Are New Mexico Records Public?
The majority of New Mexico records concerning government activities are public. The New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act provides for every person’s right to inspect public records. This right includes making copies of the record and receiving deliveries. It also extends to all government records except those that are exempted by law or pursuant to an authority recognized by law. Public records may include documents, papers, letters, books, maps, tapes, photographs, and other materials. Records that are generally public in New Mexico include:
- Public New Mexico arrest records
- Public incidence report
- New Mexico public court records
- Public bankruptcy records
- Public New Mexico inmate records
- New Mexico public sex offender information
Who Can Access New Mexico Public Records?
Almost anyone can access New Mexico public records. This includes residents, non-residents, corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies. Interested persons can only be denied access to public records if there is a law preventing their access.
The right of every person is the right to inspect and obtain copies of records. Any person who wishes to inspect records should visit the records custodian during their business hours. Record custodians that allow the physical inspection of records usually provide terminals or lobbies for requesters to use. Requests for the records can also be made by mail, email, online, or through any other process specified by the records custodian. Any person that wishes to access records closed to the public may be required to provide identification to show that they are qualified to view records.
Note: In most cases, subject records may view their own records even if they are confidential.
What is Exempted Under the New Mexico Public Record Law?
Records that are closed to the public in accordance with a law or sealed by courts are exempted under the New Mexico public record law. Some examples include:
- Medical records. This extends to records concerning the physical and mental examinations of individuals. It also extends to the medical treatment of individuals confined in a medical institution. A disclosure of an individual’s medical record shall constitute a violation of privacy. Such a record may only be disclosed in accordance with the law, in satisfaction of a court order, or with the consent of the record subject. New Mexico Statute 14-2-1(A)(1).
- Letters of reference concerning licensing, employment, or permits. These letters are only available to qualified persons and should ordinarily only be disclosed in line with their purpose. They are confidential pursuant to New Mexico Statute 14-2-1(A)(2).
- Letters or memorandums that contain opinions in personnel files or students’ cumulative files. This exemption applies strictly to matters of opinion and not to statements of fact. New Mexico Statute 14-2-1(A)(3).
- Some law enforcement records. This includes records that reveal confidential sources, methods, information, and individuals accused of a crime but never charged. Records of evidence received or compiled by law enforcement or prosecution agencies are also confidential. However, such evidence should have been received or compiled during crime investigation or prosecution. The exemption also applies to closed investigations and inactive cases if they contain such confidential information. The purpose of this exemption is to uphold the public’s interest in the confidential investigation of crime and protect individuals who report the crime. New Mexico Statute 14-2-1(A)(4).
- Records that are made confidential by the New Mexico Confidential Materials Act. The Confidential Materials Act contains records that are confidential under New Mexico state law. These records are closed to the public and can only be accessed in accordance with law or through a court order. New Mexico Statute 14-2-1(A)(5).
- Trade secrets, attorney-client privilege, and long-range or strategic business plans of public hospitals disclosed in closed meetings. There is little public interest in records containing this information. Trade secrets submitted to government entities for any purpose should generally be confidential. These trade secrets include processes, tools, patterns, formulae, mechanisms, and other similar information. Also, the confidentiality of conversations between attorneys and their clients is a part of the client’s privacy. An attorney-client privilege may only be waived by the client, where a specific crime is to be committed, pursuant to a court order, and in other lawful circumstances. New Mexico Statute 14-2-1(A)(6).
- Records containing tactical response plans or procedures of government entities. The government entities this applies to include either the state itself or any political subdivision of the state. Also, the record should have the potential to reveal specific vulnerabilities, risk assessments, or tactical emergency security procedures that could be used to facilitate the planning or execution of a terrorist attack. New Mexico Statute 14-2-1(A)(7).
- Any other record that is exempted by law. The law may either exempt the law specifically or recognize a person or entity’s authority to make records confidential. Both state and federal laws may do this.
Where Can I Access Public Criminal Court Records in New Mexico?
The Judicial Branch of New Mexico provides general access to public criminal court records. Interested persons can make requests for these records either to the courthouse or online. Requests to the courthouse should be made to the court that heard the case. The Judicial Branch provides a directory for requesters to find the physical addresses and phone numbers of courts in New Mexico. Requesters can either inspect or copy court records. If they only wish to inspect the records, the courthouses usually provide terminals which they can use for that purpose. Also, the inspection of records usually attracts no charges. However, making copies may attract charges. While making the request, the requester would need to provide their name, telephone number, and address. The request should also be written.
