Public Records Information
New Jersey the “Garden State” is one of the original 13 colonies and became the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution in 1787 and the first state to sign the Bill of Rights. Trenton is the state capital of New Jersey. The 1776 state constitution gave the vote to “all inhabitants” who had a certain level of wealth including women and blacks. New Jersey was known as the “Pathway of the Revolution” as over 100 battles were fought on New Jersey soil. The state motto is “Liberty and Prosperity”.
With a population of over 8.7 million, New Jersey is the most populated state by area in the U.S. with over 1000 people per square mile. New Jersey has 21 counties. New Jersey is the only state where all its counties are classified as metropolitan areas. There are 566 municipalities or administrative entities which include boroughs, cities, towns, townships and villages. County government in New Jersey includes a Board of Chosen Freeholders, sheriff, clerk, and surrogate, all of which are elected officials.
The government of New Jersey was established by the New Jersey Constitution in 1947 and is comprised of three branches. The executive, the legislative and the judiciary. The state executive is the Governor who heads the executive branch. Constitutionally, New Jersey’s chief executive is one of the most powerful governors in the United States. The legislative branch contains two houses, a 40-member Senate and an 80-member General Assembly. The judicial branch includes the state’s supreme court, superior court, appellate division, tax court and municipal court.
The Open Public Records Act is the New Jersey law providing its residents access to public records. The state adopted the sunshine law in 2002, a great improvement over the prior public record laws. The OPRA works similarly to the federal information act (FOIA) in keeping the government transparent to its citizens. Residents of New Jersey do not need to show a reason to be able to order a record. These requests are made directly to the department where the information is sought. The law also requires the department where the request is being directed to provide records to be readily available to the public for viewing, ordering or copying.
Criminal history records inquiry can be obtained by the New Jersey state police with a simple request online. Many of the requests are by employers prior to hiring, a search of a person’s own records to see what is available to others in N.J.
Court Records Information
Access to such documents as official court records may be obtained via the New Jersey Courts online ACMS service. Available for inspection by the public are criminal cases, civil cases including divorces, trials in tax courts, decisions and municipal courts. Anyone with internet connection can conduct a free online search of property records by name in each New Jersey county and get instant results including owner information, updated assessed value with detailed description of the land and building. However certain records are not made available for public inspection due to Federal and State statutes and rules governing the courts. Vital records such as birth and death certificates are not considered “public” records and are protected by New Jersey law.
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