North Carolina Public Records

Government personnel follow the Public Records Act and Open Meetings Law of North Carolina when providing access to public records. Unless specifically exempt, the laws governing public records in North Carolina provide records for public access. This holds true for both draft and final versions of letters, memoranda, voicemails, social media posts, and similar public media.

Public records are defined as "all documents (Including photographs, films, sound recordings, …. and electronic data) ..., received pursuant to law or in connection with the transaction of public agency business, per North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 132". The open access of records in North Carolina makes North Carolina a "sunshine law state," as records are used to cast light on an agency's activities.

According to the North Carolina Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), generally known as the Public Records Law, every requester will receive the information they request. 

How to Find North Carolina Public Records

For North Carolina public records, your search must be specific and relevant. North Carolina considers "public records" a broad category that covers a lot of information. You can access vital records like birth, death, or marriage certificates, criminal histories, sex offender registrations, court filings, driving histories, car data, property records, and criminal histories.

The Department of Administration is the custodian of state records created from governmental business activities. For more common lookups, you need to visit specific state government agencies online.  

Vital records (birth or death certificates, marriage licenses, and divorce decrees), court records, real estate records and deeds, and background checks are managed by specific governmental departments.

Are North Carolina Public Records Available Online?

You can easily submit requests for North Carolina public records online, although you can also request information by email or phone. However, the easiest way to access what you need is to make a request online. Agencies are required to fulfill your request in a quick and timely manner. For electronic data that is not certified, you usually are not charged any more than the cost of copying.

For example, you can access birth and death certificate information through the Health and Human Services vital records search online. You can also obtain marriage and divorce records through the same portal.

Suppose you're seeking court records that cover criminal or civil cases, traffic citations, or police reports. In that case, you can visit the state's Judicial Branch website or contact the Clerk of Court where a citation was issued.

You can perform criminal offender searches online by accessing the Department of Public Safety for information and retrieval.

If you’re seeking real estate records or information on deeds, you can obtain direct access online through the Register of Deeds office where the real estate is located.

If you wish to conduct a criminal background check online, you can easily visit the State Bureau of Investigation website.

Because North Carolina promotes public access to records, you can easily find the information you need through online resources.

What Records are Available in North Carolina?

You can retrieve information on a wide range of public records, including meeting information, if you so desire. The primary records available include:

  • Vital Statistic (birth and death certificates and marriage and divorce records)
  • Real estate deeds and similar property records
  • Jail and inmate information
  • Sex offender registry information
  • Criminal histories
  • Information on civil or criminal cases
  • Police reports

What Records Are Non-Public in North Carolina?

While public access is readily available for many records, you cannot view records that have been ordered sealed by the courts or juvenile records. You also cannot review records currently being used for a pending or current criminal investigation. Expunged records are also not available for review. Trademark information is not open to the public as well.

Types of Public Records Available in North Carolina

Again, you can regularly view or request a wide range of information. The list below details where you can locate specific data.

North Carolina Vital Statistics

Suppose you wish to request a marriage or divorce certificate or would like to obtain a birth certificate or death certificate. In that case, you can gain access by visiting the Division of Public Health, Vital Statistics website.

You can obtain birth certificates that go back to 1913 and retrieve death certificates that go back to 1930. Marriage certificates may be accessed that go back to 1962, and divorce certificates that go back to 1958. You can also obtain fetal death reports on the site that go back to 2001.

North Carolina Public Criminal Records

To look up criminal records in North Carolina, go through the specific agencies, depending on the type of information you seek.

For instance, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (NCSBI)  is the go-to site if you’re seeking sex offender registry information or if you wish to do a criminal history background check. You may also perform a background check through the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts.

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety, or DPS, can also find jail and inmate information.
Court cases may be reviewed in the court of the county clerk where the case was held.

Police Departments and Sheriffe Office in North Carolina :

Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office700 East Fourth Street, Charlotte, NC
Wake County Sheriff's Office330 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh, NC
Guilford County Sheriff's Office400 W Washington Street, Greensboro, NC
Forsyth County Sheriff's Office301 North Church Street, Winston-Salem, NC
Cumberland County Sheriff's Office131 Dick St, Fayetteville, NC
Durham County Sheriff's Office510 South Dillard Street, Durham, NC
Buncombe County Sheriff's Office60 Court Plaza, Asheville, NC
Gaston County Sheriff's Office425 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Gastonia, NC
Union County Sheriff's Office3344 Presson Road, Monroe, NC
Cabarrus County Sheriff's Office30 Corban Ave SE, Concord, NC

Arrest Records and Warrants

An arrest record forms part of a person’s criminal history. 

You can search for arrests through the Department of Public Safety (DPS), which provides arrest information and inmate details.

Once you pull up an arrest record, you can access the arrestee's name, address, age, and the date and time of the arrest. The file will also include the arrest location and the name of the arresting agency or officer. The charges, bail, court date, fingerprints, and the offender's mugshot are also included. 

