According to Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S.) 41-1350:
...“records” means all books, papers, maps, photographs or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, including prints or copies of such items produced or reproduced on film or electronic media pursuant to section 41-1348, made or received by any governmental agency in pursuance of law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by the agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations or other activities of the government, or because of the informational and historical value of data contained therein.
Generally: Arizona Revised Statutes
Title 39, Chapter 1 - Public Records
Title 41, Chapter 8, Article 3 - Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records
Examples of other laws that may apply:
Confidential Records - Arizona Department of Corrections, Records Confidential By Statute
Arizona Administrative Code - Vital records
Remember: These laws apply only to Arizona public records; if you are dealing with federal public records or another state's public records, other laws will apply.
Some records are available for free online. Some agencies provide free online searching, but the actual records must be requested. Some only offer online access to permissible users. Others provide an online form to request records.
Some agencies, such as the Clerk of the Court's office or the Recorder's office, may provide access to their public records at terminals. This may be the most effective way to search for records if there is no online access. The agency will most likely charge printing and copying costs.
Mail, fax and/or telephone
Upon request, most agencies will provide records by mail, fax or telephone. Access may be limited if you do not have enough information identifying the record(s) you are looking for. The agency will most likely charge printing and copying costs. To help expedite the process, look for a records request form online to print and mail to the appropriate agency.
Do your research
Collect as much information as you can from your supervising attorney, newspapers, search engines, etc. For some records, you may need specific personal information such as full name, date of birth, and social security number.
Location, location, location
The most difficult step in finding public records is determining where the records are. Are they federal, state or local records? Which agency has control of the records? For a list of agencies, check out the State of Arizona Agency Directory.
Check the agency web site
Do not automatically think that the public records you are looking for are available online. Even so, check the agency's web site. Look for a request form. Filling out the agency's public records request form may help speed up the process.
It costs money to maintain records and agencies attempt to recoup that cost by charging for copies of records. However, in some cases, you may not be charged.
The last resort
It is rare to have to go to court over obtaining public records. Just keep in mind that it is possible and it is also very expensive.
Hire an expert
Because of the difficulty and time involved in public records research, many attorneys hire an expert to take care of it. Depending on your situation, this may be a good idea.