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Wisconsin Court Records

WisconsinCourtRecords.us is not a consumer reporting agency as defined by the FCRA and does not provide consumer reports. All searches conducted on WisconsinCourtRecords.us are subject to the Terms of Service and Privacy Notice.

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Are Wisconsin Records Public?

Yes, Wisconsin records are generally accessible to the public. The Wisconsin Public Records Law governs the accessibility of Wisconsin records at all government levels. It provides that government records are open to inspection and copying by the public, with some exceptions based on privacy, security, and other factors.

Who Can Access Wisconsin Public Records?

Anyone can access Wisconsin public records except committed or incarcerated persons. The Wisconsin Public Records Law provides that any requester has a right to inspect a record or copy such record, except otherwise provided by law. You do not have to be a state resident to request public records in Wisconsin.

Although Wisconsin is an open records state, there are many exceptions provided under the Wisconsin Public Records Law that limit access to public records. These exceptions include:

  • Records containing private or personal information that are exempt from public disclosure.
  • Records containing personal identifiable information that its disclosure may endanger a person’s life or safety, lead to the identification of a confidential informant, endanger public security, or compromise the rehabilitation of a person in custody.
  • Records regarding ongoing investigations that may jeopardize such investigation or affect the integrity of the investigation.
  • Sealed or expunged court files.
  • Records under official pledges of confidentiality.
  • Information constituting trade secret or proprietary information.
  • Educational records protected by federal law (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).
  • Communications between attorneys and their clients protected by attorney-client privilege.
  • Any records specifically exempt from disclosure under federal law.

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

Wisconsin Public Records Law does not require requesters to state their purpose or intended use when requesting public records. The law is designed to promote transparency and openness, and individuals have the right to access public records for any reason as long as the request is made for a lawful purpose. Although you are not obligated to state your purpose, you may be required to provide sufficient detail to identify the requested records.

It should be noted that while there is a presumption of openness regarding accessing records, there are situations outside the statutory or common law exceptions that the release of information could infringe on individual privacy rights. In such situations, access to records is determined by the balancing test. The balancing test involves weighing the public’s right to know against the potential harm or invasion of privacy that could result from disclosing specific information. The test strikes a balance between transparency and protecting individuals’ privacy rights.

What Records are Public in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, all records, except those exempted by law, created and maintained by governmental agencies at all levels during their official business, are public. This includes court records, criminal records, arrest records, bankruptcy records, birth records, and property records, to mention a few.

Wisconsin Public Court Records

Court records in Wisconsin are documents and information related to legal proceedings and cases handled by courts in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Circuit Court System is responsible for maintaining these records. Public court records in Wisconsin typically include case filings, pleadings, judgments, court orders, motions, and other documents related to civil, criminal, family, probate, and juvenile cases. Court records are accessible to the public in person at the office of the court clerk for the county where the case was filed. Court records and information are also available online through the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA) website. It is free and accessible at any time.

Although Wisconsin court records are generally accessible to the public, confidential information, juvenile records, and sealed or expunged records are not available for public viewing. Also, certain court records may be confidential until particular events happen in the court action, and they become open records. For example, in determining paternity, the court records are confidential only until paternity is determined. A search warrant is confidential until the warrant is executed. 

Wisconsin Public Criminal Records

In Wisconsin, criminal records are documents and information that relate to an individual’s involvement in criminal activities. The Crime Information Bureau of the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) maintains public criminal records at the state level. Public criminal records in Wisconsin include warrant information, booking information, arrest records, court documents, conviction records, sentencing information, and probation and parole records.

Criminal records in Wisconsin are accessible to the public. However, there are certain situations where criminal records are not accessible to the public. They include victim information, juvenile records, and sealed or expunged records. Juvenile records are available only for daycare background checks.

Criminal records in Wisconsin are accessible online and by mail. You require the complete name, sex, race, and date of birth of the individual being checked to obtain criminal records. Criminal records can be obtained online through the Wisconsin Online Record Check System. An online criminal record check costs $7 and an additional $5 charge if you want the result mailed to you.

