Thursday, October 15, 2009

Roadblocks to finding Court Records

If you are attempting to find a court record you may stumble across several roadblocks along the way. Knowing what these roadblocks are before you even begin your search may be vital to you finding success in your search.

Roadblock #1 – Where to Search
The first roadblock you may encounter when performing a court record search is where to even begin your search. Court records are kept in the individual county where the proceedings took place. State records may have a copy of the court record, but it varies by each state according to their reporting procedures.

Roadblock #2 – What Court to Search
Different proceedings are tried in different courts. For example, you will not find a civil court record in a criminal court records archives, and vice versa. It is helpful to know what proceedings you are looking for and what court they would have been tried in according to that particular state and county.

Roadblock #3 – Sealed Records
You should be prepared that some records are sealed. This is often the case with domestic cases or cases that involve minority children. If a case was tried in a Family Court, the court records may be off-limits to you. In the event of a sealed court record, you may not have any alternative to uncovering them.

Roadblock #4 – Statute of Limitations
In many cases court records are only searchable for as long as the statute of limitations. If this time limit is past, you may have an unsuccessful search. It is possible for a current inmate to come up blank on a court record search due to the statute of limitations.

Roadblock #5 – Pay Up
Regardless if you find the court records you are looking for or your search comes up blank, you will still have to pay to perform the search. This can make an exhaustive search cost-prohibitive. It also makes conducting as much research as possible prior to beginning your search so you can perform a narrower search more important.

If you can expect and overcome these roadblocks, your chances of success for a court records search will greatly improve.

Photo: Suat Eman

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Top 10 Tips For Searching Court Records Online

Performing online searches for court records can be overwhelming. In addition to not knowing where to start, if you don’t know the proper places and way to search, you may not find what you are looking for. Below are the top 10 tips for searching court records online.

#1 - Research

Prior to starting an online search for a court record, you should thoroughly do any research you can. Try to narrow down important search ranges such as which counties the trial may have been in and a date range. The narrower your search, the easier it will be.

#2 - Read

You can find out a lot of information on performing court searches online by reading books about private investigating. In today’s day and age more and more people are performing things themselves, including investigating other people.

#3 – Skip the Registration

You should always skip the registration that is available on many search sites unless you need to perform an advanced search and it is required. Signing up to various websites will only cost you time with no benefit in return.

#4 – Skip the Arrest Records

County court records do not keep arrest records so skip this search.

#5 – Know the County?

If you know what county the trial was performed in, start your online court record search in that county.

#6 – Don’t know the County?

If you do not have the name of the county, you should start your court record search with the state. Keep in mind that not all states require all counties to send them their reports.

#7 – Family Records

If you are looking for family records, keep in mind that these records may be sealed. This is true in cases of domestic abuse or sometimes when a party to the trial is underage. You may have to search in another way.

#8 – Statute of Limitations

If you are searching for a court record that was completed over 7 years ago, it may not show up in your search result. This can be true even if the person is still currently in prison. The Fair Credit Reporting Act places limits on what information is accessible after 7 years.

#9 - When to Call

If the record you are searching for is over 7 years old can you cannot find it with an online search, place a call to the county courthouse. Find out what their procedures are in handling aged cases.

#10 – When to Call it Quits

If you have exhausted the most logical places and means of performing an online search for a court record with no results you may need to throw in the towel. The website will charge you whether you find what you are looking for or not. At some point, it can get cost prohibitive to remain searching.

By adhering to these top ten tips to performing your online court record search, you should be assured of relatively fair success. If you cannot find what you are looking for, it may not be available to be found.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Where to Start Your Court Record Search

Now that court records are available online and to the public, it would stand to reason that finding them would be simple. Unfortunately, that is not the case because there is not one centralized location for all the court records across the United States.

Thus, you need to visit individual county court or state court websites. When visiting state court websites you need to hope that the appropriate counties have relayed their information to the state.

PACER, or Public Access to Court Electronic Records is a new system being introduced that has hopes to make all court records accessible to the public in one easy system. This, however, is still in the future.

Perhaps the hardest part of performing a court record search is to know where to begin your search. Many individuals are not even aware that counties have separate recording systems than states, and vice versa. Knowing where to begin the search can be confusing and overwhelming.

Any information you read will tell you to begin your court record search at the county court level. But, what if you don’t know what county to look in? In this case, you may have to begin your search at the state level.

Most county courts do pass along their court records to the state they are in. This is not always the case however, and the procedures for each state can vary. This is why sometimes a state court record search can be inaccurate.

