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Are Oregon Records Public?

Oregon's Public Record Laws allow any person to make requests for public records. Public records are defined to include any writing received, generated, or used by a public entity, containing information on the entity’s activities. “Writing” as used under the law includes the different forms public information may be stored in, such as handwriting, typewriting, printing, photographs, and every other means of recording information. Public records in Oregon may include:

  • Oregon court records
  • Criminal records
  • Arrest records
  • Bankruptcy records
  • Public Oregon birth records
  • Public Oregon death records
  • Sex offender information
  • Oregon divorce records

Who Can Access Oregon Public Records?

Oregon state laws allow "every person" to access or obtain copies of Oregon public records. This applies to both state residents and non-residents. Individuals, corporations, partnerships, firms, associations, or any member or committee of a Legislative Assembly may access public records in Oregon. O.R.S 192.311(3). The custodian of the records may require the requestor's identity in some instances if it helps the custodian more accurately provide the records.

What is Exempted Under the Oregon Public Record Law?

The Oregon Revised Statute 192.355 exempts some records from disclosure to the public. These exempted records are not accessible to the public and cannot be viewed and copied by members of the public. Records custodians will deny any request made to obtain the records. If the entire record is exempt, the request would be denied in full. However, if only a part of the record is exempt, the custodian may redact the part of the record that is exempt. The requester may be required to pay additional fees for the redaction. Records that are exempt in Oregon include:

  1. Some communications of public bodies. This exemption applies to communications with public bodies and communication between public bodies in an advisory capacity if they are preliminary to a final decision to be reached or action to be taken. To rely on the exemption, the public body would need to show that it is in the interest of the public to exempt the document to encourage frank communication among employees. Oregon Revised Statute 192.355(1).
  2. Personal information. This includes information kept in personal or medical files. It also includes information contained in any other similar of which disclosure shall constitute an invasion of privacy. Images of dead bodies and parts of dead bodies obtained from investigations conducted by law enforcement agencies are also exempted from public records. Personal information may only be disclosed where it is in the interest of the public to do so. The burden to show that the disclosure is in the interest of the public is on the person that seeks the disclosure. Oregon Revised Statute 192.355(2).
  3. The personal information of public employees or volunteers. This includes their residential address, phone numbers, email addresses, driver’s license numbers, social security numbers, and other similar information that is contained in public records maintained by a public body. However, the information may be disclosed if the requester shows that it is in the interest of the public to have the information disclosed. However, the exemption does not extend to elected officials exempt judges. Oregon Revised Statute 192.355(3).
  4. Confidential information submitted to a public body that was not required by law to be submitted. Such information cannot be disclosed to the public unless it is in the interest of the public to do so. Oregon Revised Statute 192.355(4).
  5. Some information or records of the Department of Corrections. This includes information and records of the State Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision. Such information cannot be disclosed if the disclosure would negatively affect the rehabilitation of the subject of the record or could prevent the Department from carrying out its functions. Generally, such information cannot be disclosed where the public interest in confidentiality outweighs the public interest in disclosure. Oregon Revised Statute 192.355(5).
  6. Any public record which is restricted or made confidential by any law in Oregon. Therefore, other laws in Oregon may restrict access to public records and prevent the disclosure of those records outside of the Oregon public records law. However, the exemption may be waived if the holder of the privilege publicly discloses the information. Oregon Revised Statute 192.355(9).
  7. Records submitted to a State Treasurer, the Oregon Investment Council, or their agents concerning publicly or privately traded investments. Information regarding the acquisition, exchange or liquidation of an investment is not subject to disclosure. The amount paid for the investment may be disclosed for publicly traded investments, but should not be disclosed for privately traded investments. Oregon Revised Statute 192.355(13) and Oregon Revised Statute 192.355(14).
  8. Any record which is submitted to a public body to allow the public body to determine the amount of tax that is payable, so long as the information may disclose the identity of the individual. However, this does not stop the public body from disclosing the information for enforcement and regulatory purposes. Oregon Revised Statute 192.355(18).

Where Can I Access Public Criminal Court Records in Oregon?