To obtain criminal records by mail in Wisconsin, fill out the Single Name Record Request Form DL-LE-250 or the Multiple Subject Requests DJ-LE-250A and include a letter seeking a certified background check. Mail these documents with the prescribed fee stated on the form to:

Wisconsin Department of Justice

Crime Information Bureau

Record Check Unit

PO Box 2688

Madison, WI 53701-2688

(608) 266-7314

Wisconsin Public Arrest Records

Arrest records in Wisconsin are generally available to the public, except where the law restricts public access. An arrest record contains the name of the arrested person, time and date of arrest, location of arrest, charges, a mugshot, and bail information. Wisconsin arrest records are available at the county Sheriff’s Office where the arrest was made. To obtain an arrest record, you can visit the Sheriff’s Office or submit a written request for the record. You will require the name of the search subject and other information relevant to identifying the record.

The Crime Information Bureau of the Wisconsin Department of Justice also maintains and provides access to arrest records. They can be obtained for a fee online through the Wisconsin Online Record Check System or by mail by completing the Single Name Record Request Form DL-LE-250 or the Multiple Subject Requests DJ-LE-250A and include a letter seeking a certified background check.

Wisconsin Public Bankruptcy Records

Bankruptcy records in Wisconsin refer to documents related to individuals or businesses involved in bankruptcy cases. They contain the names of the parties (debtor and creditor), assets, liabilities, creditors, type of bankruptcy case, name of court, and case number.

Two federal courts in Wisconsin handle bankruptcy cases in Wisconsin:

The clerks of the respective courts are primarily responsible for generating and maintaining Wisconsin bankruptcy records.

You can obtain bankruptcy records in Wisconsin online, by mail or in person. Register for a Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) account to obtain bankruptcy records online. PACER is an electronic public access service that enables registered users to access electronic case information from federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts and use the PACER Case Locator. Take note of the applicable electronic access fee.

You can also visit the clerk’s office of the Eastern or Western District to use the public PACER computers to search or request the clerk to search the document and print out the documents. There is a search fee and a charge per page printed. The clerk’s office of each district is below:

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Eastern District of Wisconsin

517 E. Wisconsin Avenue, Room. 126

Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Western District of Wisconsin

120 North Henry Street, Room 340

Madison, WI 53703-2559

In addition, you can send a written request to the clerk’s office above to have the requested documents printed. There is a fee schedule to enable you to know the cost of searching and copying bankruptcy records.

Wisconsin Public Birth Records

Wisconsin public birth records contain information such as the individual’s full name, date of birth, place of birth, parents’ names, and mother’s maiden name. The Division of Public Health of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services is responsible for maintaining birth records in the state. To obtain birth records, you must submit a request to the Division of Public Health, providing details of the search subject, including birth name (as it appears on the birth certificate), sex, date of birth, place of birth, and parent’s names.

Wisconsin birth records may be obtained by mail. Complete the Wisconsin Birth Records Application Form. Mail the completed form with the fees ($20 for the first copy and $3 for each additional copy) and a valid ID to:

Division of Public Health

PO Box 309

Madison, WI 53701-0309

Pursuant to Wis. Stat. ch. 69, birth records of the following persons may not be obtained by anyone:

  • A child born to unmarried parents and paternity has not been established.
  • A child born to unmarried parents and paternity was established by court order.

Also, privacy considerations in accessing birth records may exist, and certain restrictions may apply to protect sensitive information.

Wisconsin Public Death Records

Public death records in Wisconsin include information such as the deceased individual’s full name, date of death, place of death, cause of death, and the names of parents and/or spouse. The Division of Public Health of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services maintains death records in the state. To obtain public Wisconsin death records, you must make a request to the Division of Public Health with the necessary information, including the decedent’s name, date of death, place of death, Social Security Number, age, birthdate, occupation, spouse, and parents.

