Individuals who wish to find free Tennessee public records can benefit from knowing the public record laws, which information is available to individuals, and how to perform criminal and background checks. By using state records in Tennessee for free, searchers can look up anyone’s past.
As a curious individual, knowing how to conduct a criminal background check, see if you have a warrant for your arrest, or see if someone is married can be helpful to make an informed decision. As an employer, understanding how to do a name based or fingerprint-based check is key to screening candidates as well.
All in all, knowing how to look up free criminal records, court records, vital records, and employment history is beneficial for all residents of Tennessee and the general public.
Tennessee: Public Record Laws
Tennessee abides by the Tennessee Open Records Act that guarantees every resident of Tennessee has access to the public records of government bodies within the state. Records kept by agencies in Tennessee are open to the public unless they are specifically restricted.
Records within the state of Tennessee are documents related to government official business and can include citizens’ records too. The only information not accessible to the public includes medical records of a patient currently in state institutions, investigative records, public school records, and some economic development records.1
Therefore, every resident of Tennessee has access to public records, but not necessarily every member of the public or every record. However, government entities can make records accessible to those who are not residents of Tennessee by special order.
Tennessee Criminal Records – A Summary
Criminal records contain criminal activity and the history of a person who has had run-ins with the criminal justice system within the state of Tennessee.2 Individuals with criminal records will have a rap sheet that includes their alleged crimes, charges, court records, rehabilitation information, and post-conviction status.
In Tennessee, criminal records are publicly accessible due to the Tennessee Freedom of Information Act. However, records must be requested through the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation if it’s for professional purposes (employment, licensing, housing etc.) in order to be legal. Information that can be found includes but is not limited to:
- Name of the offender
- Known aliases of the offender
- Date of birth
- Physical description
- Identifying characteristics
- Fingerprints and mugshot 3
Criminal records are accessible through third-party sites if users cannot find the information required through governmental resources, such as local, state, and federal websites. In this case, users should consider utilizing paid search sites to find comprehensive and accurate information on the individual in question.
Can Anyone Access People’s Criminal Records in Tennessee?
Only residents of the state can access people’s Tennessee public criminal records through the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations and if a person tries to view another person’s criminal records in Tennessee, but they are not a resident, the records request will be denied due to the state’s restrictions on public information.
See If Someone Has a Criminal Record in Tennessee
A person of the general public can find if someone has a criminal record in the state of Tennessee by using the Criminal Justice Information Service Division.
- Visit the Criminal Justice Information Service Division website
- Click on ‘Background Checks’
- Choose the type of background check for a criminal history: name-based, statewide search, or a fingerprint-based, a federal search
- This service costs $29 and can be done by filling out the form online or by downloading the request form and doing the following:
- Choose a payment method – credit card, debit card, cashier’s check, or money order
- Send the completed form to the following address:
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation – TORIS Unit
901 R.S. Gass Boulevard
Nashville, TN 37216
Juvenile’s Criminal History in TN
Juvenile criminal records in Tennessee are the criminal activities and court proceedings of an individual who is under the legal adult age. A person under 18 years old in Tennessee is considered a juvenile.4 Any juvenile who commits an offense or is considered an adjudicated delinquent will have a criminal record.
Unlike other court records and Tennessee public records, juvenile court records are restricted from public access.
The only instances in which a juvenile’s criminal records are considered Tennessee public records is if the individual has been convicted of a serious offense, such as aggravated rape, rape of a child, aggravated kidnapping, first-degree murder, or second-degree murder.
Juvenile records in Tennessee can be expunged once the person becomes an adult if the following criteria set forth by Tennessee Code 37-1-153 are met:
- 18+ years old
- The court believes the minor has reformed
- Not convicted of a sexual offense
- One year since their last adjudication
How To Look Up Active Warrants in Tennessee (Free Warrant Search Form)
Tennessee warrants are court orders set forth by a judge in a court of law that allows local law enforcement agencies to arrest an individual suspected of committing a crime or had committed a crime. Warrants in Tennessee can usually be created by magistrates, judges, or clerks of court within the state.
There are different warrants within the state of Tennessee, including search warrants, bench warrants, and arrest warrants.5 Understanding how to find active warrants in Tennessee is helpful in learning more about an individual’s current or past criminal history.
