Mississippi Criminal Court Records
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What are Mississippi Criminal Court Records?
Mississippi criminal court records refer to the documents created during the judicial processes of criminal courts. These records provide official accounts of criminal court proceedings. They also contain details of criminal cases heard by the court, including:
- Information of the accused and the offense(s) prosecuted
- Information regarding plaintiff and witnesses
- Details of court motions and actions
- Motion arguments and court appearances
- Filed evidence, sworn statements
- Court’s judgment
As these records are generated to furnish interested persons with information pertaining to the court’s legal processes, members of the public may obtain or view these records upon request. However, the right of public access to criminal court records is not absolute in Mississippi. Where a record is sealed or deemed confidential by the court, access to that record is restricted and requestors will be required to meet specific eligibility requirements in order to obtain the record.
Understanding Mississippi’s Criminal Court System
Mississippi’s judicial system consists of eight different court types, all of which possess varying authorities. Mississippi courts function under the administrative authority of the Supreme Court which serves as the state’s court of last resort in the two-tier appellate court system where the state operates. The Mississippi court system comprises of:
- Mississippi Supreme Court
- Mississippi Court of Appeals
- Mississippi Chancery Courts
- Mississippi Circuit Courts
- Mississippi County Courts
- Mississippi Justice Courts
- Mississippi Municipal Courts
- Mississippi Drug Courts
- Mississippi Youth Courts
- Mississippi County Courts
- Mississippi Court of Appeals
As per Mississippi’s judicial laws, Circuit Courts are the state’s primary courts of general jurisdiction. However, Mississippi’s County and Justice Courts also have jurisdiction over misdemeanor criminal cases. As such, felony and misdemeanor criminal cases are often prosecuted by different courts with misdemeanors heard by the state’s justice or county courts while felony crimes are prosecuted by one of the state’s 22 circuit court districts. On the other hand, where the offender is an addict (of drug or alcohol) prosecution begins in Mississippi’s intervention or drug courts.
Mississippi’s two-tier appellate court system allows for appeals from the Court of Appeals, Circuit, County and Chancery courts to be heard by the Supreme County. However, when allocated by the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals reviews cases in which there are disputed facts. Nonetheless, it is within the authority of Mississippi’s Supreme Court to review cases and give the final and binding verdict. Where the Supreme Court rejects an appeal, the judgment of the Court of Appeals will be considered final. However, federal crimes committed within the state’s judicial district are heard by the Mississippi federal courts.
What’s Included in a Mississippi Criminal Court Record?
While Mississippi criminal court records are usually unique to the case and the judicial district where the case was heard/filed, most court records share many similarities. Given that criminal records are designed to provide a formal account of the proceedings of the state’s courts, they often feature information regarding the criminal charge being prosecuted, the personal information of the plaintiff and defendant as well as details of the court’s judicial processes—i.e motions, actions, appearances, and witness statements. However, the information contained does not include inmate records or incarceration details (if applicable). Regardless of the case, Mississippi criminal court records usually feature:
- Details of the criminal charges, including the date and place of the crime(s)
- The personal information of both plaintiff and defendant as well as the names of respective litigants
- Information regarding the legal severity of the charges and corresponding legal implications
- The plea of the defendant, as well as court summons, search and/or arrest warrants issued for persons involved in the case
- Documents containing information regarding the physical and psychological/mental competence of persons involved including key and expert witnesses.
- Evidence presented by either or both parties, witness statements, and expert testimonies
- Details of the litigation proceedings including court actions and appearances motions, and motion arguments, etc.
- Details of the court’s final verdict and revisions made by appellate courts including details of penalties such as jail sentences, probation conditions, community services, court-mandated therapy, fines, etc.
Obtaining Mississippi Criminal Court Records
In keeping with Mississippi’s public record laws, interested members of the public can view or obtain copies of criminal court records on request. Given the unique processes employed by most judicial districts, the requirements for accessing these records generally varies depending on the case and its custodian. Generally, non-confidential records can be obtained by members of the public while records that are confidential or sealed by court order are restricted to eligible persons. There are three primary channels through which Mississippi criminal court records can be obtained:
- By using the state-managed or third party online resources
- By making in-person requests to the courthouse where the case was heard
- By making mail-in queries to the appropriate record custodian
How Do I Find Mississippi Criminal Court Records Online?
The Mississippi state judicial system launched its electronic filing and case management system in 2008, mirroring the Federal Case Management/Electronic Case Filing (CM/ECF) system. The Mississippi Electronic Courts (MEC) system is an internet-based repository that can be used to file and retrieve electronic case files including criminal court records. Following its establishment, interested members of the public may access state-run databases including cases filed from the state Court of Appeals and Supreme Courts and those managed by local courts in various judicial districts of the state. This allows users to conduct state-wide searches remotely at a low cost.
