Investigators Guide to Sources of Information

Chapter 1
Local and State Governments

Local Government

State Government



The following information is available from a building inspector's office:


Coroner registers generally contain the name or description of the deceased; date of inquest, if any; property found on the deceased and its disposition; and the cause of death.


Court clerks often maintain court files on such civil actions as liens, name changes, and divorces. These files generally include the complaint (identifying the plaintiff(s), the defendant(s), and the cause of action); the answer to the complaint; and the judgment rendered. Also, depositions introduced as exhibits become part of the court records. The court clerk's minutes or the file jacket may indicate whether a transcript of the proceedings was taken.

Divorce case complaints usually identify the plaintiff and defendant; place and date of marriage (which points to the appropriate county recorder's records); date of separation, if applicable; names, ages, and birthdates of any children; community property; and grounds or charges, if any; and the attorneys retained by the parties. The plaintiff's signature is usually on the complaint and the defendant's signature can be found on the cross-complaint or answer.

Probate indexes will list probate actions alphabetically, by name of the estate or petitioner, and will give the filing date and the docket number. Individual case files often list causes of action and rulings regarding the estate, and status of potential beneficiaries who may be minors, adopted, incompetent, or insane.

Court clerks also maintain criminal court files, which may contain information describing the crime and the charges in an indictment. These files may also contain the complainant's signature (exemplar); a transcript of the preliminary hearing (usually consisting of testimony of the complainant, defendant, witnesses, and arresting officer); the names of the prosecuting and defense attorneys; the probation officer's report, with complete background investigation of the defendant; and any subpoenas issued in the case.


Health departments often license and inspect properties, identify and investigate local health problems, educate businesses on local health issues, and provide direct emergency services.

Death certificates are usually available at health departments. A death certificate provides the decedent's name; address; sex; age; race; social security number; birthplace; birthdate; and date, place, and time of death. Additionally, a death certificate generally provides the medical and coroner's certificate and information about the decedent's parents, including their occupations.


Personnel departments maintain the following information:


Public schools maintain the following information:


Recorder offices maintain the following information:


Registrars of voters may maintain the following:


Applications for business licenses, which are filed by local regulatory agencies, have valuable information on certain types of businesses and professions. Also, such applications often have useful information about individuals engaged in those businesses or professions. In many cities, the following types of businesses and professions would be regulated and their owners and/or practitioners would be required to apply for licenses:


Surveyor offices maintain maps of elevations, baselines, landmarks, important sites, roads, rights of way, and easements.


Tax assessor offices maintain maps of real property, including information on a property's dimensions, address, owner, taxable value, and improvements.


Tax collector offices maintain the following information:


Information filed by welfare commissions is gathered by social workers, psychologists, and physicians. Generally, the information gathered--frequently provided by welfare recipients--is not verified. Welfare commission files contain such information as the recipient's address, previous employment, prior earnings, and property owned. Welfare files also contain information on (1) the property owned by the recipient's relatives and (2) the relatives' health and criminal records.



State attorneys general are good sources of information on (1) efforts made in the areas of statewide criminal justice, civil enforcement, and consumer protection and (2) the functions or administrative structure of the state offices responsible for these areas. The following table lists addresses and telephone numbers for state attorneys general.

Table 1.1: State Attorneys General
State Address Telephone number
Alabama State House, 3rd Fl.
11 South Union Street
Montgomery, AL 36104-3760
(334) 242-7300
Alaska Post Office Box 110300
Diamond Court Building
Juneau, AK 99811

123 Fourth Street, 6th Fl.
Diamond Court House
Juneau, AK 99801
(907) 465-3600
Arizona 1275 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007
(602) 542-4266
Arkansas 323 Center Street
200 Tower Building
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 682-2007
California 1300 I Street
Post Office Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550
(916) 323-5370
Colorado 1525 Sherman Street, 5th Fl.
Denver, CO 80203
(303) 866-4500
Connecticut 55 Elm Street
Post Office Box 120
Hartford, CT 06141-0120
(860) 566-2026
Delaware Carvel State Office Building
820 North French Street
Wilmington, DE 19801
(302) 577-8338
District of Columbia Office of the Corporation Counsel
441 4th Street, N.W., Rm. 1060 North
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 727-6248
Florida The Capitol Building
Plaza Level, Suite 01
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050
(904) 487-1963
Georgia 40 Capitol Square
Atlanta, GA 30334-1300
(404) 656-4585
Hawaii 425 Queen Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
(808) 586-1282
Idaho 700 West Jefferson Street
Post Office Box 83720
Boise, ID 83720-0010
(208) 334-2400
Illinois James R. Thompson Center
100 West Randolph Street, 12th Fl.
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 814-2503
Indiana Indiana Government Center South, 8th Fl.
402 West Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 233-4386
Iowa Hoover State Office Building, 2nd Fl.
Des Moines, IA 50319
(515) 281-3053
Kansas Judicial Building
301 S.W. 10th Street
Topeka, KS 66612
(913) 296-2215
Kentucky Capitol Building, Suite 116
700 Capitol Avenue
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 564-7600
Louisiana 300 Capitol Drive
Post Office Box 94005
Baton Rouge, LA 70804
(504) 342-7013
Maine Six State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
(207) 626-8800
Maryland 200 Saint Paul Place
Baltimore, MD 21202-2021
(410) 576-6300
Massachusetts One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 727-2200
Michigan Law Building, 7th Fl.
Post Office Box 30212
525 West Ottawa Street
Lansing, MI 48909-0212
(517) 373-1110
Minnesota 102 State Capitol
St. Paul, MN 55155
(612) 296-6196
Mississippi Post Office Box 220
Jackson, MS 39205