Wisconsin death records may be obtained by mail. Fill out the Wisconsin Death Records Application Form. Mail the completed form with the fees ($20 for the first copy and $3 for each additional copy) and a valid ID to:

Division of Public Health

PO Box 309

Madison, WI 53701-0309

Please note that privacy considerations may exist in accessing death records, and restrictions may apply to protect sensitive information.

Wisconsin Public Marriage Records 

Public marriage records in Wisconsin contain the full names of the spouses, the date and location of the marriage, and the names of witnesses. The Division of Public Health of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services is responsible for keeping marriage records in Wisconsin. To obtain Wisconsin marriage records, you have to make a request to the Division of Public Health with the necessary information, including the name of the couple, location of marriage, and date of marriage. Complete the Wisconsin Marriage Records Application Form and attach payment ($20 for the first copy and $3 for each additional copy) and a valid ID. Mail them to:

Division of Public Health

PO Box 309

Madison, WI 53701-0309.

Wisconsin Public Divorce Records

Wisconsin public divorce records include information like the names of the spouses, the date of the divorce, the location where the divorce was finalized, and details about child custody arrangements. To obtain divorce records in Wisconsin, you may need to contact the Clerk of Court in the county where the divorce was granted or the Division of Public Health of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

If you are requesting from the Division of Public Health, mail a completed Wisconsin Divorce Records Application Form, along with payment and a copy of your valid ID to:

Division of Public Health

PO Box 309

Madison, WI 53701-0309.

Wisconsin Public Inmate Records

Public inmate records in Wisconsin are accessible to the public. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) maintains inmate records at the state level, while the Sheriff’s Office of each county maintains the inmate records of their county. Wisconsin inmate records at the state level are available online. It allows you to search for inmates by name, DOC number, or keyword. Information available in public inmate records includes the inmate’s name, mugshot, identification details, incarceration dates, release dates, and details about the correctional facility. Information about inmates in county jails can be obtained by contacting the county sheriff’s office. Some counties have online search tools that you can use to find jail records.

For inquiries or requests related to Wisconsin inmate records, individuals can contact the Wisconsin Department of Corrections at:

Wisconsin Department of Corrections

3099 E. Washington Ave.

Madison, WI 53704-4335

(608) 240-5000

Wisconsin Public Sex Offender Information

Sex offender information in Wisconsin is available to the public. The DOC maintains an online Sex Offender Registry that contains details about registered sex offenders. This information is made accessible to the public and allows individuals to search for sex offenders by name, location, or specific offenses. Users can obtain details about registered sex offenders, including their names, addresses, photographs, and information about their offenses.

It is important to emphasize the responsible use and dissemination of sex offender information. While public access to this information is intended to enhance community awareness and safety, it is important to use the information responsibly and not engage in vigilantism or harassment. Understanding the purpose of the Sex Offender Registry as a tool for public safety can help promote a balanced and informed community approach. Additionally, individuals should be aware of the legal implications of misusing or disseminating sex offender information irresponsibly.

Wisconsin Public Property Records

Wisconsin public property records include various information relating to real estate and land in the state. Common types of property information found in public records include ownership information (current and past), property value assessments, property tax records, sale and transfer history, and the property's boundary and characteristics descriptions.

To obtain property records in Wisconsin, contact the county Register of Deeds office or use the online resources provided by the county or municipality.

There are certain restrictions and considerations related to property records, including redaction of:

  • Personal information of property owners for privacy reasons 
  • Sensitive information.

What is Exempted Under the Wisconsin Public Records Act?

Although Wisconsin is an open records state, under the Wisconsin Public Records Law, there are certain exemptions that allow government entities to preclude public access to certain records or information. Exemptions are provisions that identify specific categories of information or records that are not subject to the general requirement of public accessibility. These statutory and common law exemptions include but are not limited to:

  • Records containing private or personal information that are exempt from public disclosure.
  • Records containing personal identifiable information that its disclosure may endanger a person’s life or safety, lead to the identification of a confidential informant, endanger public security, or compromise the rehabilitation of a person in custody.
  • Records regarding ongoing investigations that may jeopardize such investigation or affect the integrity of the investigation.
  • Sealed or expunged court files.
  • Records under official pledges of confidentiality.
  • Information constituting trade secret or proprietary information.
  • Educational records protected by federal law (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).
  • Communications between attorneys and their clients protected by attorney-client privilege.
  • Any record specifically exempt from disclosure under federal law.