The MEC system provides access to the online repositories of participating courts within its jurisdiction. This includes most County Chancery Courts, Circuit Courts, and the state appellate courts. Upon confirming the location of a record of interest, interested persons may select the appropriate court from the drop-down bar of the MEC home page. The user will then be redirected to the document filing system of the selected court/judicial district.
To use the services provided on the MEC, interested persons are required to complete the mandatory MEC registration using the signup page. Registrants are charged a $10 annual subscription fee which can be paid by card or check.
Registration requires the full personal information of the intending user as well as a primary email address. When registration is complete, users are provided with the login information required to access the system. The main benefit of the MEC is that registered users are able to access criminal court information of crimes prosecuted in the state of Mississippi (in participating courts) using only one login.
Upon accessing the system there are two main ways to retrieve the record of interest: by conducting a name-based search or by looking up the record by case number.
- Name-Based Searches
To search for a criminal court record by name, the requesting party must provide the full names of either or both parties involved in the case—i.e plaintiff and/or the defendant. In addition to this, requestors may be required to also provide the date of birth of one or both parties. Where the plaintiff and/or defendant is a business or businesses, searches can be conducted by furnishing the search too with the official business name of either or both parties. If the user cannot provide some information, wild card searches can be conducted using a combination of the known information and the percentage sign (%) and/or the underscore (_). However, in the very least, partial information must be provided by the requestor.
- Case Number Searches
Case number-based searches typically provide straightforward results as numbers are typically unique to most records. In addition to providing a case number for this search, requesters may also be required to provide information regarding the approximate date the case was filed and/or heard.
In addition to the above, some, but not all of Mississippi trial courts and court clerks maintain independent websites and online repositories with which records can be retrieved. Publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels
How Do I Access Mississippi Criminal Court Records in Person?
While most public court records can be obtained using the MEC, Mississippi public record laws prohibit the distribution of confidential court case information through public electronically accessible repositories. As such criminal court records which are confidential or sealed by court order are not accessible electronically but can be made available to persons who make in-person requests to the office of the record custodian—which is typically the office of the clerk of courts in the courthouse where the case was filed/heard. Given the aforementioned limitations on electronic filing systems, persons interested in obtaining full criminal court case information are advised to request the record in-person. Mississippi in-person record requests may proceed thus:
Locate the Record Custodian
According to the operations of Mississippi’s judicial system, criminal court records are generated and maintained by the court clerk in which the case was heard. As such in-person court record requests require the requestor locate and confirm the judicial district in which the criminal offense occurred and the court which heard the case.
In the state of Mississippi, the state’s Drug Courts, Justice Courts, County Court, and Circuit Courts all have jurisdiction over criminal cases. As such, criminal court records may be domiciled with any of the clerks of these courts depending on the case type. Where the record is pertaining to a crime committed by drug/alcohol addicted persons, the record is managed by the Drug courts, records of cases selected misdemeanors are managed by the Justice and County courts while felony crimes are heard by the state Circuit Courts and their court records, managed by Circuit Court Clerk. Essentially, the location of a Mississippi criminal court record may be impacted by the severity of the offense.
Similarly, records of cases with appealed judgments are typically updated and maintained by the appellate court which reviewed the verdict. This is usually Mississippi’s Court of Appeals or State Supreme Court. Information regarding the state’s various courts and the contact details of their respective court clerks can be obtained using the resources available on the Mississippi Courts website.
Collect the Required Information
After confirming the location of the desired record in the judicial district where the case was heard, the requesting party may proceed to contact the record custodian i.e. the clerk of courts for information regarding the court’s record retrieval process. While the requirements for record retrieval generally varies from court to court and may depend on the case, persons seeking access to criminal court records are often required to provide all the details needed to facilitate record searches. This information typically includes the full name(s) of either or both of the parties involved, the case file number of the record (if known) and the approximate date on which the case was filed/heard. In selected instances, requestors may also need to provide the name of any of the attorneys involved in the case.
Visit the Court Record Custodian
To make in-person record requests, interested persons may visit the office of the court clerk during official working hours. Ideally, requestors must schedule each visit to the courthouse to ensure that any required resources and personnel will be available. Most requestors may self serve using the public-access computer terminals available at most courthouses. However, if the requestor requires confidential and/or certified records, the court clerk will process the search and authenticate the document. To proceed with the search, the requestor is usually required to complete an implication indicating the required information as well as the personal and contact details of the requesting party.
Provide Identification and Fee Requirements
To obtain a record, requestors are required to confirm their eligibility by presenting a government-issued photo ID. In some cases, requestors are also charged a nominal fee to cover search/copy costs depending on the requested record. Where this is the case, the court clerk will only proceed with the search after the fee and ID requirements have been met. Additionally, records that are confidential are usually restricted to persons with specific legal authorities. As such, persons interested in obtaining confidential records must also provide a court-issued order/subpoena along with the ID and fees. Where the requestor cannot provide a photo ID, other documents may serve as alternative forms of ID—however, this is the prerogative of the record custodian.
