What are Public Records?
Public records include any type of record that collects information about people and is available to the public. These records include any records that governmental bodies are required to maintain and permit the public to access. Viewing public records can be a critical first step in a background check because of the wealth of information in those records. Court records, criminal records, birth records, death records, marriage licenses, child support orders, bankruptcy orders, child custody orders, divorce orders, driver’s license records, voter registration, property records, some limited medical information like vaccination information in states with immunization registries, and some portions of tax records are all considered to be public records. Not all governmental information is considered public record. For example, there are some governmental records that are sealed, either for set limits of time or for indefinite periods of time. In closed adoptions, adoption records are sealed. Most juvenile court proceedings and juvenile criminal records are sealed, as well, though the rules regarding that may vary from state to state. Other information may be available via a Freedom of Information Act request, but not made generally available to the public. If maintained by a governmental entity, public records do more than provide information; they can actually be admitted into evidence in some legal disputes and serve as prima facie evidence of certain facts. A broader view of public records includes any information that is made publicly available, even if not collected by a governmental agency.
How are Public Records Created?
Generally speaking, public records are created when members of the public interact with governments or businesses that engage in record-keeping as part of that business. Much of this record-keeping is obligatory on the part of people. For example, when someone is born, the first public record of that person gets created. While it is possible to avoid some record-keeping, the fact that evidence of prior records is necessary for participation in many aspects of modern life makes it impractical to avoid all record-keeping. For example, school enrollment requires a birth certificate. Many people believe that public records are created any time that a person interacts with a governmental office. This perspective is generally, though not always, true. Public agencies do not have a duty to create a public record, even in circumstances where the public would have the right to inspect such records. The agency could do business without the creation of a record, thereby removing a large burden in allowing public access to the information. Such a system would, ultimately, be unmanageable. However, in order to protect some access to public information, governmental agencies may require proof of certain pieces of identification, but not make copies of that identification for their records. Returning to the school enrollment example, a school may require parents to provide birth certificates for their children and proof of some type that the parents live in the area zoned for that school, but will not make copies of that proof, because, if they did, it would become part of that child’s official school record.
Who can Access Public Records?
Public records are available to the public. Therefore, anyone can access them. However, that does not mean that is easy for anyone to access public records. Record-keepers, such as county clerks, can charge reasonable fees for providing records to the public. Records may only be available in certain locations. Specific requests for records may have time-guidelines available for them. Some requests for records might require a person to fill out a request for records, which would then become part of the public record. The ability to access the public records is not as much of an issue when searching through public records as is the ease of access.
How does Using BeenVerified Make It Easier for Me to Access Public Records?
Companies like BeenVerified consolidate available public records so that they can be searched simultaneously for information, which can take a process that might take an individual weeks or months and consolidate it into a search that takes minutes. BeenVerified’s Reverse Lookup functions allows people to access public records through a variety of means, even without knowing the name of the person whose information you seek. As a result, the Public Records aspect is a critical part of BeenVerified’s Background Check services. It would literally take millions of individual searches on different federal, state, and local governmental and private databases to review the same amount of information available to BeenVerified. Furthermore, unlike our competitors, if you find that you need access to records that are only available in person, we have a court runner service that can access local courthouse records. Our system is easy to use and guides the searcher through the steps to complete a comprehensive search of public records. More importantly, although we are an on-line business, but we have live human customer support specialists available 8am-9pm weekdays and 12pm-8pm on weekends at our toll-free number 1-888-579-5910.
What are the Limits on the Use of Public Records?
It is important to realize that there are some legal limitations on how people can use public records. Background Checks can provide great guidance to people, but must comply with applicable rules and laws. Generally speaking, public records cannot be used to exclude people from access to something to which that person would otherwise have a right, such as housing or employment, even if use of that information accessed via other means might permit such use. Visit our Dos and Don’ts section to learn more about the acceptable use of public records, and, if you are in doubt about whether your desired use violates the law, please consult an attorney in your area for more guidance.