What Are Government Public Records?
Government public records are records of information that are collected by the government on it’s citizens. These records are used for a multitude of purposes such as; identifying people, where they reside, financial history, criminal history, driving information, marriage and immigration status and a multitude of other uses. Most all of the government collected information on it’s citizens are public domain, via the FOIA, and available for the general public to access. Some government public records are sealed and not public domain such as juvenile records, medical records, military records and social security information.
Government Public Records via FOIA
The Freedom of Information Act of 1967 is a federal law that gives the general public the right to make a request to any federal agency to access these government records. This law is often described as the law that allows citizens to hold the government accountable. This law demands that federal agencies disclose any information that is requested for. The law allows for only nine exemptions in instances where the information requested would violate interests such as personal privacy, law enforcement and national security if released to the general public. The FOIA law also requires the agencies to present online records that are frequently requested.
Below are some examples of Government Public Records:
Civil Public Records
Birth, Death, Marriage and Divorce Records
All events of an individual’s life as pertains to birth, marriage, divorce and death are part of the government’s public record. These records are essential when conducting a census. They also help when researching one’s family history. This information is available in physical offices and on online databases for ease of access.
Property Public Records
Property Ownership Records and Lien Records
Property records that pertain to public buildings, lots and establishments are also among the government public records. Real estate appraisals made on properties are also part of these public records. Sale and specific loan information is not public domain however lien records and lien information is public information. If a person has a lien on their home or personal assets this is filed with the courts and then becomes public domain.
Criminal Public Records
Criminal Records and Court Files and Dockets
Summaries of court proceedings are made available to the public after the specific cases are closed. Criminal records of individual people are also part of the government records accessible to the public through police or courthouse records. However, this law does not apply to certain high profile trials.
Driver Public Records
Driving History, DUIs and Traffic Violations
Driver records are public information that can be accessed. A driver’s history, traffic citations and DUIs are all government public records. Traffic violations and DUIs are considered criminal records and can stay on the government public records database for up to 10 years.
Public Hearing Records
Minutes of Public Forums and Public Hearings
Minutes of any official meetings of public representatives and elected officials fall under the public records. These records are located in the specific office of the official group that held the meeting.
Note About Government Public Records
It is important to note that the methods of retrieving these government records vary based on the jurisdiction and specific information being sought. The President, Congress and the Supreme Court all acknowledge the necessity of this law as a part of the country’s democracy. Very few countries around the world have access to the multitude of public records that we do in the United States. It is a privilege to have access this government collected public information. Please be mindful when using this information. It is unlawful to harass or use this information in an unlawful fashion. Make sure to verify the information you find to insure you’ve found the correct government public records for the right person.