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CheckPeople.com provides instant access to online public records in one easy-to-read report. We specialize in helping you find online public records so that you can have peace of mind knowing that you and your loved ones are protected. Public records can also be helpful if you are looking to start a business, buy property, file a lawsuit, defend yourself in court, and many other personal or legal activities.

Public records can be found at the local, state, or federal level and are viewable by any U.S. citizen or legal resident. Federal Public Records are made available through the Freedom of Information Act.

While CheckPeople makes the process easy, there are also ways to view public records in person, though they can take a lot more time, money, and paperwork. If you wish to view public records in person, you can inquire at your local library, county recorder’s office, or courthouse for more information.

What Are Public Records?

Public records are documents or other types of information kept by government agencies. In many cases, government offices are required by law to keep and maintain copies of certain records, such as death certificates, birth certificates, marriage records, or divorce records. Because of the Freedom of Information Act, public records are available to any U.S. citizen who requests to see them.

Although you might not have much experience with public records, these documents are extremely common, and are helpful for people researching things like legal matters, genealogy, or marriage certificates. Here are just a few public records resources:

  • Court dockets
  • Census records and data
  • Criminal records
  • Property information
  • Sex offender databases
  • Professional and business licenses
  • Voter registration
  • Birth certificates
  • Real estate appraisal records
  • Residential addresses
  • Bankruptcy information

Court Dockets: A court docket is an official summary of legal proceedings in a court of law. These dockets can have a lot of useful information related to criminal charges, convictions, and sentencing. They can also be useful for determining if a person is currently the subject of any court proceedings, even if no charges have been filed.

Census Records and Data : Every 10 years, a new census is taken to record various statistics for tracking different trends among the U.S. population. The metrics can include the number of people living in a given household, the ownership status of the property, telephone number, name, gender, date of birth, race, and ethnicity. More often than not, this data is used to cross-reference other information when confirming someone’s identity or residency. At the state and national level, it is also used to legislate policy and track demographic changes over time.

Criminal Records: If someone has committed a crime, whether in the United States or abroad, there is a record of it somewhere. These records are generally kept at the city, county, state, or federal level. Most countries have their own records for misdemeanors, felonies, or traffic violations, but for major crimes or crimes that are not bound to a single country, the International Criminal Court maintains records and proceedings.

Professional and Business Licenses: Commercial licenses and permits are issued by government agencies to allow individuals or companies to conduct business. This kind of record is useful for linking certain individuals to a business or commercial address, as well as tracking the history of business transactions. It can be important if a company has done anything to break the law while conducting business.

Sex Offender Databases: This database shows a complete list of anyone who has been convicted of a sex crime. Unless a conviction is reversed due to new evidence or testimony, a person can not be removed from this registry, no matter how much time has passed since the initial offence. Many people find this database useful when moving into a new neighborhood or putting their children into a different school. However, in some states, local law enforcement will notify you if there is a sex offender living in your neighborhood.

Voter Registration: This is not only important for ensuring a healthy Democracy, but also for linking individuals to a county, state, or political party. Though the exact rules and requirements vary by state, every U.S. person over 18 years of age must be registered with the proper authorities if they wish to vote in an election. Once registered, voter registration information becomes public record.

Birth Certificates: A birth certificate generally shows a person’s full name, date and location of birth, and attending doctor. It is one of the most reliable ways to confirm a person’s age, country of origin, and legal identity. These are kept as public records for all U.S. citizens.

Real Estate Appraisal Records: A real estate appraisal, sometimes referred to as a land valuation, is simply an official estimation of a property’s value. These appraisals are made by licensed professionals, whose valuations are then entered into the public record. This is especially useful for those looking to purchase a new home or commercial building.

Residential Addresses: A residential address refers to an address at which a person lives for any period of time. These can change many times over the course of a person’s life, so it is important to keep records of all past and present addresses.

Property Information: While property appraisal records and addresses provide you with information for purchasing a home or locating an old friend, there is other property information that can be useful to you, such as previous ownership, purchase history, tax liens, and crime data for the neighborhood.

Bankruptcy Information: A person may declare bankruptcy when it is decided that they can no longer pay their debts. Bankruptcy allows an individual to be free of the debt through discharge or restructuring. This information is important to know for many reasons, especially if you wish to start a business with someone whose financial history is unknown to you.

How Much Does it Cost to View Public Records?

Many public records are available to the general population at no charge. This is an important aspect of a functioning Democracy, as it allows any person, regardless of socioeconomic status, to access important records for personal or legal use. The following public records are usually free of cost:

  • Property information
  • Census data
  • Criminal records
  • Bankruptcy information
  • Tax liens
  • Court records

However, getting this information in a timely manner and in one place can be difficult. In many cases, there is a fee to view public records at a public records office, courthouse, or local government office. This fee is usually associated with printing or copying the record, although some states may charge an additional fee to view the records.

To help you find all the information you need, CheckPeople offers unlimited searches of online public records for a low monthly fee. Our online public records are collected from a variety of sources, allowing you to get all the information you need affordably and with just a few clicks. Rather than paying a fee and traveling to your local courthouse or records office each time you need to view public records, you can simply pay one low monthly fee with CheckPeople and make as many public records searches as you want!

Can I View Marriage and Divorce Records?

There are some life events that are recorded by the state and always available for public viewing. These can include birth certificates, death certificates, and other documents. Since marriage and divorce records are used for census data, they are usually available to the public. However, there may be some instances where divorce records are sealed and unavailable.

Divorce records can only be sealed for a specific reason, and it must be done by the courts. For example, if a case involves criminal activity like abuse, the court may elect to seal the record in order to protect the victim’s identity. If sensitive financial records are involved with a divorce proceeding, the court can choose to seal the records so that this information is not made public.

In certain divorce cases, allegations are made that are never explicitly proven to be true, and could therefore hurt the reputation of someone involved. In these instances, the courts can choose to seal the record, just in case the aligitations are later proven to be false. However, the court cannot seal the records simply because they include unflattering information about someone. Therefore, in most cases, the records remain public.

Are Court and Criminal Records Public?

Most court and criminal records are available to the public after the case has closed. Some exceptions may apply if the case is particularly notorious or has generated a lot of press coverage or involves crimes deemed inappropriate for public viewing. But generally, following documents and records are available to anyone who wants to view them:

  • Case dockets
  • Court case summaries
  • Courtroom proceeding summaries

The public also has access to records about those accused of crimes in these court cases. Criminal records usually detail a defendant's warrants for arrest or prior convictions. However, if any convictions were overturned, they will not be listed on the criminal record.

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