Under Missouri’s Sunshine Law, unless otherwise excluded by law, records kept by public governmental bodies are open and available to the public. This means that in Missouri, with a few exceptions, law enforcement agencies and the court system must make criminal and arrest records available. Although there are many services that will conduct a Missouri criminal records search for a fee, you can also access many of these records for free online through the Missouri courts system and law enforcement agencies.
Exceptions to the Public Records Law
While Missouri’s Sunshine Law, found in the Missouri Revised Statutes Section 610, does ensure that most public records are open to the public, there are exceptions. Public records are defined as any written or electronic report, survey, memorandum or any other document retained by or prepared for a public body. In general, arrest and incident reports are open to the public, as are records of criminal convictions.
Under Missouri law, exceptions to the open records rule that pertain to criminal records include:
- Reports that pertain to ongoing investigations.
- Arrest record of persons not charged within 30 days of arrest.
- If release of a record would pose a clear and present danger to a victim, confidential informant, witness, undercover officer or other person, police may redact any portion of that record.
- Privileged communications between the government body and its attorneys.
- Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and other personal information.
- Records pertaining to cases where the prosecution declined to prosecute, charges were dismissed or the defendant was found not guilty.
Even though some records are closed or not accessible to the public under the Sunshine Law, you can generally access case records in which you were the defendant. Closed records are also available to criminal justice agencies for various purposes.
Access Missouri Criminal Records Online Free
Although there are for-profit companies that will conduct criminal background checks for a fee, you can find Missouri court records online, free of charge. Case.net is a public records search website run by the Missouri court system that allows anyone to search for public case records, including docket entries, party names, judgments and criminal charges.
Navigate to the Missouri Courts website to access the Missouri public records website, Case.net. To conduct a Missouri Case.net litigant name search, click on Litigant Name Search to find any court records associated with that person’s name.
Fill in at least the last name of the litigant you are searching for. If the last name is common, you may need to include a first name, middle name, case type and filing year to narrow down the results. Each case number associated with that person will appear, and using the case number, you will be able to search through all of the public case information pertaining to that particular incident.
Although these records are available online for free, if you wish to obtain a copy of public records from a governmental agency, you may need to pay a fee.
Where to Find Missouri Arrest Records Online
To search for arrest records from Missouri police departments, you must request that information directly from the department that made the arrest. Search online for each police department's record request procedure. Some departments have public records portals that allow you to access these records online for free, such as the Missouri Highway Patrol Public Records Center./SupportHome.aspx?sSessionID=) However, the Missouri Sunshine Law only requires that governmental agencies allow access to public records, not that those records be available online, so some departments, like the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the St. Louis County Police Department, accept records requests only when made in person.
- Your Missouri Courts: Case.net
- Missouri Revisor of Statutes: 610.120
- Missouri Revisor of Statutes: 610.021
- Metropolitan Police Department: Police Reports and Records Checks
- Digital Media Law Project: Access to Public Records in Missouri
- Missouri Attorney General: Missouri Sunshine Law
- St. Louis County Police: Central Records