Public records are available for the public to see. This is due to state open records laws. Public records are any documentation that is compiled by a state, municipality, commision, committee, board (with executive boards the occasional exception). This can include physical documents, such as paperwork, correspondence, or images.
In Arizona, one is theoretically allowed to peruse and inspect public records during times when public facilities are open to do so. In an odd twist, the burden of knowing what documents are considered public and which are not is on the individual and a penalty can be levied if a person goes through non-public records in Arizona. These include medical records, student records, active criminal investigations and sealed court documents.
Also, courts have ruled that public records with a “substantial nexus” with a government agency's duties don't qualify as public.
State law requires that all public record search requests, including county public records, be responded to by a state clerk within a reasonable period of time.
County public records can be found online at arizonapublicrecords.net. Although the state ombudsman is responsible for fielding requests for county public records, individual Arizona counties can be contacted for records that pertain to events which occurred before 1909.
Other great online resources include Free Public Records Search Directory, or Arizona State Libraries and Archives, although you have to pay for membership. A free trial period lasts for ten days.
Vital Records encompass personal documentation. This means birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees. As such, they are not available for just anyone to browse. Restrictions on who can obtain them and how vary.
A working knowledge of how to search public records can be useful in many capacities. If you're a landlord or an employer conducting a background check, say, to look for a candidate's history of residences, if they've ever been foreclosed on, you'll want to check county public records to see if they can be trusted to pay their bills. If you're an employer, you'll want to see if your potential employee has a criminal history. If they do, how serious was their charge? If they'll be working with vulnerable populations like children, or the elderly, you can check them against state sex offender registries, which are public records in Arizona.
Arizona, however, restricts open criminal background checks to law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. If you live in Arizona, you can do a personal criminal background check, but only in cases where you suspect inaccuracy. The Arizona Public Safety Department can guide employers and job applicants through a background check review process.