Free Iowa Records: Background Checks, Arrests & More

Free Iowa Records Page Search
Access Iowa Records: warrants, divorce and marriage, arrests, driver's license, and all public records.

Iowa Records Page provides resources for searching free Iowa state records including marriage certificates, free divorce records, methods of conducting a free warrant check, and all other publicly available records throughout the state.

How Do Iowa Public Records & State Laws Work?

Because of the federal Freedom of Information Act–commonly known as the FOIA–American citizens have the right to seek out both state and federal government records and many government systems are obligated to provide that information.

Iowa’s state records law is called the Iowa Public Records Law; it permits Iowa residents to obtain any public record save for a few exceptions.1 While some Iowa records are open to the general public, others–like students’ personal information, medical records, and confidential military records–are confidential.

It is highly suggested that people utilize government sources in their search for Iowa Records because official agencies or government-run sites are more likely to deliver accurate, reliable, and up to date results.

However, some private third-party websites offer a much more affordable record search service with either a one-time payment or subscription or often completely free to the user. These platforms give patrons a great deal of freedom when it comes to record searching since they’re not limited to local databases.

Additionally, since some information isn’t publicly available in certain states, these types of sites combine resources from both the internet and government directories to provide more comprehensive and broader results.

Before beginning their research, individuals seeking records in Iowa need to know where to locate the proper government agency, court, or other organizations to ensure they find what they need efficiently.

Iowa Criminal Records

Criminal records in Iowa usually consist of DUI charges, crimes committed within the past 80 years, prior and pending court case proceedings, and other criminal history information.

Those who operate a business, own property, or manage a shelter often check an applicant’s criminal background to make sure the individual is safe to be around customers, tenants, and other shelter residents.

Are Criminal Records & Police Reports Public Records in Iowa?

Iowa criminal and arrest records, along with police reports, are all considered public documents. However, incidents involving an ongoing investigation are kept confidential. Therefore, people need to wait until a criminal case closes and is made available to the public before researching it.

How Do I Find Someone’s Criminal Record in Iowa?

Anyone needing to conduct a criminal history check on themselves or someone else can use the State of Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation’s DCI Criminal History Record Check. Criminal records can be retrieved by fax, email, mail, or in person. Each search costs $15.00 per surname.

To order a report by email, postal mail or fax, patrons first need to print out request and billing forms. After filling them out, requestors can send these forms through any of the following options:

Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation – Support Operations Bureau
First Floor – 215 East 7th St.
Des Moines, Iowa 50319
Fax: 515-725-6080

In-person requests can be submitted at the address above on weekdays between 8am and 4pm and will be processed immediately for those conducting a criminal history report on themselves. If requestors want to conduct a criminal history search on someone else, they will have to leave the request with office staff members.

Additionally, interested parties can also obtain anyone’s criminal record through the Iowa Court’s Electronic Docket Search for free. This docket search tool is maintained by the offices of all of the clerk of courts in the state.

Interested parties can opt to research their own or someone else’s criminal history through their local police department, county clerk’s office, or various courts within their jurisdiction.

How To Find IA Criminal Record Pictures (Mugshots)

Criminal record pictures, colloquially known as mugshots, are vital public records in Iowa as they assist law enforcement in identifying and apprehending fugitives, while also enabling family members and friends to locate incarcerated individuals.

Iowa residents can find mugshots through many resources, particularly sheriff’s offices and local police departments. For instance, the Cerro Gordo County Sheriff’s Office produces a daily online population report of jail inmates in the county, including their mugshots.

Daily booking reports and the Inmate Search Tool are both provided by the Scott County Sheriff’s Office and display mugshots of subjects incarcerated in the county jail. To browse the booking reports, site visitors can click on one of the reports and then select the name beneath an inmate’s mugshot to read their profile and incarceration information.

To utilize the inmate search tool, users can enter search criteria such as the inmate’s first name, last name, arresting agency, or custody status.

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office has a convenient Incarcerated Individual Search Tool for those in a rush. Searchers can simply click on a name to view a mugshot and details about the said inmate including charges, docket numbers, booking date and bond amount. (They can also type a name in the “Find” box in the upper right-hand corner.)

Some sheriff’s offices lack online search features, in which case interested parties can call their local office to obtain a criminal record photo. In addition, searchers can type “[county name] mugshots” into any search engine to check for convenient online search tools or locate their city or county jail department.

