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Records Requests

If you have questions about what records a private investigator might be able to obtain for you, you are in the correct place. We have compiled a brief, but detailed overview of various records research our Phoenix private investigators at OPS Consulting and Investigative Services may be able to assist you in obtaining. First, we need to make some distinctions between what are “public records' ' and what are “private records”.


Public records, as the name implies, are any records held by public entities. This can be either local, county, state, or federal government agencies. Scroll below for more information.

Private records are those held by private individuals and/or private businesses. Some state and federal laws require certain businesses to maintain their private records for several years should they ever need to be later inspected by the government or as part of consumer protection. A primary example of a private records are tax records which the Internal Revenue Services requires individuals to keep for a period of 7 years. Even though they are filed with a public entity, an individual still has rights to confidentiality of that information, with several exceptions. Other private records can include:

• Cell phone/computer data
• Emails
• Text Messages
• Business Records
• Attorney-client communications
• Trade secret business information...
• And many more.

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There is a tight rope that must be carefully balance when obtaining certain records, whether public or private. Further complicating this issue are a complex web of data privacy laws which regulate the sale and use of personal data for specific purposes. An example would be when you sign up for a credit card the terms and conditions often allow the credit card company to share, AKA “sell”, your data with affiliate companies, who in turn then contact you with specific advertisements. Some examples of federal data privacy laws include:

• Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”)
• Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (“GLBA”)
• Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (“FACTA”)
• Drivers Privacy Protection Act (“DPPA”)
• Right to Financial Privacy Act (“RFPA”)
• Various State Privacy Laws

Licensed investigators must also have a “permissible purpose” to obtain certain data. Permissible data varies by the type of data, the database it is contained in, and how the data will be used. The most clear-cut example is that private investigators in Arizona can obtain driver’s license and vehicle information directly from the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division (“MVD”). However, MVD requires investigators to certify that the information is reasonably related to litigation or pre-litigation research and further limits sharing of the obtained driver’s information for those purposes. What is most important to know about privacy laws is that nearly all privacy laws carry strict penalties for violations with either civil or criminal penalties. When hiring a private investigator for a background check in the Phoenix area, you must ensure that they firmly know these local laws and when and how they can obtain private information, or you could be vicariously liable for any violations by contracting their services. For example, do you know when you can obtain someone’s credit information? How about their driver license or vehicle information? Violate either and you could face steep penalties. Fortunately, the background check experts and private investigators in Phoenix at OPS Consulting and Investigative Services deal with these scenarios every day and have the experience to minimize liability.


Do you know the difference between a state level “public records request” and a “Freedom of Information Act” commonly referred to as “FOIA”. The primary difference is that Public Records Requests are governed by each individual state's laws and cover all governmental entities including cities, counties, and the state itself. FOIA requests apply to federal agencies. When a government agency is required to release records depends on the entity and which laws apply. With over 22,000 jurisdictions in the United States, it can be quite overwhelming for individuals to obtain the records they need. Fortunately, the expert private investigators at OPS Consulting and Investigative Services know how to navigate this labyrinth of public records and can usually advise you on whether a record should be available. We have the experience to get the information you need quickly and cost-effectively.

The background check experts and private investigators in Phoenix at OPS have put together this public records guide as a starting point to help you get the records you need. Please note that the information contained below is general reference information and OPS is not providing you legal advice. Your individual facts and circumstances, as well as the law will dictate whether the records you are after are actually releasable. As an Arizona based company, we will focus this article on Arizona law and FOIA. However, OPS Consulting and Investigative Services have nationwide experience in requesting records from various other states and are experts at getting information quickly and at a minimum expense to our clients.

If you have additional questions or would like help obtaining records please fill out the contact form below or call us at (623) 263-2900 to speak with one of our licensed investigators.


Arizona Revised Statutes §39-101, et. seq. (“and what follows”) are the series of laws that govern public records requests in Arizona. Most importantly ARS §39-121 lists “Public records and other matters in the custody of any officer shall be open to inspection by any person at all times during office hours.” This means that a citizen can walk into a public agency and request to inspect public records. However, many public agencies and the existing case law in Arizona give government agencies that ability to restrict the time and manner of these inspections. For example, if you were to walk in and request twenty items in archived storage, it may take the agency several days to retrieve them to make them available. Further complicating, the matter is that some agencies mistakenly restrict records as not releasable as each agency tends to interpret the law somewhat differently.

Arizona has approximately 130 state agencies, departments, authorities, boards, commissions, councils, registrars, offices, and institutions. There are around 140 law enforcement agencies, 130 fire districts, across 15 counties and 91 incorporated municipal governments. These hundreds of entities each have different methods, processes, and procedures for requesting governmental records. So, it is not enough to make sure you have the right agency when you make a request, you must also know what you can or cannot have access to.