450 High Street
Jackson, MS 39201
(601) 359-3692
Missouri Post Office Box 899
Jefferson City, MO 65102

207 W. High Street
Supreme Court Building
Jefferson City, MO 65101
(573) 751-3321
Montana 215 N. Sanders
Post Office Box 201401
Helena, MT 59620-1401
(406) 444-2026
Nebraska 2115 State Capitol Building
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2682
Nevada 198 South Carson Street
Carson City, NV 89710

100 North Carson Street
Carson City, NV 89701-4717
(702) 687-4170
New Hampshire 33 Capitol Street
Concord, NH 03301
(603) 271-3658
New Jersey Dept. of Law and Public Safety
Office of Attorney General
Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex
CN 080
Trenton, NJ 08625
(609) 292-4925
New Mexico Post Office Drawer 1508
Santa Fe, NM 87504-1508

407 Galisteo Street, #260
Santa Fe, NM 87501
(505) 827-6000
New York N.Y. State Dept. of Law - the Capitol
Albany, NY 12224
(518) 474-7330
North Carolina Post Office Box 629
Raleigh, NC 27602-0629

2 E. Morgan Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 733-3377
North Dakota State Capitol
600 East Boulevard Avenue
Bismarck, ND 58505-0040
(701) 328-2210
Ohio Rhodes Tower
30 East Broad Street, 17th Fl.
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 466-4320
Oklahoma 2300 North Lincoln Boulevard
Suite 112
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
(405) 521-3921
Oregon 1162 Court Street, NE
Salem, OR 97310
(503) 378-6002
Pennsylvania Strawberry Square, 16th Fl.
Harrisburg, PA 17120
(717) 787-3391
Rhode Island 150 South Main Street
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 274-4400
South Carolina Post Office Box 11549
Columbia, SC 29211-1549

1000 Assembly Street
Columbia, SC 29202
(803) 734-3970
South Dakota 500 East Capitol
Pierre, SD 57501
(605) 773-3215
Tennessee 500 Charlotte Avenue, Suite 114
Nashville, TN 37243
(615) 741-6474
Texas Post Office Box 12548
Austin, TX 78711

209 W. 14th Street
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 463-2191
Utah 236 State Capitol
Salt Lake City, UT 84114
(801) 538-1326
Vermont 109 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05609-1001
(802) 828-3171
Virginia 900 East Main Street
Richmond, VA 23219
(804) 786-2071
Washington 1125 Washington Street S.E.
Post Office Box 40100
Olympia, WA 98504-0100
(360) 753-6200
West Virginia State Capitol, Building 1, Rm. E26
1900 Kanawha Boulevard East
Charleston, WV 25305-0220
(304) 558-2021
Wisconsin Post Office Box 7857
Madison, WI 53707-7857

114 E. State Capitol
Madison, WI 53702
(608) 266-1221
Wyoming 123 Capitol Building
Cheyenne, WY 82002
(307) 777-7841


Bureaus of Vital Statistics have birth certificates on file and are an excellent source of information about people. Birth certificates can provide a child's name, sex, date of birth, and address of place of birth; the names of the attending physician, midwife, and/or other assistants; the parents' names, ages, addresses, race, places of birth, and occupations; the mother's maiden name; and the number of siblings. (In some states, birth certificates may be found at the local level, such as at the health department.)


State Departments of Motor Vehicles maintain information on driver's licenses, vehicle registrations, titles, automobile transfers and sales, car dealers, car salespersons, emission inspection facilities, and--in some states--auto repair businesses. Of those states requiring that photographs of licensed drivers appear on their licenses, most maintain the photographs. Many states are changing to digital photographs.


Departments and agencies that regulate individual and business activities within a particular state can be valuable sources of information. Individuals obtain licenses for activities such as driving, hunting, and fishing and for such professions as medical, legal, and public accounting. Businesses are also often required to obtain licenses and permits to operate and file periodic reports such as for worker's and unemployment compensation, sales tax, and state income tax. The following state regulatory departments and agencies maintain information valuable to investigators:

This document was last updated April 20, 1997