Keep in mind that all arrests are not recorded. You cannot access information if a person was arrested but not charged with a crime. Some arrest records may only list charges but omit the case's outcome.

To request an arrest record, you’ll need to fill out form AOC-CR-314 and give it to the clerk of the state superior court where the arrest occurred. You can also make requests to the Department of Public Safety by telephone at (919) 733-2126. 

You can go to the warrant information (WIN) system on the U.S. Marshal's website to obtain arrest warrant details. Information may also be obtained by accessing the Fugitive search tool on the DEA’s platform.

Inmate and Jail Records

To find inmate and jail records, visit the offender search locator, available through the Department of Public Safety.

Jails and Prisons in North Carolina :

Mecklenburg County NC Jail-North5235 Spector Drive, Charlotte, NC
Mecklenburg County Work Release & Restitution Center901 Elizabeth Avenue, Charlotte, NC
Eastern Regional Office13777 Ballantyne Corporate Place, Suite 200, Charlotte, NC
Mecklenburg County NC Jail-Central801 East Fourth Street, Charlotte, NC
Wake Correctional Center1000 Rock Quarry Road, Raleigh, NC
Wake Juvenile Detention Center700 Beacon Lake Drive, Raleigh, NC
Central Prison1300 Western Boulevard, Raleigh, NC
Wake County NC Detention Division3301 Hammond Road (First Facility), Raleigh, NC

North Carolina Background Checks

The State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) offers direct access to background check information in North Carolina.

According to state law, some employers in North Carolina are obligated to examine the backgrounds of potential employees. For instance, firms serving disabled people, mental health service providers, substance abuse treatment providers, and businesses offering specific child and health care services must run background checks on prospective workers.

NC state agencies cannot perform criminal background checks on candidates for state jobs until at least after the initial interview. As of November 1, 2020. NC Executive Order No. 158 effectively forbids employers in the state from checking an applicant's criminal past until after their qualifications are determined, and the history is pertinent to the position.

North Carolina does not have a lookup limitation on how far you can look back on a person's criminal history. 

Landlords may not perform background checks on prospective tenants without their written consent.

How to Find Sex Offenders in North Carolina

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation provides a lookup tool to access sex offender registrations. 

North Carolina Public Vital Records

Access vital records information by visiting the Division of Public Health. Anyone seeking marriage, birth, death, or divorce certificates can find what they’re seeking on this site.

North Carolina Court Records

If you’re seeking court records in North Carolina, visit the North Carolina Judicial Branch website for information and access.

State Court System in North Carolina

The state court system in North Carolina does not feature local courts but is composed of state courts. The state features three federal district courts and a supreme court and court of appeals at the state level. Trial courts comprise the rest of the system.

Courts in North Carolina :

Mecklenburg County Superior Court832 E. 4th St., Charlotte, NC
North Carolina Court of Appeals1 W. Morgan St., Raleigh, NC
North Carolina Supreme Court2 E. Morgan St., Raleigh, NC
Wake County Superior Court316 Fayetteville St. Mall, Raleigh, NC
Guilford County Superior Court201 S. Eugene St., Greensboro, NC
Forsyth County Superior Court200 N. Main St., Winston Salem, NC
Cumberland County Superior Court117 Dick St., Fayetteville, NC
Durham County Superior Court510 S. Dillard St., Durham, NC
Buncombe County Superior Court60 Court Plaza, Asheville, NC
Gaston County Superior Court325 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Gastonia, NC

Driving Records

To obtain your driving record, visit the Department of Public Safety website for details and access.

Suppose you wish to apply in person or request a record through the mail. In that case, you'll need to direct your application to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicles License Section at 1100 New Bern Avenue in Raleigh, NC 27697-0001. 

Ensure you include your full contact info, date of birth, and driver's license number. Requesters may receive three-year or seven-year driving histories for reasons of employment or insurance.

Civil Infractions

In North Carolina, your driver's license is revoked once you get 12 points within three years. The points stay on your driving record for three years. There are two types of points allotted in North Carolina - insurance points and driver's license points. 

North Carolina License Plate Lookup

It’s easiest to go through a private website to look up a vehicle identification number (VIN) or license plate number in North Carolina. This is the fastest way to obtain information about the history and ownership of a vehicle. You can find this info on a site such as North Carolina State Records under license plate lookup.

North Carolina Property and Asset Records 

Find land records on the Secretary of State's website. To research deed information, check the Register of Deeds office where the real estate is located.

You can search for unclaimed property on the Department of State Treasurer website.

Important Government Agencies in North Carolina

Access essential government agencies in North Carolina at the following links:

  1. North Carolina State Governor
  2. Secretary of State
  3. North Carolina General Assembly
  4. North Carolina Judicial Branch
  5. North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
  6. North Carolina Department of Public Safety
  7. North Carolina State Highway Patrol
  8. North Carolina Department of Transportation
  9. North Carolina Department of State Treasurer

Counties in North Carolina