Find out which government records are available to the public in each state in the revised, Open Government Guide, produced by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
The access to public records for private investigators, lawyers or journalists is more often than not the same as that accorded to the unwashed masses. Some special privileges are reserved to the media in accessing voter registration records in California. We also have a toothless law that specifies that a “court-appointed licensed private investigator shall have the same rights and privileges to information as the public defender and the public defender investigator…” But which agency provides the electronic access to court and DMV records? Next time you’re working a criminal case and want mug shots, take a copy of PC 987.2(f) with you. If your county Sheriff’s office has given them to the public defender it’s required to turn them over to a private investigator.
Other resources and guides to researching public records and freedom of information laws and obtaining public records:
Investigative Reporters and Editors, Freedom of Information Center