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Are Iowa Records Public?

Most of the records created and maintained by government bodies as they perform public duties are considered public. According to the Iowa Open Records Law, every person has the right to examine, copy, and otherwise disseminate the information in these records. The law defines Iowa public records as recordings stored in any medium belonging to “the state or any county, city, township, school, corporation, political subdivision, nonprofit corporation other than a fair conducting a fair event.”

Public records can be obtained by making a valid request to the lawful custodians of the above-mentioned bodies or anybody whose indebtedness or facilities are supported wholly or partly by tax revenue.

Who Can Access Iowa Public Records?

Under the Iowa Public Record Law, every person shall have the right to examine, copy, publish, or otherwise disseminate the information in a public record unless otherwise provided by law. Iowa is among several states that allow public records requests from non-residents.

When making a public record request, individuals may be required to provide valid identification to prove their eligibility. Requests using standardized forms usually have sections that requesters must fill out and sign to confirm their eligibility.

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

Members of the public are not required to state a purpose or use for public records while requesting them in Iowa. The open record law in Iowa attempts to ensure that government business at all levels is accountable and transparent hence, stating a purpose is unnecessary. However, requesters must state clearly that this is a request under the public record law. Public record requests could be helpful during court cases, property evaluations, or personal research.

What Records are Public in Iowa?

Under Iowa’s Public Records Laws, various records generated and maintained by government bodies in the state can be considered public. Unless exempted by law, these records can be examined, copied, or published by any requester. All requests should be submitted to the records custodians appointed by the government bodies.

Some examples of public records in Iowa include court records, inmate records, sex offender records, bankruptcy records, and vital records such as marriage and death records.

Iowa Public Court Records

Iowa court records are records and documents generated during legal proceedings within Iowa’s jurisdiction. The records are usually maintained and controlled by the clerk of courts or court administrators of the court where the case was heard. Some information included in Iowa court records includes depositions, affidavits, warrants, pleas, complaints, judgments, summons, and dockets. These will detail information about the case, including plaintiffs, defendants, crimes, court, officials, and so on.

Unless the record is exempt by law, court records can be obtained by reaching out to the custodian at the court where the case was heard. Iowa also permits records seekers to look up records via self-service tools such as the Iowa Courts Online Search and the Iowa Court eFile system.

Iowa Public Criminal Records

Iowa criminal records can be classified as documentation detailing criminal offenses, court cases, and convictions within its jurisdiction. Most criminal records in Iowa are considered public records except where they are excluded by law. Criminal records exempt from public disclosure include records from cases involving juveniles and records detailing confidential informants. Criminal records generally include court dockets, incident reports, arrest records, warrants, and other documentation.

In Iowa, criminal records can be obtained by submitting requests to state and local law enforcement agencies and correctional facilities that maintain such records. The Division of Criminal Investigation of the Iowa Department of Public Safety maintains these records on the state level. To obtain criminal records in Iowa, requests must provide enough information for an effective search, including the subject's name, case number, and inmate identification number.

Requesters must also provide personal details such as a phone number to be reached and an address where the record should be sent.

Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation

Support Operations Bureau 1st Floor

215 E 7th St

Des Moines IA 50319

Phone: (515) 725-6010

Fax: (515) 725-6080


Iowa Public Arrest Records

Iowa arrest records refer to the records and information of an individual's arrests within the state. These records are usually maintained by local law enforcement agencies such as police departments or sheriff's offices and contain details of the crimes they were arrested for. To obtain arrest records in Iowa, the requester must submit a request to the record custodian with sufficient details to locate the record. Such information includes the subject's name, arresting agency, location, date of arrest, and inmate identification. 

Iowa Public Bankruptcy Records

Iowa public bankruptcy records are the records and documentation generated by any bankruptcy cases heard in the state. Bankruptcy records usually contain documentation such as bankruptcy petitions, statements of intention, creditor lists, payment schedules, trustee reports, and any court judgments. To look up bankruptcy records in Iowa, requesters must contact the court where the case was heard and provide sufficient details for a record search. This will include information like the subject of the record's name or a bankruptcy case number. 