Public criminal court records in Oregon can be obtained by any person either online, through in-person requests, or by making a mail request. The Oregon Judicial Branch provides records of court cases determined within Oregon. The Judicial Branch maintains the Oregon Judicial Case Information Network (OJCIN). The service allows interested persons to search for trial, appellate, and tax cases. OJCIN includes records of the 36 Circuit Courts in Oregon, the Appellate Courts, and the Tax Courts. Therefore, it includes criminal court records. Users would be required to create an account and subscribe to use the service. Alternatively, interested persons may use the Web Portal for free. The Web Portal allows users to search for cases by name or case number. It also provides advanced filtering options. There is also the Public Access Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. The service requires registration and payment.

Requests can also be made for records in person or by mail. In-person requests should be made at the courthouse that determined the case. This would involve obtaining the contact information of the court. Information on cases can also be requested by phone. The court may charge fees for the request in some cases. The cost of delivering a record by mail is the actual cost required to make the delivery. Although there is no cost for inspecting records, agencies may charge a fee for making copies and redaction of confidential information.

How Do I Find Public Records in Oregon?

Any person in Oregon can view or obtain public records by making a request to the custodian of the records. Pursuant to the Oregon Revised Statutes, any custodian who receives a request for a record is mandated to act on the request and provide a response. If the response does not provide the record, it should state the reason the record has not been provided. The custodian of the record a requester seeks depends on the type of record. If the public record is a court record, the requester may need to contact the courthouse where the case was determined. Court records are maintained by the clerks of the courthouse that determined the case. If the request is a vital record, the requester would need to contact the Oregon Health Authority.

The requester would also need to make a request to the custodian. The request should be sufficiently specific to allow the custodian to find the record. The Oregon Health Authority provides Request Forms to be used for making requests for vital records. Some Oregon public records are also available online and do not require official requests. Requests can be made by phone, by mail, or in person. Requests should contain:

  • A clear description of the record to requester desires
  • The type of record
  • The requester’s contact information
  • The preferred mode of delivery
  • Any other information that could assist the custodian in obtaining the record

Some public records may also be accessible from third-party websites. These websites are not limited by geographic location and come with expansive search tools. Record seekers can use these sites to start a search for a specific record or multiple records. To use a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the document or person involved

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party websites may vary.

How Much Do Public Records Cost in Oregon?

The public records cost in Oregon depends on the records requested. O.R S. 192.324 allows a public body providing public records to charge for the cost of the records. However, the fee should be based on the actual cost of the record, including the time spent by the staff to make the record available. The custodian of the records determines the amount to be charged for each request based on the cost of making the record available. However, the custodian is required to notify the requester in writing if the cost exceeds $25. The requester may then inform the custodian if they wish to proceed with the request. Also, the law allows requesters to obtain waivers or reduced fees. However, they would need to show that a waiver of fee reduction is in the public interest by showing that the purpose of the record would benefit the public. If the custodian refuses to grant a reduction or waiver in the cost of the records, the requester may petition the Attorney General.

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

Access to free public records will depend on the location of the records, the format, and the custodian. Record custodians may charge fees if the requester wants to obtain copies, wants the records delivered, or if the records are to be extracted from data. On the other hand, electronic copies of records or merely inspecting records may not attract any fees. Records that a requester may obtain for free include sex offender information, incident reports, and court records. Some of these records are available online and are available to any person without cost in some instances. Offices and agencies that allow requesters to inspect records physically provide a terminal or lobby. Requesters may inspect the records in these terminals and lobbies for free.

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

Any person in Oregon that wishes to get access to Oregon public records does not need to state the purpose of their request. However, sometimes it is helpful to provide the purpose of the request. One example is if the purpose of the request would allow the custodian to more easily find the record the requester seeks. Also, a requester seeking a fee waiver or reduction would need to disclose the purpose of their request to show that it would be in the public interest to grant the fee reduction or waiver.

What Happens if I Am Refused a Public Records Request?

Any person who is refused a public record request in Oregon has a variety of options in appealing the decision. The requester may appeal to the Attorney General, a district attorney, the Marion County Circuit Court, or another circuit court, depending on the circumstances.

