History of Missouri - Public Record Laws
Missouri became a state in 1821 after the US purchased the land from France in 1809. The state's major industries are agriculture, food, manufacturing, aerospace and transportation. Missouri ranks 19th in size with 69,697 miles of territory and a population of almost 6 million people. It’s centralized location and proximity to the Mississippi river played a big role in the Missouri’s early economic growth. The state is the eight ranked in the U.S. for non-fuel mineral production.
Missouri has of 3 branches of government. The executive branch is comprised of elected officials such as the governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state auditor, treasurer, lieutenant governor and the state’s individual departments. The legislative branch consists of the state’s senate and its house of representatives. The judicial branch is the state’s courts system.
There are 114 counties, one independent city (St Louis) and 946 municipalities. County governments have elected officials such as the sheriff, commissioners, administrator, prosecutor, assessor, treasurer, revenue collector and coroner. Missouri was the first state to grant cities home rule in the U.S., where they can hold local elections for their mayor and council.
Missouri statutes adopted privacy laws in 1973. The state’s Sunshine Law is similar to the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) passed in 1966. Missourians are assured transparency and access to public records, operations, budgeting, elections and any other information that is in the custody of the state, county or local governments. This law also provides for government meetings to be open to the public. Open governments allows the residents of Missouri to obtain records for any purpose and does not bar anyone or entity with the exception of few restrictions. Guidelines vary from agency to agency, however, departments generally have the burden of showing why a certain record is not available to the public. These claims are challenged by reporters, private entities and in some cases individuals looking to uncover information held by agencies.
Missourians request records for reasons other than government scrutiny. As state and local governments are the custodian of records held in many of its agencies, their information is available for residents to request, view and copy. Documents such as birth, death, marriage and divorce information can be ordered from the Missouri department of health and human services. Anyone can conduct a background check by requesting a report from the state highway patrol’s criminal justice information services division. Cases and court proceedings, including criminal filings, lawsuits, judgments and liens can be obtained from the Missouri courts. State issued licenses to professionals such as medical personnel, accountants and contractors are searched by residents regularly to verify validity and status of good standing. Access to county records are also essential to residents such as assessors offices records. Property addresses, valuations, ownerships as well as other details are available to the general public from county to county. Locals can see government employee salaries such as city manager’s and council members’ pay.
Government agency policy and what records are available varies from one area to another. MissouriPublicRecord.com is a site focused on public record retrieval and offers many advantages to conducting a speedy search. You can look up a certain record without knowing the specific agency, structure of each department or which keywords to search. A directory of agencies that offer public records with instructions as to where and how to obtain them can save aimless searching online. Directly access the court automated case management system to obtain court records. Look up where arrest records are instantly available to the public online. Citizens can go to state archives to look up Missouri ancestry and genealogy research with the most updated sources on the internet.