United States Bankruptcy Court

Northern District of Iowa


Cedar Rapids

111 7th Ave. SE,

Cedar Rapids, IA 52401

Main Office: (319)286-2200

Fax: (319) 286-2280


Sioux City

320 6th Street

Sioux City, IA 51101

Main Office: (712)233-3939

Fax: (712) 233-3942



Historic Federal Courthouse

350 W. 6th Street

Dubuque, Iowa


Fort Dodge

Webster County Courthouse

701 Central Avenue

Fort Dodge, Iowa


Mason City

U.S. Post Office

Second Floor Courtroom

211 North Delaware Ave

Mason City, Iowa



Black Hawk County Court House

Room 410

316 East 5th Street,

Waterloo, IA 50703


United States Bankruptcy Court

Southern District of Iowa

110 East Court Avenue, Suite 300

Des Moines, Iowa 50309

Phone: (515) 284-6230


Bankruptcy court records for Iowas are also available online via the PACER online case locator.

Iowa Public Birth Records

Birth records in Iowa contain information about the registrant, including their name, place, date of birth, sex, and parental information. Iowa birth records have been maintained by the Vital Records Office of the Iowa Department of Public Health since 1880. In Iowa, birth records are not public records until about 100 years after the date of birth.

Until then, the records could only be accessed by authorized persons such as the registrants, their immediate family, legal representatives, or a government agency with official permission. To obtain a birth record in Iowa, an applicant must submit a record request plus fees and the required identification. Record requests can be submitted by mail or in person at the: 

Office of Vital Records

Iowa Department of Health and Human Services

Bureau of Health Statistics

Lucas State Office Building, 1st Floor

321 E. 12th Street

Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0075

Phone:(515) 281-4944 


Iowa Public Death Records.

In Iowa, Death records will detail lots of information about the decedent. This information will include the decedent’s name, date of birth, race, age, sex, address, place of death, and marital status. The vital records office maintains Iowa death records, part of the Iowa Bureau of Health Statistics.

Death records can be obtained by providing a record request with information about the decedent, such as their name and place of death. Requests should also include information about the applicant, the search fees, and valid identification to verify their eligibility. Death records will only be accessible to immediate family and their legal representatives until the records become public 50 years after the death. 

Iowa Public Marriage Records 

The Iowa Bureau of Health Statistics has maintained marriage records in Iowa since 1880. Marriage records in Iowa contain details about the event, including the married couple's names, the date and place of the marriage, the couple's age, witnesses to the marriage, and so on.

Marriage records in Iowa remain restricted until 75 years after the event occurred. Before this time limit passes, certain authorized people can only access these records, including the couple, their immediate family, and their legal representatives. To obtain Iowa marriage records, applicants must provide information for a record search, such as the couple's names and where the marriage occurred. The request must also include personal information about the applicant with valid identification and any required search fees.

Iowa Public Divorce Records

Divorce records in Iowa can be obtained from the Clerk of Court in the county where the divorce case occurred. Divorce records will usually contain information and documentation about the case, including names of the divorced couple, the date and place of the divorce, and any documents from the case, such as depositions and judgments.

To obtain divorce records, requesters must contact the clerk of courts and provide enough information about the divorce for the record to be found. Required information may include the full names of the couple plus when and where the divorce case was heard or granted. Like most court records, Iowa divorce records are considered public records and can be obtained by anyone who submits a valid public record request and pays the required fees.

Iowa Public Inmate Records

In Iowa, inmate records and information are generally considered public records and, by law, can be accessed by everyone who presents a valid request. To look up inmate records in Iowa, requesters can contact the custodian of the record, who could be the arresting agency or their current prison housing.

On the state level, Iowa inmate records can be obtained from the Iowa Department of Correction. Inmate records can also be searched online using the Department of Corrections Offender Search page. An offender record search in Iowa will provide information about the subject of the search, including their name, current location, age, sex, date of birth, offender ID number, and charges. 

Iowa Department of Corrections Central Office

510 E 12th Street

Des Moines, IA 50319

Phone: (515) 725-5701

Iowa Public Sex Offender Information

Sex offender information in Iowa is considered public information. It can be obtained from the Sex Offender Registry maintained by the State Division of Criminal Investigation. Members of the public can use the search page on the registry to look up sex offenders in their area. To look up sex offender records, requesters will need to provide information such as the subject’s name, age, gender, and location.

This registry is compiled from local law enforcement and sheriff’s offices and is meant to allow the public to access such records and take the necessary precautions easily. Using the information from the registry is illegal to threaten or harass any registrants.

