Wisconsin Public Records
All persons are entitled to inspect any record maintained by a state or local government agency, with certain exceptions as stated by the Wisconsin Open Records Law.
The law requires that the government agency provide access to the records with no specific timeframe and at a reasonable cost unless there is a legal basis for not providing the documents.
How to Find Wisconsin Public Records
There are a few ways to request public records from the state of Wisconsin.
You can either submit a written request to the government agency that you believe maintains the records, or you can submit an online request form to agencies with a tool or database to facilitate online requests.
You can also visit the government agency's office in person to request records, although you may be required to submit a written request first.
Are Wisconsin Public Records Available Online?
As we mentioned above, some Wisconsin government agencies have an online records request tool or database that you can use to submit your request.
You can also order via mail or in-person appointment.
You can also directly contact the government agency you believe maintains the records you request.
For example, if you want to request property records, you need to contact the Register of Deeds in the county where the property is located.
What Records are Available in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin public records can include but are not limited to:
- Vital Records (birth, death, marriage, and divorce records)
- Property Records (deeds, mortgages, liens, etc.)
- Court Records
- Inmate & Jail Records
- Sex Offender Records
- Wanted Person Records
- Unclaimed Property Records
The Wisconsin State Archives also maintains a variety of historical records, including:
- Historical Birth, Death, Marriage & Divorce Records
- Census Records
- Military Records
- Naturalization & Immigration Records
- Probate & Court Records
- Land Records
- And more
The public can access these records by visiting the Wisconsin State Archives in person, submitting a written request, or at a local area research center.
What Records are Non-Public in Wisconsin?
The Wisconsin Public Records Law states explicitly that there are a few types of records that are exempt from disclosure, including but not limited to:
- Trade secrets
- Public personnel records
- Law enforcement records
- Certain types of court records
Types of Public Records Available in Wisconsin
Below are some of the most common types of public records available in Wisconsin:
Wisconsin Public Criminal Records
The centralized criminal history (CCH) database of the Wisconsin Department of Justice contains criminal history information reported by law enforcement agencies and courts from across the state.
The following information can be found on the CCH database:
- Information on arrests
- Arrest charges
- Court findings
- State correctional system admissions
By registering for an account, you can request a Wisconsin criminal history record check through the Department of Justice's Wisconsin Online Record Check System (WORCS).
Police Departments and Sheriffe Office in Wisconsin :
Arrest Records and Warrants
Arrest records and warrants can be accessed through each county's Sheriff's Office.
You can visit the office or submit a written request for the records. Some counties have an online search tool that you can use to search for arrest records.
To find a specific county's Sheriff's Office website, you can visit the Wisconsin Sheriffs & Deputy Sheriffs Association website.
Information that can be found on an arrest record includes but is not limited to:
- The name of the person arrested
- The time and date of the arrest
- The location of the arrest
- The charges
- A mugshot
- Bail information
Depending on the county, some Sheriff's Office websites may also provide information on wanted persons and most wanted lists.
Inmate and Jail Records
The Wisconsin Department of Corrections has a search tool on their website that allows you to search for inmates by name, DOC number, or keyword.
Some counties may also have online search tools that you can use to find jail records.
Jails and Prisons in Wisconsin :
Wisconsin Background Checks
WORCS, the Wisconsin Online Record Check System, is a service provided by the Wisconsin Department of Justice that allows customers to request criminal background checks online.
Employers, landlords, and adoption agencies are some entities allowed to request criminal background checks.
FCRA specifically states that employers must produce a written statement of authorization signed by the applicant or employee before requesting a background check.
Wisconsin also states that employers are not allowed to discriminate against applicants or employees based on their criminal history.
How to find Sex Offenders in Wisconsin
DOC has a Sex Offender Registry Tool (SORT) website that allows you to search for sex offenders by name, county, city, or ZIP code.
The search will provide the offender's name, photo, address, and the offense they were convicted of.
Wisconsin Public Vital Records
As with most states in the US, Wisconsin's Department of Health Services is in charge of maintaining and issuing vital records such as birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, and divorce records.
You can request vital records via mail, online, or in person. The cost and the turnaround time will depend on the type of record you request and how you request it.
Vitalchek Wisconsin is the state's official vital records ordering system where you can request essential records online or over the phone.
For more information, you can visit the Wisconsin Vital Records website.
Wisconsin Court Records
Wisconsin is an open records state, which means that most court records are available to the public. The only exception to this rule are cases that involve juveniles, adoption, probate, mental health, and sealed records.
The Wisconsin Court System has a case search tool on its website that allows you to search for court records across the state.
You can also narrow your search by going directly to the local county court where the case was filed.
State Court System in Wisconsin
Courts in Wisconsin are divided into four levels:
The Supreme Court is the state's highest court and hears appeals from the Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals hears appeals from the circuit courts.
The Circuit Court of Wisconsin is the primary trial court having jurisdiction covering both civil and criminal court cases.
Municipal Courts are the lowest level of courts in Wisconsin and have limited jurisdiction over traffic violations, ordinance violations, and other misdemeanors.
Courts in Wisconsin :
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is responsible for issuing and maintaining driving records.
To obtain a copy of your driving record through mail, you must fill out a request form and submit it to the DOT. Listed below are the steps you need to follow:
- Fill out the Vehicle/Driver Record Information Request form MV2896.
- For non-certified records, add $7 for each record; for certified records, add $12.
- Make a check or money order payable to the Registration Fee Trust.
- Send to Driver Records at WisDOT. P.O. Box 7995.
Alternatively, you can also request it online through this tool. It would be best if you had the following information ready to start your search:
- Your Wisconsin Driver's License or ID Card number
- The last four digits of your Social Security number
- Your date of birth
- Your gender
- Your full name
- Your complete Social Security number
- Your date of birth
- Your gender
- A valid email address
- A valid debit or credit card
Driving records also include information on civil driving infractions, such as speeding and parking tickets.
In Wisconsin, a point system is used to track civil driving infractions. Points are added to your driving record whenever you are convicted of a traffic violation.
Should any driver accumulate 12+ points within one year, that person’s driver’s license will face suspension.
To check the status of your driver's license, you can use this online tool.
The Department of Transportation has an online license plate lookup tool that allows you to search for a vehicle's owner by entering the license plate number.
The following information can be found through a license plate lookup:
- Registration expiration date
- Vehicle year
- Vehicle make
- Renewal reference number
Each county holds its property records, which are public information. You may contact the local county courthouse to access these records.
Alternatively, you can use third-party websites to search for property records.
Unclaimed property refers to any assets that the owner has abandoned. The State Treasurer is in charge of managing unclaimed property.
You can search for an unclaimed property through the treasurer's office website.
The following are some important government agencies in Wisconsin:
- Secretary of State
- State Governor
- Wisconsin State Legislature
- Supreme Court
- Department of Justice
- Vital Records
- Department of Health Services
- Wisconsin State Patrol
- Court of Claims
- Treasurer’s Office
- Department of Safety and Professional Services
- Department of Corrections
Counties in Wisconsin
- Eau Claire
- Fond Du Lac
- Green Lake
- La Crosse
- Saint Croix
Other Records in Wisconsin
List of Content
- How to Find Wisconsin Public Records
- What Records are Available in Wisconsin?
- Types of Public Records Available in Wisconsin
- Important Government Agencies in Wisconsin
- Other Records