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Are Vermont Records Public?

Most records generated or maintained by government offices and officers in Vermont are open to the public. The Vermont public records Act provides that any person may inspect or copy any public record maintained by a local or state agency. Public records may be stored electronically, physically, in writing, as photographs, or as audio recordings. Interested persons can make requests for these records and the custodian of the record is required by law to provide the record. However, some exempted records cannot be viewed or copied by members of the public. Examples of exempted records include confidential records, records that deny a party's right to a fair trial, and records that may interfere with justice if disclosed. Public records which are accessible to any person in the State of Vermont include:

  • Records of court proceedings
  • Criminal records which are not confidential
  • Arrest records
  • Records of inmates
  • Certain sex offender information
  • Bankruptcy records

Record custodians may charge fees for making copies and sending the record.

Who Can Access Vermont Public Records?

The Vermont Statute Annotated § 316(a) states that any person may inspect or copy any public record of a public agency. Vermont Statute Annotated § 318(b) goes further to state that upon receiving a request, the custodian of the record must make the record promptly available for inspection of copying. The identity of the person is not one of the grounds for denial of inspection or a copy of public records. Any person can get access to Vermont public records regardless of who they are. This includes juridical persons like limited liability companies and corporations. The person has the right to either view the record or to receive a copy of the record. However, this is subject to the fact that exempted records cannot be inspected or copied and the requester may need to pay some fees. If a request is denied for any reason, the reason should be stated.

What is Exempted Under the Vermont Public Record Law?

The Vermont Code Annotated § 317(c) exempts some records from public access. If a record is exempted, the custodian of the record will deny any request to inspect or view the record. The custodian would also need to provide the reason for denying the request in writing Exempted records in Vermont may include:

  1. Records that have been made confidential by law. Other laws outside of the Vermont Code Annotated § 317(c) can make records exempt from the public records accessible by members of the public. Vermont Code Annotated § 317(c1).
  2. Records that are only available to designated persons are exempted from accessible public records. In this case, these are records that may only be viewed by some persons who are qualified to access those records. Any other person who is not qualified to view the record would have their request denied. Also, persons who are qualified to view the records would need to provide identification to show this. Vermont Code Annotated § 317(c2).
  3. Records which should not be disclosed due to any code of conduct or ethics of professionals. In this situation, all records which will cause a violation of such codes of conduct if disclosed are exempted from being accessible to the public. One example of such records are records protected by the attorney-client privilege. Vermont Code Annotated § 317(c3).
  4. Records related to the detection and investigation of crime. Records related to the detection and investigation of crime may only be disclosed if it is in the interest of the public to do so; if it does not affect any person’s right to a fair hearing; and if it does not cause an invasion of any person’s right to privacy. Records that disclose confidential sources, may endanger the life or physical safety of any individual, or may disclose techniques and procedures of criminal investigation should not be disclosed. Vermont Code Annotated § 317(c5).
  5. Financial records submitted to the Vermont Department of Taxes or any public agency in connection with the agency business. Examples of these records include tax returns and related documents, correspondence, and some forms. Vermont Code Annotated § 317(c6).
  6. Personal documents of individuals. These personal documents include information retained for hiring, evaluation, promotion, discipline, or medical records. However, where a personnel is the subject of the record, the record shall be available to that personnel or their chosen representative. Vermont Code Annotated § 317(c7).
  7. Test questions, scoring keys, and other examination instruments or data used to administer a license, employment, or academic examination. Vermont Code Annotated § 317(c8).
  8. Trade secrets. These trade secrets are confidential business records or information. They include patterns, mechanisms, tools, formulae, procedures, and other such information. Vermont Code Annotated § 317(c9).

Note: The records exempted from public access are not exhaustive. The Vermont Code Annotated § 317(c) 42 classes of exempted records. Additionally, records may be exempted by other laws or court orders.

How Do I Find Public Records in Vermont?

Any person can find a public record in Vermont by contacting the custodian of the record. Vermont state law requires government agencies to make a record promptly available following a request. Requests should be made in writing and should appropriately describe the record that is sought. A request may be denied if the description of the record is not clear enough. To prevent this, requesters are encouraged to provide enough unique information about the record such as the name of the record’s subject or a unique number associated with the record. Some offices, such as the Vermont Superior Court, provide a sample record request form.

