Statutes Annotated 45-222. The action should be brought to the district court where the record is located. Remedies for a successful action potentially include costs and attorney fees. Kansas Statutes Annotated 45-223 also imposes a fine of $500 for each willful violation of the Act by a public agency in any action brought by the attorney general or a district attorney.

How to Remove Names from Public Search Records?

Kansas state law allows the expungement of some criminal records. Expunged records are closed to the public and in most cases, the subject of the records can respond as though they were never arrested or convicted for a crime. These records are only available to persons authorized by law to access the records and pursuant to a court order once they are expunged. Additionally, law enforcement agencies may use the expunged records during crime investigations. However, the records would not come up in ordinary criminal history searches. Some records cannot be expunged pursuant to Kansas Statutes Annotated 21-6614(e). These crimes include:

  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Child abuse
  • Rape
  • Most sexual abuse offenses
  • Drug, sexual, or violent offenses that require registration under the Kansas Registration Act

Individuals that were convicted for a crime would have to wait for a period of time before they become eligible for expungement. The amount of time they would need to wait for depends on the offense. The waiting period is five years from when all conditions regarding the conviction were fulfilled for the following offenses. Kansas Statutes Annotated 21-6614(a), (c).

  • A class A, B, or C felony
  • A non-drug crime of severity level 1 - 5
  • Perjury
  • Vehicular homicide
  • Other serious traffic or vehicular offenses

Some other offenses require a waiting period of three years. These offenses include traffic infractions, tobacco infractions, misdemeanors, and class D and E felonies. Arrest records may also be expunged if there was no prosecution or conviction. Kansas Statutes Annotated 22-2410, 12-4516.

What is the Best Public Records Search Database?

The best public records search database depends on the record being sought. There are different custodians for different Kansas public records. Record custodians for particular records usually have the most recent and updated databases for public records. Therefore, the database maintained by the record custodian is usually the best one to use. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation provides a registry of public offenders within the state. It includes sex, drug, and violent offenders.

Users can search the database by name, location, online identity, and phone number. There is also a notification option. With this, interested persons are notified when a registered offender relocates to their community. The available information for each offender includes names, aliases, physical descriptions, primary addresses, offenses, and photographs.

Record requests can also be made at the county level in Kansas. Johnson County allows Johnson County public records search, while Sedgwick County also allows Sedgwick County public records search. Interested persons can make requests to the custodian of the records in each county to obtain a record.

How Long Does it Take to Obtain a Kansas Public Record?

A requester should ordinarily obtain a Kansas public record within three business days. However, in circumstances where the record custodian is unable to meet up, the reason for the delay should be stated in writing to the requester. A date at which the record would be ready should also be given. Any denial of access to the record should also be communicated within three business days, pursuant to Kansas Statutes Annotated 45-218. A lack of response by the records custodian within three business days after receiving a record request will constitute a violation of the Open Records Act.