Iowa Juvenile Law

Juvenile records in Iowa are open to the public, though someone can restrict access to them. Per Iowa Code Section 232.150, a person is permitted to seal their juvenile record as long as they meet certain criteria:

  • Must be 18 or older
  • Have no felony or serious misdemeanor convictions
  • At least two years have passed since their last juvenile case2

How Do I Know if I’m Wanted in IA? (Free Iowa Warrant Check)

Those wanting to check if there’s a warrant out on a friend or themselves can check if online warrant information is available by entering “[county name] warrant search” into a search engine. At the local level, warrant lists are usually hosted by the sheriff’s department or local police agencies.

For example, residents of Woodbury County can access the Warrant Search Tool provided by the sheriff’s office and review the name list or the search box that allows users to conduct their own research.

The Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office has a very handy Warrant Search Portal, searchers can click on a name to get more information about individuals with outstanding warrants such as their age, warrant issue and last known address.

Anyone who doesn’t mind downloading a file can visit the Dickinson County Sheriff’s Office warrant page to accept the License Agreement at the bottom of the page and begin downloading the warrant list, which is updated weekly.

A screenshot of a registry from the Dickinson County Sheriff's Office displaying a list of individuals with warrant numbers, issue and disposition dates, names, charges, personal details like date of birth and physical characteristics, and associated bond amounts.
Source: Dickinson County Sheriff’s Office6

Not every sheriff’s office or police department carries a warrant list or has a warrant search tool. That said, some do collaborate with Crime Stoppers to catch any criminals. Regardless, anyone is welcome to leave anonymous tips to their local law enforcement as their information can lead to an arrest.

Find Iowa’s Sex Offender Registry & Map

People should be aware of any sex offenders nearby, especially if they need to ensure the safety of any minors or other vulnerable people in their care. The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) provides a free Online Sex Offender Registry Tool for the general public.

The registry’s three primary search options include a basic search, an advanced search, and a map search. The basic search is limited to an offender’s name and postal code. The advanced search lets users search by geographical proximity, county, and city. (Site visitors can even research other states and Canadian provinces.) The map search allows someone to see how many miles an offender lives from their home.

Additionally, this website offers a Most Wanted list and a notification feature that someone can sign up for to receive up-to-date alerts about offenders through phone, email, or text. This can provide some peace of mind to those who do not check the registry often.

The National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) is also available for countrywide searches for convicted sex offenders and is ideal for those who want to expand their research to US territories as well.

How Do I Get a Free Background Check on Someone in Iowa?

Going through a background check is essential for renting a home, getting a job (particularly one that deals with financial information or vulnerable populations), and applying for a loan. Background check results typically feature a person’s former employers, credit history, and primary address.

The Iowa Department of Criminal Investigations Record Check site mentioned previously in this article can be used to run background checks on others. It also offers another background check service for authorized users: SING (The Single Contact Repository).

SING allows certain organizations to conduct background checks on volunteers and employees involved in social work or healthcare. They need to follow these instructions to use the portal, as a SING identification number and PIN is required to access this resource.

Residents can consult their sheriff’s office or police department to inquire about local background checks. They just need to enter “[county name] background check” or “[city] background check” into a search engine to locate the appropriate location and agency.

Understanding Iowa’s Court Structure & Court Record Laws

Iowa court records mainly contain misdemeanors, docket sheets, probate trials, and other court-related details. Unless specified otherwise by statute or the State Court Rules, Iowa state records are generally accessible to the public.3

The Iowa Judicial Branch comprises four distinct courts: Juvenile Court, District Court, Court of Appeals, and Supreme Court.

  • Juvenile Court covers juvenile delinquency cases as well as child welfare cases.
  • The District Court deals with juvenile, civil, and criminal trials.
  • The Court of Appeals handles retrial cases brought over from the District Court.
  • The Supreme Court, located in Des Moines, rules over the other courts in the Iowa court system.

How Do I Look Up Someone’s Court Cases in Iowa?

If someone needs to look up a court case, there are certain directories they need to research depending on the case they’re searching for.

For example, a person who wants to track down documents pertaining to a civil or criminal suit needs to locate where the case took place and contact the applicable court office through this directory.

Users will need to consult the Appellate Court directory to request appellate court records. Anything related to administrative records can be found through the State Court Administration.