Access to public information largely depends on the record the requester seeks. For instance, the Vermont Department of Health maintains Vermont vital records. Any person who seeks to inspect or copy vital records such as Vermont divorce records, Vermont birth records, and Vermont death records can do so by contacting the Department of Health. The Vermont Crime Information Center maintains Vermont criminal records and the sex offender registry. Generally, the Department of Public Service provides public records and can be contacted at:

Vermont Department of Public Service
Carol Flint
Freedom of Information Act/Public Records Officer
112 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05620-2601
Email: carol.flint@vermont.gov

Requests may be made online, in person, or by mail. The request should generally contain:

  • The requester’s contact information
  • A description of the record sufficient to identify it
  • The record the requester wants to view or copy

Some public records may also be accessible from third-party websites. These websites are not limited by geographic location and come with expansive search tools. Record seekers can use these sites to start a search for a specific record or multiple records. To use a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the document or person involved

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party websites may vary.

How Much Do Public Records Cost in Vermont?

The cost of public records in Vermont depends on the specific request. Vermont Statute Annotated § 316(c) allows public agencies to charge for records, depending on the cost of providing the record. Applicable charges are determined by the Secretary of State after consultation with the Secretary of Administration. In accordance with this, fees have been fixed, although they may be reviewed and the law does not set a limit on how much should be charged. Instead, the fee should be the actual cost of providing the record, including the cost of making copies, cost of delivery, and cost of maintaining staff to provide the records. 32 Vermont Statute Annotated §1751(b)(1)(B) provides for a 25 cents per page charge for each photocopy. However, no charge for photocopies should not be less than $1. Exemplified copies cost $10 while certified copies cost $5.

How Do I Look Up Public Records in Vermont for Free?

Looking up a public record in Vermont for free depends on the specific record, what the requester desires, how the request is made, and the custodian of the records. A person who only desires to inspect a public record physically at the location it is stored may not need to pay any charges. For example, public access to free Vermont court records is granted if the requester only wants to inspect the records. However, not all records are readily available for inspection. Some have to be extracted or compiled. Records that may be inspected physically include sex offender information, arrest records, and incident reports. Agencies that provide physical inspection of records have a terminal or lobby to allow interested persons to inspect the records during business hours. Also, electronic copies of records may be obtained at no cost. This is the case for some records obtained online. Inmate records and sex offender information are provided online to any person and can be viewed without paying any fees.

Do I Need to State My Purpose When Requesting Public Records in Vermont?

Individuals requesting access to public records in Vermont do not need to state their purpose. However, the custodian may ask for the requester’s purpose if it shall be instrumental in accurately providing the records. A requester who wishes to expedite their request may also be required to state the reason for their request.

What Happens if I Am Refused a Public Records Request?

A person whose request to inspect or copy a record is denied may appeal the decision to the head of the Vermont Department of Public Service. Before the appeal, the requester should attempt to obtain the reason the request was denied in writing. Vermont law requires that any officer that denies a request to view public records should state the reason for the denial in writing. If the public officer fails to provide the record within the time they stated they would provide the record or the time provided by the Statute, it shall be regarded as a denial of access to the record. In such a situation, the requester may still proceed to appeal the decision. The head of the Department of Public Service is to make a determination regarding appeals where access to public records has been denied within five business days. If the denial is upheld, the person that denied the appeal would need to provide the statutory basis for denying the request, a brief statement of the reason and supporting facts for denying the request, and notification of the requester’s right to judicial review. The appeal may be made to:

Vermont Department of Public Service
Carol Flint
Freedom of Information Act/Public Records Officer
112 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05620-2601
Email: carol.flint@vermont.gov

1 Vermont Statute Annotated §319 allows requesters to bring an action in the Civil Division of the Superior Court if they are denied access to a record. The claim should be brought in the county in which the requester resides, carries out business, the record is located, or in Washington County. If the Court finds that the denial was wrongful, it shall make an order for the public agency to make the record available.

How to Remove Names From Public Search Records?