Oregon Revised Statutes 192.411(1) allows any person whose request to a state agency or official for public records is refused to petition the Attorney General. However, the request should not have been made to an elected official to petition the Attorney General. The Attorney General would act in a quasi-judicial role and issue an order denying or granting the petition. It may also be granted in part. While filing the petition to the Attorney General, the requester may also provide further information such as how granting the request would be in the public interest. Petitions can be made to district attorneys of a county if the request is refused by a local public body or official that was not elected. Petitions can also be submitted for any public body that is not a state agency. This includes petitions from special districts, public universities, cities, and counties. Oregon also has the office of the Public Records Advocate. The Public Records Advocate can help a requester and a public agency resolve any conflict regarding the denial of a request for public records. A resolution should be reached within 21 days and the public agency has five days to issue a written notice to opt-out of the resolution process.

Seeking a judicial remedy is the last step available to requesters who have their requests denied. The action would be brought in the Marion County Circuit Court if it concerns a state agency or a state elected official. The action may be brought in the Circuit Court of the county where the record is located if access to the record is denied by a local public body or elected official.

How to Remove Names From Public Search Records?

Individuals who have been charged or convicted for a crime may have the crime removed from public records by having the record either sealed or expunged. Any person who was charged or convicted for a crime as a minor may have the record expunged. If this is done, the arrest or conviction may be treated as though it never happened. The person may respond to any question regarding the arrest or conviction as if it never happened. Individuals that were arrested or convicted as adults may have the record sealed. The difference between sealing and expunging records is that while an expunged record is completely destroyed, a sealed record is merely removed from public access. Law enforcement agencies may still use sealed records for the purpose of crime investigation.

Not all charges may be sealed. Traffic violations and crimes, such as DUI offenses, cannot be sealed. Class A felonies, Class B felonies, most sex offenses, and most violent offenses cannot be set aside. If the individual was arrested and there were no charges, an application to seal the records may be made within a year. If there was a charge but it resulted in acquittal or the charges were dismissed, the individual can apply to have the record set aside immediately. The individual should meet the following conditions.

  • The individual should not have been arrested for any other crime within three years
  • The individual should not have been convicted for any offense within ten years
  • The individual should not have had a conviction set aside within ten years
  • The individual should not be involved in any prosecution proceedings at that moment

An individual can apply to have a conviction sealed if the crime was a qualifying crime after ten years. The individual should satisfy the following conditions.

  • The individual should have completed their term of probation and any other conditions imposed by the court
  • The individual should not have been convicted for an offense within ten years
  • The individual should not have had an offense set aside within the last ten years
  • The individual should not be involved in any prosecution proceedings at that moment

What is the Best Public Records Search Database?

The best public records search database depends on the record the requester wishes to obtain. Different public bodies maintain different databases to make public records available. The Oregon State Police maintains the Oregon Sex Offender Registry. Interested persons can search the registry for sex offenders either by name or by location. Users can find information on sex offenders around them. There is also an option for notification by email when a registered sex offender relocates to a particular community. The information of sex offenders provided include names, photographs, offense, and physical description.

Different counties also maintain databases of public records available to interested persons. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office maintains criminal records within the County. Interested persons can call (503) 846-2700 to make a records request. Marion County also allows Marion County public records search. The county clerk maintains Marion County public records. Requests can be made at:

County Clerk, Marion County,
555 Court Street NE, 2nd Floor
Business hours: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday
Phone: (503) 588-5225
Email: clerksoffice@co.marion.or.us

How Long Does It Take to Obtain an Oregon Public Record?

Oregon Revised Statutes 192.329(5) provides that public bodies should respond to requests for records within 15 business days after receiving the request. However, 15 business days is the maximum period allowed and the public body should generally make the record available as soon as is practicable. The requester can appeal for access to the records even before the 15 day period elapses where the request should reasonably be available much more quickly. If the public body is unable to make the record available within 15 days, the public body should notify the requester in writing and state when the record would be available. The 15 day period is suspended when the public body makes an inquiry as to more information needed to find the record.