How To Obtain Bankruptcy Public Records in IA

People wanting to retrieve someone else’s bankruptcy records can do so in person, online, or by phone.

The US Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of Iowa offers a public terminal at its clerk’s office. While it doesn’t cost anything to look at documents, individuals will be required to pay the appropriate fees to print them. Visitors can also stop by the US Bankruptcy Court of the Northern District of Iowa, which has locations in Cedar Rapids and Sioux City.

Those who want to research archived bankruptcy records can visit the National Archives in person or order bankruptcy documents online. After creating an account, interested parties can find and purchase personal and business bankruptcy cases as a docket sheet, a pre-selected case file, or as an entire case file.

PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) is another site where someone can purchase bankruptcy records for charges of $0.10 a page for documents and $2.40 per audio file.

The Voice Case Information System (VCIS) offers a no-charge, toll-free number that allows callers to obtain case information like attorneys, judges, and case numbers.

Iowa Inmate Records & Information (Jails & Prisons)

Citizens can look up incarcerated individuals in Iowa’s jails and prisons through many avenues. Iowa inmate records usually contain relevant information such as an offender’s name, projected release date, and identification number.

How Do I Find Recent Arrests in Iowa?

Iowa residents can use many tools to locate someone who was recently taken into custody.

The Iowa City Police Department Arrest Blotter has a list of arrestees that’s updated every day. A site visitor can click on the case number next to the name to read more about their birthdate, the officer who arrested them, and whether or not they’ve been jailed.

The booking feature provided by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office shows those who have been arrested within the last 24 hours. This doesn’t include people who committed federal crimes.

The Dubuque County Sheriff’s Recent Arrest Page lets users click the arrows at the bottom to flip through photos and arrest offenses.

Locals can use similar methods with other police departments or sheriff’s offices. If that’s not doable, they can find the relevant phone numbers or email addresses through a search engine and contact the agencies directly.

Iowa State &  Federal Prison Inmate Search

Iowa state records include information on individuals incarcerated in state and federal prisons.

Searchers hoping to locate a loved one in a federal prison within the state of Iowa can look to the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) for assistance; the DOC’s offender search page allows site visitors to not only search by name and birthday but also by county and facility. Individuals can research one or all locations at the same time.

Iowa Prison Offender Correspondence Information

Once someone locates a family member or friend in a correctional facility, they can plan a visit with them. Before seeing their loved one, the visitor will have to fill out an application, which is available in both English and in Spanish. Individuals hoping to visit must mail the application to this address:

Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility
Cent. Records
1200 East Washington
Mount Pleasant IA 52641

Once the application is processed and approved, friends and family members can schedule a virtual or in-person visit by signing up through the Ameelio Connect app, which is only available on certain smartphones and tablets.

Those who want a prison pen-pal can sign up for a CorrLinks account. CorrLinks is an offender email or o-email portal that offers a great way for new friends to communicate without worrying about envelopes and stamps. The charge for this service is $0.25 per email, which is billed to the prisoner’s account, and all messages are monitored.

People who don’t mind using snail mail can write and send letters to the facility where the offender resides. Envelopes should include the inmate’s name, ID number, facility name, and address. Note that prison staff members make copies of all incoming letters before giving them to the offender to prevent contraband from entering.

Per statute Ch.904.508A, the Iowa DOC is required to provide a telephone service for prison inmates. An individual must be added to the inmate’s approved contact list before calls can be made. Rates for international calls vary, but domestic calls are charged $0.11 per minute capped at $2.20 per 20-minute call.

Sending Money to Iowa Offenders

Family members and friends can send money to offenders online, in person, or by phone.

Online methods include JPay, Western Union, CorrLinks, and Access Corrections. In-person deposits can be made through CashPay Today or ACE Cash Express kiosks at someone’s local store. People can call Access Corrections’ toll-free number (636-888-7004) any time of day or night to make phone deposits.

Find Out When an Iowa Inmate Will Be Released

If someone hasn’t seen their loved one for months or years, they’d be excited to hear about their release date. The State of Iowa Board of Parole is one site users can rely on to find inmate information including someone’s date of release to parole. As an example, below is a photo of an inmate and their release info:

A screenshot displays an offender's detail page from the State of Iowa Board of Patrol with sections for the individual's name, identification number, sex, birth date, and most recent board decision information, with various fields left blank.
Source: State of Iowa Board of Patrol7

In addition, people can contact any of the Iowa DOC Facilities or their local county jail for release dates. For further guidance, any interested party can review the tutorial on looking up parolees throughout Iowa.

