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5 Reasons to Browse Public Court Records

Since the late 90s, courts and government agencies have been making public records increasingly available online. How much information is available online will depend on your jurisdiction, but the National Center for State Courts website provides information on where to find court and case records.

Many states have their own website for searching court records, and they may be freely available or for a small fee. North Carolina is a notable exception, as it offers no online court records. If online research fails, then paper copies of records can be ordered, though this may be a time-consuming process.

There is a wide variety of information available on the public record including property tax assessor files, motor vehicle and motor registration information (varies by state), professional license information, and court files. Publicly available court files can include indexes, bankruptcy files, civil court records, and criminal arrests, convictions, and warrants. There is some controversy surrounding privacy rights and online records, and while concerns are valid, there are good reasons to check public court records.

Finding Warrants

Court records can be especially helpful when conducting a free warrant search. If you or someone you know is concerned about having an active warrant, you can quickly check outstanding warrants online. Available information in an arrest warrant search will include the first name and last name of the defendant, date, and location the arrest warrant is issued for, description of the alleged crime, and case number.

Warrants can be issued for a number of reasons with an arrest warrant generally being the most common. An arrest warrant is issued when law enforcement has evidence or probable cause that a crime has been committed. A bench warrant can also be issued when a suspect fails to appear on their court date. A warrant will remain active until the wanted person is arrested, so it’s generally in their best interest to appear in court.

Checking Whether a Case Has Gone to Judgement

Looking up court records is a good idea when you’re unsure whether a case is still ongoing. This can be particularly confusing if it involves a case in another state. Family law cases can frequently get complicated, especially in regard to custody issues, if parents live in different states. You also may want to check records to ensure a divorce has gone through.

Investigating Plaintiffs/Defendants

Court records are excellent resources for law firms, as they make investigating much easier. If someone was injured in a serious accident and contacted a motorcycle accident attorney, for example, their motorcycle accident lawyer could look into the other driver’s records to see if they have previous accidents on record or a history of dangerous/negligent behavior. This could be especially useful for ensuring a payout from their insurance company or for use in court in a personal injury case.

Correcting Mistakes

You may want to check court records for the same reason you would conduct a criminal record check on yourself. It shows you what others can find out about you, and it gives you an opportunity to correct any inaccurate information. Naturally, if you find anything as extreme as a false arrest or conviction, you’ll want to have this fixed as soon as possible. Looking up your records also lets you confirm an expungement if you’ve been allowed to have one. These checks are among your best options to save your public reputation.

Using All Resources

Lastly, a good reason to check court records is simply because they’re available and often don’t cost anything. They can give you all known aliases of a person, as well as their birthdate and other information that can make searching other databases easier. They’re based on factual information, and they can naturally paint a different picture of a person than other publicly available information. Court records are an invaluable resource for practically any sort of investigation.

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