How Do I Access Mississippi Criminal Court Records via Mail?
The Mississippi state judiciary supports the dissemination of some criminal court records via mail. To obtain a court via mail, interested persons are required to prepare a written request to be delivered to the applicable court clerk. Given the specificities of most records, the requirements for accessing most records depends on the case type and the judicial district where the case was heard. As such, requestors are advised to contact the record custodian for information regarding the requirements of the court prior to preparing a request. Most requestors will be required to provide the following information in writing:
- The full name and contact information of either or both parties involved in the case
- General case information including the place/date on which the case was heard
- The case file number, docket number and or appellate case number of the record (if applicable)
- The names of the attorney involved and in some cases, their state bar number
- The personal and contact information of the requesting party.
- General information regarding appellate reviews to the original verdict (if applicable)
Additionally, requesters may be required to enclose a photocopy of their government-issued photo ID, a payment to cover search/copy fees in cheque or money order form as well as a stamped, self-addressed envelope with which to receive the requested record.
Are all Mississippi Criminal Court Records Public?
The state of Mississippi supports the right of the public to view and obtain copies of criminal court records. However, this right is not absolute, and following Mississippi state Public Record laws, selected records are not available to the public.
Typically, criminal court records which are accessible through third-party sites and state-managed online repositories are considered public record. The information provided to the public includes details of the prosecuted offense, court actions, motions, and oral arguments, summons, dispositions, and details of the court’s final verdict and indicated penalties. Also available to the public are court minutes, calendars and schedules as well as court opinions—these are also available on the State of Mississippi Judiciary website
What Records are Automatically Sealed by Mississippi State Statutes?
There are a variety of reasons why a Mississippi court record can be sealed, expunged or restricted from public dissemination. Some records are sealed at the discretion of the court, while others are expunged following a petition from the plaintiff or acquitted defendant. However, given the exemptions indicated in Mississippi public record laws, selected records are automatically sealed, and may only be released to persons with specific legal authorities. These records include:
- The identifying information of selected persons including minors, juveniles, and assault or domestic violence victims.
- The personal and contact information of selected jurors and/or witnesses
- Records pertaining to the mental/psychological evaluation of persons involved in the case
- Paternity or adoption-related records if relevant to the criminal case.
- Financial bank account numbers, social security numbers, and related information.
Can I Access Mississippi Sealed Criminal Court Records?
Records sealed by court order may be made available to eligible persons if the record has been deemed relevant in a legal dispute, crime or for security and financial purposes. Interested persons may obtain sealed records by challenging the sealing order. This requires the requestor to petition to obtain a subpoena from a Mississippi-licensed judge. Requestors may also require a written and notarized permission from the subject(s) of the record to access the record of interest. These records are generally not available using online resources but can be obtained by making in-person requests to the office of the record custodian.
Are Mississippi Juvenile Criminal Records Open to the Public?
In the state of Mississippi and across the U.S., records of juvenile delinquents and their court prosecution are automatically sealed by state statutes. However, in selected cases, these records are not sealed and may not be expunged except under special circumstances. If the juvenile over 14 and has recorded prior offenses and adjudications, or if he/she were tried as an adult or involved in a traffic-related violation and/or if the offense committed is (by state law) a felony, then the record will not be sealed.
Sealed juvenile criminal records may be released to selected persons who are authorized by a court order. It may also be released if the requesting party is authorized by or is a school district, the district attorney or the legal representative of the juvenile. However, to obtain the required legal authority to access a Mississippi juvenile criminal record, the requestor must provide a justifiable reason for the release of the requested document.
How to Find Mississippi Criminal History Records
Criminal court records and criminal history information differ in that while Mississippi criminal court records are a documentation of the judicial processes of state criminal courts, criminal records feature information regarding the criminal history of individuals within the state jurisdiction. Essentially, these may not be substituted for each other.
The Mississippi Department of Public Safety is tasked with maintaining and disseminating criminal history information through its Bureau of Investigation. The Bureau maintains a state-wide repository from which criminal records can be retrieved following Mississippi state laws. To obtain a record, interested requestors may query the Applicant Processing Division of the DPS Criminal Information Center (CIC). The Division conducts name-based background checks using the full name of the subject, their name, gender and date of birth and/or social security number. The Division is also tasked with operating the state’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System which allows interested and eligible persons to obtain the comprehensive rap sheet of specific subjects. All Mississippi criminal record requests can be made to the law enforcement agency of the judicial district where the subject is resident, or to:
Mississippi Department of Public Safety
P. O. Box 958
Jackson, MS 39205