Iowa Public Property Records

Property records in Iowa include leases, titles, deeds, tax assessments and records, mortgages, and other state property details. These records are public and available from county recorders and county assessors in Iowa who maintain these records. To obtain property records in Iowa, requesters must submit a request with enough information for an accurate search. Information such as the owner of the property, the county, and the property address will help streamline the search for the records.

What is Exempted Under the Iowa Public Records Act?

A record being exempted under Iowa’s public record law means it remains confidential unless otherwise ordered by a court, its lawful custodian, or another authority. Iowa’s public records law Section 22.7 lists a wide variety of records that remain confidential under the law, including the following:

  • Hospital, medical, and professional counselor records of a condition, diagnosis, care, or treatment of any patients and counselees
  • Any trade secrets that are recognized and protected as such by law
  • Records under attorney-client privilege that are related to litigation or claims made against or by a public body
  • Any records or reports to government agencies which, if released, would grant undue advantage to competitors and serve no public purpose.
  • Peace officers' investigative reports and records if that information is part of an ongoing investigation
  • Criminal identification files of law enforcement agencies.
  • Personal information in the confidential personnel records of government bodies 
  • Economic development authority records on any industrial prospect the authority is currently in negotiations with

How Do I Find Public Records in Iowa?

Locating public records in Iowa usually depends on the type of record in question. In general, public records in Iowa can be obtained by following some simple steps, namely:

  • Locating the agency and custodian who maintain the record
  • Gathering sufficient information to identify the record during a search
  • Submit the request to the custodian and pay any fees

Any government agency or public body that maintains the record while performing its duties is the custodian of the record. This means different agencies may maintain the same records at a local or state level and accept public record requests for them. Listed below are some custodians for various public records in Iowa:

Can I Find Free Public Records in Iowa Using Third-Party Sites?

Members of the public have the option to obtain public records for free via third-party websites. Most of the data on these websites will be sourced and compiled from multiple databases from within and outside Iowa. This makes the integrity and accuracy of these records vary as they were not obtained from the official government databases. Verifying information from third-party sites is advised by double-checking it via official sources.

Some information available from third-party websites for free includes criminal and court records. While using these sites, requesters will be required to provide information for the search, such as the registrant's name, age, location, and date the record was filed. 

How Much Do Public Records Cost in Iowa?

There is no fixed structure for fees during public record requests in Iowa. The Iowa Public Record Law allows government bodies to charge a reasonable amount for expenses incurred while completing the request. Custodians are instructed to make every effort to provide the record requested at no cost other than copying costs.

The custodians may charge for the services of their authorized staff, who supervise the examination and copying of the records. The cost must not exceed the actual cost of providing the service.

It should be noted when the custodian has set the fee, fulfillment of the request may be contingent on receipt of payment. Where this is the case, the custodian must inform the requester upon receipt of the request. For example, vital records in Iowa cost $15 per copy, which must be paid before the record is received. It is advisable to contact the record custodian of the government agency for information about any fees related to their public record requests.

What Happens if I Am Refused a Public Records Request?

A public record request in Iowa may be denied for various reasons, including the following:

  • The record may be confidential under the law
  • The request may be erroneous or vague
  • The custodian may require more time or information to complete the record

Record seekers have several options if they believe they have been wrongfully denied a public record request. They may seek to enforce their rights via a writ of mandamus or bring an action against the government agency and its records custodian in the county's district court, where the agency has its principal place of business. The burden will be on the defendant to prove that their actions comply with all aspects of the Iowa Public Record Law.

Requesters also have the option to file complaints with the Iowa Public Information Board(IPIB) alleging a violation of the public record laws. The complaint must be filed within sixty days from the time when the alleged violation took place. The board will review the request and complaint and then render a decision in favor of the requester or the government agency.

Iowa Public Records
  • Criminal Records
  • Arrests Records
  • Warrants
  • Driving Violations
  • Inmate Records
  • Felonies
  • Misdemeanors
  • Bankruptcies
  • Tax & Property Liens
  • Civil Judgements
  • Federal Dockets
  • Probate Records
  • Marriage Records
  • Divorce Records
  • Death Records
  • Property Records
  • Asset Records
  • Business Ownership
  • Professional Licenses
  • And More!