To challenge an exemption or seek access to exempted records, you can:

  1. Request a review by the custodian agency: Where your request is denied based on an exemption, you can request an internal review by the agency responsible for maintaining the records.
  2. Contact the Office of Open Government of the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) for assistance or mediation
  3. Commence an action for mandamus asking the court to order the release of requested records. There are three ways you can commence an action for mandamus:
    • File the action yourself, with or without the assistance of an attorney
    • Submit a written request asking the district attorney of your county to pursue enforcement.
    • Submit a written request to the Attorney General to file an action for mandamus.

You should note that the district attorney and Attorney General have discretion in filing the action. They are not mandated by law to do so.

How Do I Find Public Records in Wisconsin?

Finding public records in Wisconsin largely depends on the type of record you are seeking. Visit the websites of relevant government agencies or contact them for information on the record request procedure. For example, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services maintains vital records, including birth, death, marriage, and divorce records. If the record is in the custody of local agencies, contact the relevant local county or municipal offices.

When searching for or requesting records, ensure that you provide accurate and sufficient information to aid the custodian agency in providing you with the requested record(s).

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

There are third-party sites that provide Wisconsin public records. However, you are advised to be cautious when using these sites. These sites may offer access to public records but often have potential risks and benefits. The potential risks include inaccurate or false information, incomplete information due to limited access to records, and sharing personal information, which raises privacy issues. The benefits include access to aggregated information, convenience, and access to additional services such as data analysis.

When using third-party sites, ensure you verify the information provided by cross-checking it with official government sources for accuracy. You should also use reputable sites and take note of their terms and conditions and privacy policies.

How Much Do Public Records Cost in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, the cost of accessing public records varies depending on the record type and the custodian government agency. The Wisconsin Public Records Law allows government agencies to determine the applicable fees to cover the costs of providing copies of records. The fees usually associated with public records requests in Wisconsin may include search fees, copy fees, redaction fees (for redacting sensitive or confidential information from records before release), and mailing fees.

Wisconsin’s public records law allows government agencies to charge fees that are reasonable and directly related to the actual cost of fulfilling the records request. However, there are provisions for fee waivers or reductions in certain circumstances, especially if the requester can demonstrate that the information is being sought for a public purpose. Requesters can inquire about the specific fee structure and any potential waivers or reductions when submitting a public records request to the relevant government agency. You can also check with the specific agency for detailed information on fees and any available exemptions or reductions based on the nature of the request and circumstances.

What Happens If I Am Refused a Public Records Request?

If your public records request is refused in Wisconsin, it may be due to certain exemptions or limitations outlined in the Wisconsin Public Records Law. Common reasons for refusal include:

  • Protection of sensitive personal information or records exempt from public disclosure to safeguard individual privacy.
  • Denial based on records related to security measures, emergency response plans, or infrastructure vulnerabilities.
  • Refusal to disclose records related to ongoing law enforcement investigations to maintain the integrity of the process.
  • Protection of information that constitutes trade secrets or proprietary data.

To challenge a denial, you can:

  1. Request a review of the denial by the custodian agency.
  2. Contact the Office of Open Government of the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) for assistance or mediation.
  3. File an action for mandamus, praying the court to order the release of requested records. You can do this through any of the following ways:
    • File the action yourself, with or without the assistance of an attorney.
    • Submit a written request asking the district attorney of your county to pursue enforcement.
    • Submit a written request to the Attorney General to file an action for mandamus.

The district attorney and Attorney General have discretion to file the action. They are not mandated by law to do so.

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Wisconsin Public Records