How to Find Court Records for Free

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Learn How to Find Court Records

There is an official record of every case, from criminal cases to bankruptcy to divorce petition, that runs through the court system. Most of these records are considered public domain, unless the records pertain to juveniles or the records have been sealed or expunged by the courts. In fact, many of these records are available online, if you know where to look.

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Types of Court Records

The federal, state and local courts maintain a variety of court records, including:

  • Criminal court records
  • Summons and complaints
  • Arrest records
  • Civil court records
  • Family court records (such as marriage, divorce and custody)
  • Bankruptcy court records
  • Land deed records

What Information Is Available

Unless the judge has sealed the court record, such as with juvenile cases, domestic violence cases, adoption and some civil cases, all the files pertaining to the case are available to the public. This includes:

  • Names of all parties involved
  • Names of attorneys
  • Name of the judge
  • Case number
  • Court dates and location
  • Case files
  • Arrest warrant
  • Supporting documents
  • Final judgements

Personal information, such as social security numbers, are typically omitted from all court records.

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Reasons to Search for a Court Record

Attorneys and news reporters find court records on a regular basis. However, there are many different reasons why an average citizen might need to search for a court record, such as:

  • Criminal background check on anyone
  • Check up on a date or a neighbor
  • Check up on suspicious people
  • Filing a civil suit against another party
  • A civil suit was filed against you
  • Requesting case expungement
  • Getting remarried or divorced
  • Check for land ownership
  • Requesting a name change

How to Find Court Records Online

Before you begin to find court records online, you should gather as much information, such as names of individuals involved in the case or case number, county and state where court was held, and the type of court case requesting.

How you make an online request depends on which court the case went through.

Federal Court Records

All federal court records, including district court and bankruptcy courts, are available through the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) website. You must start by creating a user account. You will be asked to enter your credit card information. However, you are not required to do so in order to establish an account or use the PACER website. Once you set up an account, you can follow the easy prompt to request the specific court record you need. PACER charges a fee of $0.10 per page, or a maximum of $3 per record. You will be billed on a quarterly basis. If your quarterly bill is less than $15, then the fee is waived. If you do not have enough information to find the right court record, you can request a search, but it will cost $30 per search.

State Court Records

Most states offer an online portal for obtaining state court records. Depending on your specific state, you also may be able to locate county records on the state site. The type of information available online varies from state to state. You can find the link to your state’s various courts at the NCSC (National Center for State Courts) website. Look for the Court Records link on your state’s portal and follow the directions for requesting a court record.

County Court Records

The availability of online county court records varies from location to location. In some cases, you may be able to view basic information, such as names of all parties involved and final judgment online, but you will have to make a written or in-person request for more court specific information. Check out your county’s Clerk of Courts Office website to see what records are available in your area. If records are not available online, see section below.

Third-Party Online Vendors

We are a third party online vendor. We provide instant access to court records along with unlimited searches and reports from our member’s area. We also offer a free trial.

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Obtain Court Records In-Person

Due to the ease of ordering court records online, the federal court system has halted in-person requests. However, most public libraries offer free internet services, and in many cases, the library staff can help you make an online request through the PACER system.

Most state and local courts, however, do allow you to make a request to see or obtain a copy of a court record in person. Depending on your specific state, you may be able to simply stop by your local Clerk of Courts office and find court records in person. You must provide the Clerk of Courts with enough information about the case to make it easy to find. You can view the record right at the court’s office, but you will not be able to take it with you. However, you can request a copy of the entire record for a nominal fee per page. Most local offices also allow you to make this request in writing, but you will need to pay for the copies up front and provide a return envelope.

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