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What are Kentucky Criminal Court Records?
Kentucky Criminal Court records are court documents detailing the proceedings of criminal case hearings and trials in state courts in the Commonwealth. In addition to dockets and case files, these records include transcripts, orders, summons, petitions, and assessments/evaluations. Some Kentucky Criminal Court records are available online. Members of the public can also view and obtain them from the offices of Kentucky court clerks.
Structure of the Kentucky Criminal Court System
Kentucky does not have a separate criminal court. Rather, criminal cases filed in the Commonwealth are heard in its District and Circuit Courts. These are trial courts of general jurisdiction. In Kentucky, the Circuit Court is higher than the District Court. The state’s Circuit Courts hear all felony cases while its District Courts have jurisdiction over criminal cases qualifying as misdemeanors. Appeals of criminal cases tried in the District and Circuit Courts go to the Kentucky Court of Appeals. However, the Supreme Court handles appeals of lower court rulings imposing jail terms of 20 years or longer, life imprisonment, and the death penalty. The Supreme Court of Kentucky is the highest court in the Commonwealth and the final interpreter of state law.
Are Kentucky Criminal Court Records Accessible by the Public?
Yes. Criminal Court records in Kentucky are public records. Generally, the proceedings and records of criminal cases are presumptively open. Members of the public can attend criminal case proceedings and hearings as well as view and copy records of these trials. While Criminal Court judges may seal case files, this is rarely the case in Kentucky. In addition to the records of trial courts, the state also makes appellate proceedings and records public. Therefore, members of the public can access dockets and files of criminal cases appealed to the state’s Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
How to Access Criminal Court Records in Kentucky
The two ways to access Kentucky Criminal Court records are online and in-person. To view records of criminal cases online, visit the CourtNet 2.0 portal of the Kentucky Court of Justice website. Search for case files by providing a case number, name of one party involved in the trial, or a citation number. Select Criminal from the Case Category menu and choose a county to restrict your search.
The CourtNet 2.0 search index only provides access to limited case information. Use it to look up docket information for a criminal case held in Kentucky. This database can provide records of misdemeanor cases for at least the last five years and records of felony cases from 1978 to date.
For full access to case files, visit the Office of the Circuit Court Clerk in the county where the case was heard. Kentucky Circuit Court Clerks are responsible for maintaining the records of both District and Circuit Courts. Use the Kentucky Judicial Directory to find the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all Circuit Clerks in the Commonwealth.
Kentucky law requires all Circuit Clerk Offices to have public access terminals where court records can be viewed. Access from these computer terminals is free. Records accessible from these terminals have more details and include more files than those found online on CourtNet 2.0. To inspect paper copies of criminal case records, contact the staff of the Circuit Clerk’s Office with your request. They can also help locate archived records stored off-site and those recorded on microfilm.
Publicly available records are also accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific record or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide the following information:
- Name of a party involved in the case as long as it is a not a juvenile
- Assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Note that third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
Requesting Copies of Kentucky Criminal Court Records
Anyone can request copies of Kentucky Criminal Court records from Circuit Clerks in the various counties of the Commonwealth. First, check the Kentucky Judicial Directory to look up the contact information of the Circuit Clerk in the county where the case was filed. Call the Clerk’s Office to enquire about the availability of the records and other requirements for obtaining copies of these records. Calling ahead gives the Clerk ample time to search for and prepare those records. It takes time to locate records stored in the archive.
Other information to ask when calling a Kentucky Circuit Court Clerk’s Office to obtain criminal case records include:
- Fees for copies of court records
- Additional documents required
- Business hours, if submitting a request in person
- Mailing address, if submitting a mail request
Circuit Clerk’s Offices may provide plain (regular photocopy) and certified copies of court records and charge differently for them. Cash is usually accepted for payment when requesting copies of court records in person. Checks and money order are acceptable for mail requests.
How Do I Request Criminal History Records in Kentucky?
The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) provides criminal record reports for Kentucky. Individuals, businesses, and government agencies can submit requests for these reports. The AOC charges $25 for each request for criminal history records. The criminal records provided by the AOC comes from CourtNet 2.0 and does not include arrest records.
The AOC allows the public to request/order criminal history reports online, in person, and by mail.
To request a Kentucky criminal history report in person, come to the drive-thru window of the AOC located at:
Administrative Office of the Courts
1001 Vandalay Drive
Frankfort, KY 40601
This location opens to the public from Monday to Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The AOC accepts the $25 fee for each report in cash, credit/debit cards, as well as check or money order, made payable to the Kentucky State Treasurer.
To submit a mail request for a Kentucky criminal history report, download, print, and fill out a Criminal Record Request Form. Send this along with a check or money order, for copy fees, made out to the Kentucky State Treasurer to the AOC address listed above.