Residents of New York State have the legal right to access public records under the New York Freedom of Information Act (FOIL). This ensures that the state's various government agencies operate in a transparent manner and that New York citizens can be held accountable. Individuals and entities can try to remove their names from searching public records by means of a court order or by enforcing state laws. Under FOIL, residents can initiate public data searches through a government custodial agency to obtain public records. These records may include court documents, criminal records, video, audio, electronic communication (email and SMS), and other digital formats.
However, some documents may be restricted from public access, such as divorce records which are only available to parties involved in the divorce process. To access public records, individuals must submit accurate descriptions to the custodial agency. The New York County Clerk is responsible for receiving documents that initiate special actions and procedures and for maintaining the official court files. The County Clerk or Clerk of Court can also provide criminal records. In addition, custodial agencies must send copies of public records to interested and eligible individuals within five business days of receiving the request for public records. Individuals can also perform background checks through these agencies to find public data. The registry of check cashers, bankers and mortgage brokers, bank representatives, authorized lenders, money transmitters, financial and secure deposit companies are some of the links available for accessing public records in New York State.