What Are Iowa Vital Records & What Do They Contain?

Iowa vital records include adoption records, marriage certificates, birth certificates, death records, property records, genealogy reports, and divorce decrees. With that said, this section will only discuss birth, death, marriage, and divorce records.

Are Iowa Vital Records Certificates Publicly Available? (How To See Free Iowa Marriage Records)

Whether vital records throughout Iowa are open to the public or not depends on the individual record.

For instance, both birth and marriage certificates are technically public records, but they have to be at least 75 years old before anyone is allowed access to them. Death certificates aren’t open to the public for 50 years.

Divorce records are open to the public immediately after finalization; each Iowa counties’ divorce rates are shown in the image below.5

An outline of the map of the State of Iowa with its Counties shows each County's divorce population rates (5-year estimates in 2021) based on the Census Bureau that ranges from 5.20%-16.60%.
Source: Census Bureau

How Can I Find Birth, Death, Marriage, and Free Divorce Records in Iowa?

The Vital Records Division of the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) Bureau of Health Statistics is the place where Iowa residents can inquire about and order certified copies of vital records. Requestors can only obtain birth, death, and marriage certificates from this division. Plus, they have to be related to the subject of the record to pick them up.

Anyone interested in retrieving divorce records has to visit the court’s office in the county where the divorce was initiated.

Customers can order certified record copies in four ways: by mail, in person, via phone, or online. Here are more details about each purchasing option:

Iowa DPH – Bureau of Health Statistics
Lucas State OB Floor #1
321 East 12th St
Des Moines IA 50319

  • In-person– The office is open from 7 am to 4:30 pm on weekdays. Visitors have to bring a photo ID. Any customer who wants quick service can get their order processed within two hours if they arrive before 2 in the afternoon.
  • Phone– Patrons can call 866-809-0290 to reach VitalChek. Customer service representatives are available from 6 in the morning to 7 at night Central Time. The order fee is $9.00.
  • Online– There are two methods a person can use to order online. The first method is ordering through VitalChek, then picking up the records in person. (This only works for those who live in Des Moines.) The second method is ordering online and accepting the shipment at home. The order fee is $13.00.
A screenshot shows an application form from the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of Health Statistics for ordering a vital event record, with checkboxes for event types, fields for personal details, the event's date and location, and the applicant's relationship to the person on the record, specifically for events that occurred within a specific Midwestern state.
Source: Iowa Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of Health Statistics8

The price of new copies of birth, death, and marriage certificates is $15.00. Additional copies of these vital records are free. Record seekers can also utilize the Iowa marital record search resource for further guidance on obtaining licenses or looking up others’ details.

All of this information concerning public records, background checks, and other related subjects may seem overwhelming for some to take in, but it’s all worth it in the end. When people take the time to educate themselves about these records and how to access them, they can be armed with the tools they need when hunting down important documents.

To summarize, Iowa state records include criminal history reports hosted by the Division of Criminal Investigation, state and federal inmate records maintained by the Iowa Department of Corrections, court records held by the courts in each jurisdiction, and arrest and warrant records maintained by local law enforcement agencies.


1Iowa Public Information Board. (n.d.). Public Records. Retrieved April 26, 2024, from <>

2Iowa Legal Aid. (2023, March 23). Juvenile Record Causing Problems? How “Sealing” Can Help. Retrieved April 26, 2024, from <>

3Iowa Judicial Branch. (n.d.). Public Records Requests. Retrieved April 26, 2024, from <>

4National Institute of Corrections. (n.d.). Iowa 2019 state statistics. Retrieved April 26, 2024, from <>

5Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. (n.d.). Vital Records. Retrieved April 26, 2024, from <>

6Dickinson County Sheriff’s Office. (n.d.). Law Enforcement Employment Co-op. Retrieved April 26, 2024, from <>

7Iowa Department of Corrections. (2024). Search Offenders. Retrieved April 26, 2024, from <>

8Iowa Department of Human Services. (2024, January). Application To Order an Iowa Vital Record. Retrieved April 26, 2024, from <>