People demand information. In response to this need, courts, as well as government agencies at all levels – state, local, and federal – are all working hard to make public records accessible and viewable on their respective websites. Some are just starting to implement this policy, while some have been doing this since the 1990s.
Searching for public records – birth certificates, marriage records, family history, land records, death certificates – is now made easier than ever because of the resources available in the Internet. This is now one of the most prevalent search activities online, and now, millions of people seek historical, vital, and other documents listed publicly.
Public records are accessible to anyone who makes an effort to go to the right sources and asks for the said files.
Ways To Access Public Records
You can access public records electronically in two ways: Some government offices post them on their websites, hence granting low-cost or free access to records; courts and other government agencies sell their stored public files to information brokers and commercial data compilers. These people, in turn, make such information accessible to the public for a fee, either by special network hookups or websites.
Here are some examples of public records with personal information available online:
- Registered voter files (not allowed in some states)
- Motor vehicle records – licensing, registration, and driver history information (differs by state)
- Business and professional licenses
- Property tax assessor files – Records contain the following:
– Owner’s name
– Property description
– Property’s assessed value (obtained for taxation purposes)
– Property blueprints (for some systems)
- Court files
– Civil court recordings
– Case indices
– Bankruptcy files
– Tax liens and judgments
– Criminal conviction and arrest records, as well as warrants
Public records remain public for transparency purposes. People aim to monitor the government and take note of its official actions through these public records. They also give notice of certain individuals’ and properties’ “official” status.
Public Records Accessible Online
Public records accessible online is the citizens’ powerful weapon to make the government accountable for actions they (the government) might take.
Take note of these when accessing public records:
- These records often contain confidential and private information such as financial account numbers and Social Security numbers. You can usually find such information in child custody cases, bankruptcy filings, and divorce decrees.
- In business disputes, or even in neighbors’ disputes, there may be allegations that aren’t true.
- Family law files usually include information about children as well as allegations of negligence and/or wrongdoing of spouses, although they may not necessarily be true.
- Insurance holders’ medical conditions are made public and included in court records. Companies can use this information together with other personal matters to discourage the complainant from pushing through with court proceedings.
- Sexual harassment cases may require the defendant to state damaging statements such as the sexual history and lifestyle of the plaintiff.
- Witnesses and victims’ statements are included in the public file, and their personal safety can be jeopardized if their identities are revealed.
- Providing personal details to courts and government agencies is mandatory.
- You shouldn’t be paying for information you found online except from approved and protected state or federal resources.
To access public records such as UCCs, judgments, liens, bankruptcy records, watercraft, aircraft and stock ownership, lawsuits, death records, state corporate records, and limited partnership records, you might need to check a commercial database. For more personal information on certain people, you can also turn to commercial databases such as this website’s database. While it’s a good thing that you can access public records – especially if you need them for valid and legitimate purposes – there are, however, some privacy advocates who are not happy with the files being greatly accessible.
Not All Information Is Available Online Immediately
The amount and diversity of public records are astounding, especially if you consider the fact that some of them had just been added recently on the Web. Yet, be prepared that not all information is available online immediately; you still have to search or wait for them to be uploaded or published.
It’ll be a while before everyone gets access completely, but don’t worry as there are good old methods you can use to gain these information such as post, phone, and hard copy commercial databases. Besides, given the speed of technological advancement, you need not