In this digital era, you can find almost anything through the internet. Whether it is a recommendation for a good book, movie, restaurant, or yes, even public records. While most people are not even aware that public records exist, they might need them at some point in their life.
There is a lot of information that you can unearth through public records. They include marriage licenses, court cases, obituaries, and many more. Government agencies are now making public records available online by digitizing them. For whatever reason you are looking for public records, there are various free online resources to help you locate them. Keep reading to discover the type of public records that you can find online.
What are public records?
This refers to information filed or recorded by a public body and open to citizens by law. They are recorded by courts and government agencies at local, federal, and state levels. Although public records are accessible to the public, their availability varies from state to state.
The public right to access information is protected under the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It allows the citizens to monitor and keep the government accountable. While most records are accessible to anyone, others are confidential and protected by the law. These exemptions protect interests like:
- Personal privacy
- National security
- Law enforcement
Public records are accessible online in two ways:
- Agencies post records on government sites- this provides low-cost or free access to records
- Courts and agencies sell public records to information brokers and data compilers who make the files available at a fee.
Public records on the internet
There are various types of public files available on the internet, including:
It seems that all the biggest events in life go to public records. These include birth, marriage, divorce and death records. Hospitals record new births daily while coroners’ offices give death certificates. These records allow the government to keep track of its citizens and unidentified people. The birth record shows the name, date of birth, county or city of a person’s birth. You can find the most accurate information from your local secretary of state’s website.
Marriage and divorce records are maintained at the county or state level. They are important when tracing family tree and history.
Civil and criminal records
With different kinds of court records available, it is helpful to know the type of record you want for your search. Civil cases are disputes between organizations or people. On the other hand, criminal records involve cases of people who have broken the law and are considered dangerous to society.
Search for the records using the defendant’s name, case number, or appellate’s name. You can access the court files electronically from US courts sites. Police databases also show prior convictions and warrants of arrest. You can do background checks online for free.
Property and land records
Property files are an early form of public record keeping. It involves ownership records of buildings, parking lots, or establishments. You can access communication, contract conditions, and property tax records through property records.
The purpose of public records is accountability. You can access government spending and official meetings of elected officials. This excludes the governor’s and mayor’s offices. The process of getting these records is quite simple. Contact the specific group or office you are interested in or submit the website form.
Other kinds of public records available online are:
- Immigration records
- Business and professional licenses
- Military records
- Copyright information
Tips to accessing public records online
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) defends the public’s right to access public records. Although public files are meant to be free, be ready to pay a production fee. Also, be as polite as possible when approaching public record offices.
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