What alternative do you have? If you have several possible counties, you can try looking at each county’s record individually. If you don’t even have a hint of a clue, then you may need to perform some additional research prior to beginning your court record search.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Can a Book help me Perform a Court Record Search?

If you are undertaking a court record search, you are most likely starting your search online. There is a wealth of information hidden in online archives today. The real trick is determining how to go about uncovering these online archives. From knowing where to start your search, and how you can gain access, it can be overwhelming. In fact, you just might need to start your online court record search with a good old paper book.

Books can be a useful tool to understanding how the court system in America works. When trying to find online court records, you will need to have some basic understanding of America’s court system, as the courts are responsible for harboring all of the court records.

Books can also help you get started on where to find the information you are looking for. Alan M. Schlein’s book “Find it Online, Fourth Edition; The Complete Guide to Online Research” is a great resource for how to find information online. It is not limited to the court system and court records, but rather a broad based book about how to find what you are looking for online.

The passage of PACER, Public Access to Court Electronic Records, now makes court records accessible to the average American. But you still have to know where to start your search and how to go about it.

Since many court records are held in the county of the state where the proceedings took place, information you can find out about an individual county is invaluable. There just aren’t that many books, however, on counties available.

Thus, reading books that relate to searching methods and techniques will prove to be a greater help to you prior to performing an online court record search. Books about online searching, private investigation methods, and court record storage can all provide helpful information you can use when performing a search.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Best Book about How to Search Court Records

While it is true that court record searches can now be performed online due to the electronic storage of these records, you would be foolish to not take into account offline methods when performing any search. In particular, there are many books written about the search for court records that can be invaluable in your own search.

From a book, you can find such information as what records have what information, what records are more readily found in a county or state search, and how your search process should be started.

There is a good chance that you have read one of the “Idiot’s Guide To….” books in the series. These books are great at giving step by step instructions and important inside information for a variety of topics. “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating” by Steven Kerry Brown has some wonderful information on searching court records.

The book uses the situation of people that perform searches for long lost family members. Many times, an individual will spend countless years searching and come up empty. It is only after they hire a private investigator that progress is made and the family member is found. Why is this? It is because private investigators have the skills and training to methodically search public records and court records to find the information they need. The book explains how you can perform these same searches without hiring a private investigator.

If you look at user reviews of people who have purchased the book, you will find that almost all readers give it five stars. Even actual private investigators have read the book and picked up a few tips. They recommend it for anyone looking to enter the private investigating field.

If you have needs to perform court records searches, you may want to invest in this book. It is relatively inexpensive when you consider the time and effort it can save you on future searches.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How Long Does an Online Court Record Search Take?

In today’s day of cyberspace and global information sharing, you can find just about anything you are looking for online. This includes court records. With a few clicks of your mouse, you can now perform court record searches from the privacy of your own home. Just how long can you expect a thorough search to take? Well, it depends on the record.

Any search for court records usually begins at the courthouses website. If you know the county in which the person was tried, you can perform your search from the county site. Usually, the information you are looking for will pop up on your screen, ready to be printed out.

It can get a little murky if you aren’t sure what county or possibly even what state you should be searching. In this case, you may need to broaden your horizon. There are websites that will perform a court records search for you if you are unsure where to look or want to make sure you are performing a comprehensive search.

Some of these websites guarantee a 24 hour turnaround if you request the search on a business day during working hours. Criminal records take longer to search than civil records, and a county criminal search can take as long as three business days.

Since there is not one centralized court record system across the country, there is a chance your search can take even longer. Different states and counties have different reporting methods and record storing processes. Because of these jurisdictional issues, a search can take weeks or even longer.

Unfortunately, it does not matter how long the search for a court record takes, or even if any records are found, you will still be charged for the search. These websites do not guarantee results. There are many reasons records will not be found. Even, an individual who is currently serving a sentence in jail may not show up on a court record search depending on the statute of limitations for the jurisdiction they are in.

When paying for a court record search, keep an open mind and know that you may not get the records you are seeking. You are paying for the convenience of someone else spending the time and resources to perform the search for you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How to Get Access to Public Records

There are numerous kinds of public records like the number of births, deaths, divorces, marriages, missing people, voters, sex offenders, court records and criminal records that took place in a certain period of time. It is not very easy to obtain these records because it can infringe on the privacy and liberty of an individual. Many states have enacted legislation to protect this private information of its residents. For example, in Arizona birth records are not made available to the public until 75 years after the date of birth. These restrictions make it hard for anyone to get access to records easily. Below are some of the ways by which you can view public records.