Individuals whose names are a part of public records may remove their names from public search records through expungement, sealing, or pursuant to a pardon from the Governor’s office. Vermont Statutes (§ 7601) provides for records to be sealed. Most demeanors and some felonies may be sealed by the District Court that convicted the person of the crime. The individual who seeks to have their records sealed would need to complete the Petition to Expunge or Seal Criminal History form. Criminal records may also be sealed when the crime the individual was convicted of is no longer a crime. The following conditions should be met before records are expunged in Vermont.

  • At least five or ten years should have passed since the person successfully completed the sentence of their conviction, depending on the crime
  • The person has been convicted for a new crime since the previous crime to be sealed
  • Any restitution or surcharges by the court should have been paid in full
  • The court should find that the expungement or sealing of the record serves the interest of justice

Rather than being expunged, the records shall be sealed if the person satisfies the following requirements.

  • Sealing of the criminal record better serves the interest of justice than expungement
  • The person committed the crime after reaching the age of 19 years old

Individuals can also have arrests and charges without conviction sealed if:

  • Within 60 days of the disposition of the case, the charge is dismissed before trial without prejudice or the court does not make a determination of probable cause at the time of arraignment
  • At any time if the prosecuting attorney and the defendant stipulate that the court may grant the petition to expunge the record

Upon sealing or expungement of a record by court order, the Vermont Crime Information Center (VCIC) will remove the record from those that are publicly accessible and notify other agencies with the records such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The case file of the conviction remains available as part of court records until all crimes contained in the docket are either sealed or expunged. Persons who have records of their crimes sealed or expunged can validly respond to a question regarding a prior criminal conviction in the negative. The difference between sealing and expunging a record is that while a sealed record becomes inaccessible to the public, an expunged record is destroyed or completely removed. Sealed records may still be used for criminal investigation and prosecution purposes while expunged records may not.

What is the Best Public Records Search Database?

The best records search database differs based on the type of record. Different public offices maintain databases that members of the public can use to access Vermont public records. One example is the Vermont Crime Information Center which maintains a sex offender registry. Any person may access the information contained in the registry. The registry allows users to search for sex offenders in Vermont either by name or location. Interested persons may also sign up to be notified by email when a registered sex offender relocates to their community. The registry provides personal information of sex offenders such as their name, age, photograph, level, and date of conviction.

The different counties within Vermont also maintain public records. Washington County public records search for arrest records and criminal records can be carried out at the Sheriff’s Office at:

Washington County Sheriff's Department
10, Elm Street
Montpelier, VT 05601-0678
P.O. Box 678
Phone: (802) 223-3001
Fax: (802) 828-3611

Chittenden County also allows Chittenden County public records search. Interested persons can obtain arrest records, criminal records, and court records within the county. Chittenden County court records can be obtained by completing the and submitting to:

Vermont Superior Court
175 Main Street,
Burlington, VT 05402
Phone: (802) 863-3467

How Long Does It Take to Obtain a Vermont Public Record?

The Vermont Statute Annotated § 318 provides that requests for public records should be responded to within three business days unless otherwise provided in specific circumstances. A failure by the custodian of the records to provide the record within the required time shall be taken as a denial. The law also recognizes exceptional cases in which a custodian may require more than three business days from the day of request to make the record available. If the record is in use or is stored in another facility, the custodian of the records would state this in writing and specify a date within one calendar week when the record would be available. The custodian may extend how long they require to make the record available in unusual circumstances. However, it should not be more than ten days. Exceptional circumstances which may require more time include circumstances in which the custodian needs to retrieve the record from another facility, extract the record from existing records, or engage in consultation to make the records available.

Within the period of receiving the request and the expiration of the three business days, the custodian of the records would need to determine whether the record is exempted or may be disclosed to any person. After doing this, the custodian should respond to the requester in writing. The custodian would need to state the reason for denial if a request is denied. The custodian may deny a request if the description by the requester is not sufficient to allow the custodian to reasonably find the record. In such a case, the custodian shall state this reason in writing. If the request is successful, the requester may obtain the records from the custodian. However, the requester has to pay any fees required by the custodian. Records that contain exempted information may also need to have those parts redacted to protect privacy.