Public Records Definition
Public records in the United States are any publicly collected and archived record by the government. Most types of public records are public domain which means anyone can see them. Some people choose to search public records in person at a government agency and other authorized facility but most use online public record resources like SearchMachine. Obtaining someone’s public record is totally legal and is made possible by the Freedom of Information Act of 1966.
Types of Public Records
- There are various types of public records that are available to the general public. Some of your information that could be considered public record includes:
- Civil and Vital Records
- Birth and Death
- Marriage & Divorce Records
- Lien and Judgment Records
- Criminal Records
- Court Records
- Government Records
- Bankruptcy Records
- Driving and Traffic Records
- Phone and Address Information
- Naturalization and Immigration Records
- Warrant and Probation Records
Most any Government Public Information
Even though these records are considered “public records,” they could be kept confidential or private under federal, state, or city law.
How are Public Records Accessed?
Generally speaking, public records are kept within a federal, state, city, or county government agency, and can be viewed by the public. In most cases, public records are documents, but they can also be in the form of:
To access a public record, you will simply need to contact the government agency that has a copy of that record. For instance, if someone just moved into your neighborhood, and you want to find out more information pertaining to them, do some research on where they resided before moving into your community. If your neighbor was convicted of a burglary, you could find out. To access this information, you could request a copy of the case records from the courthouse in the county where the crime was committed. It is that simple. Submit a request, and if the information is authorized for public viewing, you can access it.
Depending on the state or county, in addition to the type of record being requested, some information is considered “semi-public.” This means that while the information is public, there is a limit as to what you can view. For instance, some states allow you to order transcripts from court cases, regardless if they are civil or criminal. However, documents pertaining to domestic violence are kept confidential, whereas divorce proceedings are considered public record. Examples of semi-public records include:
• Credit reports
• Employment information
• State statutes
• Medical information
• Business policies
• Legal dictates
Closed records are maintained by the federal government, and only accessible by court order.