Requesters can also access New Mexico criminal court records online either through an online request or through a case search portal. The New Mexico Judicial Branch provides a form that requesters can use to make online requests. Requesters using this online form would need to provide their name, email, phone number, address, and the location of the court that heard the case. A clear description of the record should also be provided to allow the record custodian to find the record easily.
Any person can conduct a public records search through either the case lookup portal or the Public Access Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. The case lookup portal provides cases determined by the New Mexico Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, District Court, Magistrate Court, and Municipal Court. District and magistrate case information is updated every day. However, juvenile criminal court records are not available on the case lookup portal. The portal allows searches by name or case number. The portal returns cases that match the search for the user to choose from. It is also free to use. The PACER system is not free to use and requires registration and login. Users can access nationwide cases, including New Mexico criminal court records. Up to 150 pages of public records are available for free annually. Each additional page costs 10 cents.
How Do I Find Public Records in New Mexico?
New Mexico state law allows every person to find public records by sending a written request to the record custodian. The right extends to both the inspection of records and obtaining copies of the records. In most instances, residents who wish to obtain public records in New Mexico can achieve this by doing the following.
- Decide on the specific record to find
The first step in finding a public record is deciding the specific record to find. The record determines the information that should be included in the request and where the request should be submitted. It would also be necessary to determine the right to exercise. A requester’s options include inspecting the record, obtaining copies, or receiving deliveries of copies of the record. Some custodians may also offer electronic copies of records. The requester’s choice will determine any applicable fees. However, a request should not be impracticable to fulfill. A record custodian is not obliged to undertake research to satisfy a public record request. In such a case, the custodian may deny the request.
- Find the record custodian
The record custodian is the person the New Mexico state law obliges to provide public records. No other person is compelled to provide public records, even if they have the record in their custody unless they are a custodian. The New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act defines the custodian as any public official or employee maintaining the public records, regardless of whether it is in their personal possession. The official custodian may also appoint other officers to make the records available. Public agencies should notify the public of the steps requesters can take to obtain public records. They should also respond to any inquiries regarding who the custodian is and their contact information. If the request is sent to a person who is not the record custodian, that person should send it to the record custodian if known and notify the requester pursuant to New Mexico Statute 14-2-8(E).
- Submit a record request
A requester can make a request for New Mexico public records to the custodian once they know who it is. A request may either be made orally or in writing, in accordance with New Mexico Statute 14-2-8(A). However, there are no remedies for a custodian’s failure to honor an oral request. This is why it is advisable for a requester to submit a written request. The request should include the name, address, and telephone number of the person making the request. It should also clearly include a description of the record the requester wants. Requests can be made in person, by mail, by email, by facsimile, or through any other electronic communication.
Using Third-Party Sites
Public city records may also be accessible from third-party websites. These non-government platforms come with intuitive tools that allow for expansive searches. Record seekers may either opt to use these tools to search for a specific record or multiple records. However, users will need to provide enough information to assist with the search such as:
- The name of the subject involved in the record (subject must be older than 18 or not juvenile)
- The address of the requestor
- A case number or file number (if known)
- The location of the document or person involved
- The last known or current address of the registrant
Third-party sites are not sponsored by government agencies. Because of this, record availability and results may vary.
Public records can also be accessed from third-party websites. These third-party public records aggregate websites offer search services that are non-geographically limited, making the search result expansive and typically straightforward. However, users will need to provide enough information to assist with the search, such as:
- The name of the subject involved in the record as long as the subject is not a juvenile
- The last known or location of the record subject
Third-party public records search websites are not government-sponsored services. Therefore, the availability and accuracy of results can vary.
How Much Do Public Records Cost in New Mexico?
The cost of public records in New Mexico is reasonable, with the fees for most records being the actual cost of making the record available. New Mexico Statute 14-2-9(C) allows custodians to charge reasonable fees for making copies of records unless a different fee is prescribed by law. The fee for copying should not be more than $1 per page for documents sized eleven inches by thirteen inches or smaller. A record custodian should not charge any fee for checking if a record is subject to disclosure. All other activities that are charged for in relation to accessing a public record should not be more than the actual cost of obtaining the record. The custodian may require payment of fees in advance before satisfying any request. However, a requester can request a receipt for any payment made.