Any individual can find an active warrant by conducting a criminal history check, performing a court record request, or contacting the local sheriff’s office.
- Criminal history check — Individuals can perform a criminal history check using the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation website and conduct the name-based background check for $29.
- Court record requests — Individuals can file requests in person or in writing to the Public Record Requests Comptroller through state contacts or county clerk of court contacts.
- Local sheriff’s offices — Some of the local sheriff’s offices in the state of Tennessee maintain free public arrest and active warrants in their jurisdiction. For example, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office provides information for searchers to find the subject’s name, warrant number, and information about the warrant.
Check for Sexual Predators Using Tennessee’s Sex Offender Registry
The Tennessee Sex Offender Registry contains a list of all convicted sex offenders that are publicly available. Furthermore, Tennessee law dictates that local law enforcement agencies must continually update the statewide registry with current information regarding the status of sex offenders and the location of sex offenders.
Furthermore, the Department of Justice is in charge of the National Sex Offender Registry for sex offenders nationwide. Although this is a helpful tool, the Tennessee-specific registry can help searchers find local information quicker. Plus, there is a helpful Tennessee Sex Offender Registry map that can help individuals find detailed information.
How To Run a Tennessee Background Check
There are different types of Tennessee background checks available to individuals, employers and other business entities that need to verify credentials. There are a few background check types to choose from that can influence how to run one on another individual.
General Public, Tennessee-Only, Name-Based Check
The first type of background check is the general public, state-only background check. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation allows the general public and organizations to run a background check on another person. The TBI allows individuals to obtain adult criminal history through online or mail methods.
- Visit the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation website
- Open the Online Request Form and click on continue
- Provide requestor information – first name, last name, street address, city, state, zip code, phone, email, and confirm the email
- Click on ‘Submit Form’
- Open the Online Request Form
- Download the Online Request Form and send it to:
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation – TORIS Unit
901 R.S. Gass Boulevard
Nashville, TN 37216
A criminal background check typically takes between 1-3 business days but can be faster depending on the database.6
Qualified Organization Search, Statewide and Nationwide Search
This background check can be conducted through qualified organizations at a state and federal level. For this type of check, fingerprints are required, meaning third-party consent is a must. This check is also carried out by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and IdentoGo.
FBI, Nationwide, Fingerprint-Based Check
The last type of check utilized in Tennessee is the FBI-only background check. This check is offered by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, as the state check, and other qualified criminal backgrounds check companies. The contractor of the criminal background check companies must state when individuals or employers need to use a fingerprint-based background check instead of a name-based check.
- Visit the IdentoGO website
- Find an IdentoGO center to obtain fingerprints
The employment background check typically takes between 2-5 business days to complete.7
Tennessee Court Records – Explained
Court records contain all court documents and records within a case.8 Tennessee court records can be looked up by finding the specific court which handled the case. In the state of Tennessee, there are different courts and types of cases:
- Supreme Court — resolves all issues from the lower courts, including appellate courts
- Criminal Court of Appeals — TN felony and misdemeanor cases, post-conviction cases
- Court of Appeals — non-criminal issues from lower courts
- Chancery Courts — equity issues, land disputes, asset sharing, and dissolution of businesses
- Circuit Courts — civil and criminal cases
How To Find Anyone’s Court Records: Tennessee
Any individual can use the Public Case History to find Tennessee public court records included in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Criminal Court of Appeals. This information system is maintained by the Appellate Court Clerk and holds all cases after 2013.
- Visit the Public Case History website
- Search by sequence number in the appeal
- Search by case style (ex: a portion of the name)
- Search by the name of the organization
- Search by name
- Click on ‘Search Public Case History’
- Enter one of the search criterias mentioned above
- Click ‘Search’
The second way an individual can find court records in Tennessee is to use the State Library and Archives. The Tennessee State Library and Archives holds court records from the circuit, county, and chancery courts. Those who wish to find court records must provide basic information, such as the county and the defendant’s name.
- Visit the Tennessee State Library and Archives website
- Click on “Order Records”
- Fill out the court record request form
- Include payment in advance via money order, credit card, or check
- Send the form and payment to:
Tennessee State Library and Archives
403 7th Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37243
How Do I See Bankruptcy Filings in Tennessee?