Then there is the issue of what to do if a public entity does not respond to your public records request, denies it, or only gives you a limited amount of information. What are your rights under the law? What can you do? The first step is to try to negotiate with the public agency and try to narrow the scope of your request. If that doesn’t get you what you need, then you need to ask the agency to provide you the with the basis of the denial of your request.

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Based on the agency’s response, which should be in writing, you can then challenge the denial through the Arizona Ombudsman Office. There you can file a complaint and the ombudsman office will act as an intermediary with the governmental agency to try to resolve the issue. If that fails, and you still feel you are entitled to the public records, then your next step would be to have a consultation with a licensed attorney who practices public records law. The attorney can advise you on your legal rights if you can file a “special action” lawsuit in Superior Court to compel the government agency to turn over the records.
Important information to consider when requesting Arizona public records are:
1. What type of information am I looking for?

    • a. Criminal History Records
      1. i. Misdemeanors
      2. ii. Felonies
      3. iii. Traffic Violations
    • b. Emails, Texts, and/or Phone Records
    • c. Financial Reports
    • d. Tax and Property Liens
    • e. Civil Judgements
    • f. Property records
    • g. Business Ownership
    • h. Other type of Records

    2. Which agency is most likely in possession of the records?
    3. Does that agency have any special records request procedures?
    4. What is my budget to obtain the records?
    5. How important are the records to my case or needs?
    6. Do I have the time to handle the request myself?

    Pro Tip: Always give yourself as much time as possible when requesting public records as some Arizona agencies may take several months to fulfill requests.

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The Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) 5 U.S.C. §552, give the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency. Just as with each individual state, there are numerous federal agencies that possess public records. There are differences in even exactly how many federal agencies there are but as of 2022 the number sits around 115 distinct federal entities. However, there are subdivisions even within those agencies themselves. FOIA does create nine (9) exemptions when a federal agency does not need to release records and each agency takes a slightly different approach in how it interprets the law.

The nine (9) Freedom of Information Act exemptions are:

Exemption 1: Protects information that is properly classified under criteria established by an Executive Order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy.

Exemption 2: Protects information related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.

Exemption 3: Protects information specifically exempted from disclosure by another statute, if that statute either:

  1. requires that the matters be withheld from the public in such a manner as to leave no discretion on the issue; or
  2. establishes particular criteria for withholding or refers to particular types of matters to be withheld. An Exemption 3 statute must also cite specifically to subsection (b)(3) of the FOIA if enacted after October 28, 2009.

Exemption 4: Protects trade secrets and commercial or financial information that is obtained from outside the government and that is privileged or confidential.

Exemption 5: Protects certain records exchanged within or between agencies that are normally privileged in the civil discovery context, such as records protected by the deliberative process privilege (provided the records are less than 25 years old), attorney work-product privilege, or attorney client privilege.

Exemption 6: Protects information about individuals in personnel and medical files and similar files when the disclosure of that information would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

Exemption 7: Protects records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information:

  • 7(A). Could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings
  • 7(B). Would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication
  • 7(C). Could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy
  • 7(D). Could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source
  • 7(E). Would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law
  • 7(F). Could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual

Exemption 8: Protects information contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of, an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions.

Exemption 9: Protects geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells.


Here at OPS Consulting and Investigative Services our background check specialists and private investigators in Phoenix have the expertise needed to help you try to obtain the information you are after. We can quickly assess and tell you whether or not the public or private data you are after would be available. If it is not, we often can recommend other ways or brainstorm ideas to help you with records research in the Phoenix area, to assist with your case.
The three most common questions we receive regarding obtain records are:

1. Can you get me the following records (insert the type of record)?
2. How much will it cost me?
3. How long will it take?
Unfortunately, without knowing which specific records you are requesting and OPS identifying the correct agency that holds them, we cannot estimate a cost or time as every agency is different. Be wary of anyone claiming to be able to guarantee to get you records and anyone charging you thousands of dollars to do so. We are happy to provide you a free consultation or answer your questions via email regarding your specific scenario. If you have any questions about what records may or not be available to assist you with your matter, please contact the team at OPS Consulting and Investigative Services today. Simply fill out the contact card below or give us a call at (623) 263-2900.

Legal Disclaimer: The information on this page is current as of the date of uploading and may not contain all current laws or regulations. The information contained in this website or any attachment(s) is not intended to be legal advice and is intended to be for general reference purposes only. Do not confuse general reference materials with specific legal advice. You should always consult an attorney for specific legal advice regarding your individual situation.

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