What are Public Records?
The term public record is a broad one that refers to any information that is contained within an official reporting of facts available to the general public. This information can be easily accessible, such as looking up the phone number of a listed person or a more difficult piece of information only accessible with an open-records request. In addition, while public records are frequently drawn from government records, not all government records can be made public. In fact, there are government regulations on the type of information that can be released to the public and the storage and distribution of government-held information. The government keeps public records on individuals and on business, corporate, and governmental entities. However, for most purposes, the term public record is used to refer to an individual's public record. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) governs the release of government agency public records and has helped make government records publicly available.
Types of Public Records
In an individual or personal public record, basic information about a person may be available. This information might include: name, known aliases or other names, marital status, current and former addresses and phone numbers, birth date and age, family members or cohabitants, arrest history, conviction history, association with business, work history, professional or business licenses, property records, tax records, litigation history, driver records, sex offender registration, and even political party affiliation.
Information designated as part of the public record must be made reasonably available to the public. However, what is reasonable varies on the type of record. There may be costs associated with accessing public records as well as conditions or stipulations on accessing the information. Furthermore, when accessed through a government office, generally a person is limited to obtaining a single type of record. Public record search or background search information companies are able to provide this information in a single-search, which saves time, and may be able to provide a lower consolidated fee than would apply if someone paid any applicable search fees at each governmental organization.