Bankruptcy records are considered Tennessee public records.
Bankruptcy records in Tennessee contain the information of an individual who owes money to creditors within the state. These records include statements, personal information, documents within the case, and petitions. The information included in each bankruptcy record includes the case number, bankruptcy type, debtor’s name, list of creditors, and case status.
Bankruptcy records can usually be found through the court in which bankruptcy is filed, certain newspapers, and third-party websites.
The quickest way to obtain bankruptcy records is to contact the local court clerk’s office where the debtor lived or worked. Requests may be submitted through the bankruptcy clerk’s office. Those requesting bankruptcy information can also use public access terminals at the bankruptcy courts throughout the state.
- Visit the Tennessee State Courts Website
- Click on ‘Programs’ at the top of the page
- Click on ‘Self Help Center’
- Click on ‘Find a Court Clerk’
- Click on ‘Click Here to Find a List of Court Clerks by County’ (ex: Anderson County)
- Then use the contact information to contact the court clerk through email or phone number. Jeff Cole, 865-457-5400
Furthermore, individuals can use the Voice Case Information System to access bankruptcy records through telephone services.
Searchers can also find closed bankruptcy cases through the Archives website.
Lastly, individuals can find bankruptcy information through the PACER System, which provides Public Access to Court Electronic Records. This service costs no more than $30 per quarter-year to access records.
A Look at Inmate Records in Tennessee (TN)
Inmate records in Tennessee contain incarcerated persons’ information regarding their criminal history, name, gender, race, mugshot, administrative data, incarceration information, and release information. Any person can find this information due to the Tennessee Public Records Act.
Inmate records are helpful for curious individuals to find more about a person’s past, employees to find the criminal history of a potential hire, or for individuals to find inmates so they can contact them and visit.
Tennessee: Learn How To Find Jail Records & Recent Arrests
Tennessee jails are county facilities that contain inmates who serve less than one year. The local law enforcement agencies maintain jail information, such as current inmates and recent releases. Those who are curious about finding jail records and recent arrests should contact the local law enforcement website in the respective country to find information.
- Figure out the location where the person may be held (which county) ex: Knox County
- Find & visit the county sheriff’s website ex: Knox County Sheriff’s Office
- Look at the Inmate Population to browse inmate information
- Or, use the 24 Hour Arrest to view other inmates
- Or, use the contact information to email or call Knox County Sheriff’s office
The same can be done for any county in Tennessee. Simply search “[name of the county] arrest records” and check the top results for the official government website.
Steps To Locate Tennessee Mugshots
The quickest way to find someone’s mugshot in Tennessee is to determine where the individual has been arrested by using the previous steps. Once a person knows where they might be housed, they can look up the respective jail’s online website or social media account to find mugshot photos.
Note, not every county posts mugshots online but many do.
How Do I Find Someone in a Tennessee Prison?
The quickest way to find a prisoner in Tennessee is to do the following:
- State inmates — Use the State Prison List to find the corresponding facility where the person may be housed. Or better yet, use their the TN DOC inmate finder.
- Federal inmates — Use the Bureau of Prisons’ Find an Inmate locator to search by name or number
Tennessee – Vital Records
Vital records are records of life events (ex: birth, death, marriage, divorce, etc.) kept by a governmental authority.10 Vital records are maintained by the Tennessee Office of Vital Records in Nashville, TN.
Most vital records are TN public records, as long as someone can provide the necessary information to obtain the records in question, such as:
- The name
- Time of the event
- Place of the event
- Relationship to the person
Are Tennessee Vital Records Public? (Free Tennessee Marriage Records & Other Vital Records)
Vital records in the state of Tennessee are available to the public, but with restrictions.
For one, marriage records are only accessible to immediate family or those mentioned in the records. Furthermore, divorce records are public information, but records more than 50 years or older must include a legitimate claim for the records.
While the state has limitations, third-party search sites may be able to provide details surrounding divorce, marriage, birth and death that they found on the web. In either case, divorce rates are still made public by the US Census Bureau and the image below depicts the estimated percentage of people divorced in each Tennessee county.
