How to Lookup Public Records
Finding public records, especially those of other people, might feel like the domain of a private investigator or police officer but it’s not. The Freedom of Information Act makes most US government collected records, on it’s citizens, public domain. With the advent of the internet and smartphones, finding public records that you’re looking for is easier than ever. Using a public records website is a good starting place, it’s convenient and anonymous. Learning how to lookup public records just got a whole lot easier.
Are you looking for public records of your own, trying to find information a family member or doing research on a potential employee? While a background check is slightly different, obtaining public records can help you find the information that you’re after. Keep reading to learn more about how to find public records you’re looking for.
What Are Public Records?
Public records are government collected records that are not designated as private, and therefore available to the general public. An example of a public record might be a marriage certificate marked public by the couple getting married. That means that that particular marriage record would be searchable by the general public and part of a system of records that everybody can obtain.
Certain court records are also commonly public. While many other records are part of the public domain and easy to access, other records, like medical records, tend to be private.
Different Types of Public Records Include
- Vital records. Vital records, like a person’s date of birth and name are generally public record and easy to find. You likely will not be able to obtain contact information like a phone number or current address, however.
- Court records. A variety of different court records are available to the general public, ranging from small crime records to civil business cases. Some court records may be edited to only provide general information to the public instead of a larger overview of a court case.
- Criminal records. In many cases, criminal records are made public and available for anyone to find. While some details of a criminal case likely will not be provided, you can often look up a particular case or find out if a person was arrested and convicted of a crime. Felony crimes are often easier to find than misdemeanor crimes only prosecuted by a local government agency.
- Driving records. Records of accidents, traffic citations, driver’s license information and proof of auto insurance may be available to the public. However, some of this information may be hidden to protect the privacy of the individual. For example, you may be able to find a person’s driving record and license information, but you may not be able to access their current address this way. This is typically done as a privacy safeguard.
A variety of different record types are considered public records accessible to almost anybody looking for them in the right place. These are some of the most common types of public records available.
How Can You Access Public Records?
- Visit your local county clerk’s office for criminal and court records. These offices are commonly located near or inside a municipal courthouse in your area.
- Visit the Department of Motor Vehicles in your area to obtain driving records.
- Find vital records via a Department of Health Office. Note that this may be considerably easier online depending on where you live.
- Use an online public records website to search a multitude of different public records
Finding public records in person is a relatively simple process. In most cases, a local government agency can help you find the right records you’re after. Above are some options for finding records in person and online
How to Lookup Public Records Online
- Use state government websites. For example, you can find a wide range of California public records via the state website here.
- Find court records through the United States Courts’ records. Here, you can find a wide range of public court records going back many years via the PACER system.
- Consider looking up records via a third-party website. Third-party websites can be particularly helpful when you’re searching for records quickly. Offering a range of different public records, a third-party site is also ideal if you’re not quite sure what you’re searching for.
Looking up public records online can be a relatively simple process if you know where to begin. These are a few of the most common way to lookup public records online.
Finding the records you’re after doesn’t have to be a difficult process. By visiting a relevant government agency in person, going to a government website or using a third-party website, you can find personal information, information about friends and family and even information on neighbors and potential employees.
It’s important to note that some public records you find may be edited to protect a person’s privacy. Still, you can get a lot of information you need via public records quite quickly once you know how to lookup public records.