How Do I Look Up Public Records in New Mexico for Free?
Every person can look up public records in New Mexico for free. However, this depends on the request, the record, and the custodian of the record. Any record request that requires expenses to comply with, such as making copies and deliveries, requires fees. Other requests that do not require any expenses may be without any fee. This is often the case if the requester only wishes to inspect the record. Some record custodians provide terminals or lobbies to allow requesters to inspect free public records in New Mexico. A requester can use this during business hours for free.
Courthouses offer public access to free New Mexico court records by accepting visits to the courthouse during business hours. Other records that a requester may also inspect for free are sex offender information, bankruptcy records, and arrest records. Receiving electronic copies of records may also be for free. However, New Mexico state law does not compel a requester to make electronic records to satisfy a request. The custodian is only obliged to provide a copy of a record in its maintained form.
Do I Need to State My Purpose When Requesting Public Records in New Mexico?
Requesters do not need to state their purpose when requesting public records in New Mexico pursuant to New Mexico Statute 14-2-8(C). A requester may share the reason for their request if they wish to do so or if they believe it will help the custodian in satisfying their request. However, there is no obligation to disclose the reason for the request. A records custodian cannot decline a request because the reason was not stated.
What Happens if I Am Refused a Public Records Request?
Any person whose public records request is refused may enforce the act in a district court. New Mexico Statute 14-2-12 empowers the Attorney General, district attorneys, and private persons whose requests are denied to enforce the Act. The Act does not specify any deadline within which the complainant should bring the action. However, the general limitation period is three years for actions brought against a municipality and four years for actions brought against any other public agency. There is no requirement to exhaust administrative remedies. Therefore, a requester may bring an action without first waiting for any public agency’s internal mechanism for resolving denial of access claims. The complainant should bring the action in the district court where the record is maintained. If the action is successful, the court may order the public agency to release the public records and award damages, costs, and reasonable attorney fees.
How to Remove Names From Public Search Records?
The New Mexico Criminal Records Expungement Act allows the expungement of criminal records in very limited circumstances. A court in New Mexico may order expungement of records if the individual was arrested for a misdemeanor and no records of the disposition can be found. If there is a final disposition, the court will not expunge the record. Final dispositions include dismissal, a decision not to file charges, or a referral to a pre-prosecution diversion program. A record can also be expunged if an individual’s identity is used by another while being arrested, charged, or convicted for a crime.
In cases that involve conviction, only DNA can be expunged. DNA may be purged from the database if the following conditions are satisfied.
- The conviction was reversed;
- There was no conviction for any felony within one year; or
- The charges were dropped, dismissed, or resolved after the completion of a pre-prosecution diversion program.
What is the Best Public Records Search Database?
The best public records search database is usually the database maintained by the record custodian. Different records are maintained by different custodians. The database maintained by the record custodian is usually the most updated. Due to this, the database maintained by the records custodian is usually the best one to use. The New Mexico Department of Public Safety maintains a database of registered sex offenders within the state. Interested persons can search the database with the name of the offender. There is also an option to find sex offenders by location and check for non-compliant sex offenders. Users can also register to be notified if a sex offender relocates into their community. The information the registry provides on sex offenders includes names, photographs, offenses, and addresses.
Interested persons can also make requests at the county level. The Bernalillo County Clerk allows Bernalillo County public records search. Also, the Santa Fe Public records search can be carried out through the county clerk. All a requester needs to do to access public records in each county is to submit a request to the record custodian in that county.
How Long Does It Take to Obtain a New Mexico Public Record?
A record custodian should make a New Mexico public record available within three days of receiving a request. However, the custodian may require up to fifteen days if providing the record within three days is not practicable. If this is the case, the custodian should notify the requester in writing and let them know when the record would be available. In cases where the record custodian deems that the request is burdensome and cannot be satisfied within fifteen days, the custodian may notify the requester in accordance with New Mexico Statute 14-2-10. The custodian should also include when the record would be provided. The requester may treat the response as a denial if the custodian does not honor the request within a reasonable time.