Birth certificates are only available to related individuals and those on the certificate. Lastly, death certificates are available without cause of death to an individual with a direct interest.
Curious If Someone is Married? Check Marriage & Free Divorce Records in Tennessee
Individuals can find marriage records by accessing the Tennessee Office of Vital Records and making a public request. However, only those who are qualified applicants (direct affiliation with the person or named in the certificate) can apply for a record through the office.
These qualified individuals must provide information to the office, such as:
- Marriage location
- Relationship to the subject in the certificate
- Names of the married persons
Individuals must fill out the marriage certificate application and send it to the following address:
Tennessee Vital Records
710 James Robertson Parkway
Nashville, TN 37243
Those curious about finding divorce records must have a legitimate or direct claim and include the following information in the application:
- Names of the spouses
- Date of the divorce
Then, they must submit the application to the aforementioned address with a $15 fee.
Furthermore, individuals can also find marriage and divorce records through VitalChek.
How To Acquire Death or Birth Certificates in Tennessee
Those who wish to obtain a birth certificate in Tennessee must include their government ID and show they have a direct interest in the certificate’s owner. The person requesting information must prove they are the person on the certificate or they are a related individual (spouse, child, guardian, or legal representative).
Individuals can fill out the Application for a Certified Copy of a Certificate of Birth or Application for Verification of Birth Facts.
Once individuals have completed the application, they can submit the application and their government ID to any local county health department in Tennessee.
Those who wish to find death records can do so by submitting an application and including their direct interest in the matter, such as being an individual or governmental body for research, an organization that is providing services to the deceased, or if the cause of death is required for legal reasons.
Once the person proves their relationship to the deceased in the record, they can obtain Death Records by filling out an Application for a Certified Copy of a Certificate of Death or an Application for Verification of Death Facts.
After completing the application, they can submit their application with $15 to the following address:
Tennessee State Library and Archives
403 7th Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37243
In summary, searchers can find Tennessee public records by utilizing the Tennessee Vital Records office, VitalChek online services, court records, and county inmate rosters.
1Tennessee FOIA Laws. (n.d.). National Freedom of Information Coalition. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from <https://www.nfoic.org/tennessee-foia-laws/#:~:text=The%20Tennessee%20Open%20Records%20Act,by%20statute%20or%20case%20law>
2Criminal record. Wikipedia. (2022, May 28). Retrieved June 3, 2022, from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_record>
3Information about Criminal Records. (n.d.). Legal Aid at Work. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from <https://legalaidatwork.org/factsheet/records/>
4Teigen, A. (2016). Automatically Sealing or Expunging Juvenile Records. NCSL. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from <https://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/automatically-sealing-or-expunging-juvenile-records.aspx>
5What Are the Different Types of Warrants? Criminal Defense Attorney. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from <https://excellentcriminaldefense.com/what-are-the-different-types-of-warrants/>
6Korolevich, S. (2021, February 10). How Long Does A Background Check Take? GoodHire. Retrieved May 28, 2022, from <https://www.goodhire.com/blog/how-long-do-background-checks-take/>
7How Long Do Pre-Employment Background Checks Take? (2021). Indeed. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from <https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/how-long-do-a-background-check-take-for-a-job#>
8Court Record and Briefs. (n.d.). Duke University School of Law. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from <https://law.duke.edu/lib/research-guides/court-records-briefs/>
9Knox County Sheriff’s Office. Retrieved from <https://knoxsheriff.org/>
10Vital record. (2021, November 2). In Wikipedia. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vital_record>
11TN.gov. Accessed 6 May 2023. <https://www.tn.gov/tbi/divisions/cjis-division/criminal-justice-information-services-cjis-support-center.html>
12Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. Accessed 6 May 2023. <http://www.hcsheriff.gov/cid/owio/>
13TN.gov. Accessed 6 May 2023. <https://www.tn.gov/tbi/divisions/cjis-division/background-checks.html>
14Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts. Accessed 6 May 2023. <https://www.tncourts.gov/courts/supreme-court/public-case-history>
15Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts. Accessed 6 May 2023. <https://www.tncourts.gov/programs/self-help-center/find-court-clerk>
16Federal Bureau of Prisons. Accessed 6 May 2023. <https://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/>