Internet is one of the best ways to get access to public records. There are many state Government websites that can provide the information you are looking for. The Department of Health Services for each state is a good place to collect the required information. Another place to look for is free websites that help you to search your family tree and to access public records. Some websites are maintained by professionals and you can get access to information by paying a small fee. One advantage of using these paid websites is the accuracy of information provided by them.

There are other means to access public records and one of the most popular is through libraries. For example, the Huntington Library in California has records dating from 1769 to 1850. Some counties may offer access to public records provided you furnish the right reason for viewing and its intended usage. Sometimes you may find public records on state archives and it is a good idea to check these archives too. These are some of the ways by which you can get access to public records.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Finding Court Records Online

In the past, searching for court records would require making a trip to the local court house. There, you would go into a dark and dusty back room and search through endless boxes and files cabinets. Perhaps, you would fill out forms and a courthouse clerk would search for you. You would wait endlessly until the clerk came back, usually with disappointing news that they came up empty-handed. Searching court records has come a long way with the advance of technology and the internet.

Now, court records are all input into an electronic system. This enables you to perform online searches of court records to pull up what you are seeking. This definitely cuts down on search time and drive time. The electronic system also lowers the risk of errors such as records being filed in the wrong place.

Before you begin to search for online court records, it is best to have a understanding of the court system of the United States, as they are responsible for keeping court records. There are county courts, state supreme courts and the highest of them all, The Supreme Court of the United States. Each court system will have its own records and own policies regarding searching for court records.

Therefore, it is imperative that you have some basic knowledge about where to begin your court record search. Many times you will have the name of the county or state where you should be searching. Other times, you will have to hazard your best guess. In these instances, be prepared for longer search times and many empty results.

You should always start with the county if you know it when perform a court record search. If you do not know the name of the county you may want to do a little more investigative digging before beginning your court record search online.

With the proper background and knowledge you can easily find what you are looking for without spending endless hours down at your local court house.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Searching for Public Records Tips

In the not too distant past, individuals had to search for court records manually – approaching someone who worked with the court records and could look up an individual’s name to determine whether they have a record or not. These days, it’s relatively easy to find out about a person’s court record past simply by logging onto your computer. Many different websites allow individuals to pay a fee in order to access information about another person’s court-related background.

While most of these sites can have the information back to you within twenty-four hours, there are sometimes snags that make the process take longer. Most of the time, these snags have to do with which county is being searched. Of course, you’re still charged, even if the website is unable to find records related to the individual’s past.

Researchers suggest that at least one out of every ten individuals who are searched will have a court-related background. However, in some cases these records cannot be accessed – either because the incidents happened too long ago or for some other reason. Knowing the exact county court records to search can help these sites find records related to the individual you’re searching.

In order to find out more about court records, read informational articles online and find books by experts in the field. Since the process is a complicated one, seeking knowledge about the best way to perform a court records search can certainly help. Also, the more information you have about the individual you’re searching, the more likely you are to find relevant records from his or her past.

Even with delays and fees, the technology available to research court records can be extremely helpful in many situations. From important jobs where a person’s background determines whether they can have the job to individuals protecting themselves and their children – this information is crucial for many reasons.

Photo: Graeme Weatherston

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What Employers Look For in Court Records

If you have recently entered the ranks of those looking for a job, you may keep coming across the same thing at the bottom of each job application. Employers are disclosing that they will be performing a background check on you as part of their hiring process. Most employers will look through the court records of the county you live in and will be working in.

Employers regularly search court records for background information on job applicants. This is particularly true if they are hiring for a position that will have access to cash, credit cards, or even general merchandise. By accessing the court records they can find out if the job applicant has a history of petty theft or larceny. Check fraud or forgery is also something that will tip an employer off for any applicant that is in looking for a retail position.

If you are applying for a job in which you will be driving a company vehicle or even your own vehicle on company time, employers will look at court records to see if you have drunk driving convictions, excessive speed tickets that were considered felonies, or other court records pertaining to your driving history.

Any jobs that would involve you working with children or being in close proximity to children such as a teacher, bus driver, lunch aide, etc. would have employers looking at criminal court records. There, they would search for any court records in regards to sexual harassment or molestation. This search is now expanding to employers who hire in the health care industry where nurses and nurses aides will be caring for sick and elderly patients.

Employers perform these court record searches to protect themselves and their liability in the event a future incident occurred. If they have performed a thorough court record search and did not find any damaging records that will help them absolve any liability. If, however, damaging records were found and they hired the job applicant regardless, they may be on the hook for future crimes.