Tennessee’s public records are created by state and local governments in conducting the business of the people of Tennessee. They document the work of public agencies and represent the evidence by which citizens may understand the consequences of decisions made by their government. In essence, they allow the governed to hold those who govern accountable. To that end, these documents must always remain available for public inspection.
Public records are public property. By law, some records must be maintained permanently by state and county governments. They must remain forever in public custody, and at no time can public records legally be owned, traded, sold, or bought by members of the general public. The government’s responsibility towards custodianship of public records is serious and mandated by law.
The private sale of these records is strictly prohibited according to TCA 39-16-504, the so-called replevin law. Replevin provides for the repossession from private hands of all public records removed from state, county, or municipal government offices. Violation of this law is a Class A misdemeanor.
Help the State of Tennessee Recover Lost and Stolen Public Records!
We need your help!
Help to ensure that Tennessee's state and local records (court records, wills, deeds, etc.) that have been lost or stolen are returned safely and securely to their appropriate counties, where they can be preserved, indexed, microfilmed, and made available to all citizens.
In some counties, public records were taken from courthouses years ago or were removed from their proper storage location in the county archive. Whenever such records are removed or stolen--sometimes for resale on web auction sites such as eBay--our shared history is lost and accountability in our government is compromised. State and county records are public property and cannot legally be owned by private individuals. Removing government documents from government custody is illegal.