Public Records

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What Constitutes a Public Record?

Whether you want to find out more about someone you went on a few dates with or you want to know what others can find out about you, you can search the public records. Though you can find some free records, others require that you pay a small fee to gain access. Public records provide you with general information that includes content available to the public. If you look up someone who got in trouble with the law as a juvenile, you’ll usually find that the court sealed those records. Most criminal records attached to juveniles are not open to the general public.

The information that you find will depend on the type of records that you access. If you look up address records, you can look up a view into a piece of a property and the people who live there. The records can also uncover a wealth of information about the previous property owners. Public court records are also available, and can help you save hours running around government buildings trying to uncover hidden data. There is a lot of information in public records, so you simply have to decide what you’re looking for first.

What are Some of the Different Types of Public Records?

Public records generally fall into different categories. The records that you can access will often depend on the court that maintains those records. Criminal records will let you find out whether the individual had any legal problems in the past. Some court records will show any charges the person faced, even if the person was found innocent. The different types of public records that you can view online or in person include:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage and divorce records
  • Bankruptcy and foreclosure filings
  • Property records
  • Criminal records

With property records, you can find out more about the property that an individual(s) owned. Those records are often available from the tax assessor or the auditor’s office. You can view when the person bought that property and how much it cost as well as the appraised value of the property and whether it has any back taxes. Criminal records include both arrest reports and court cases as well as the registry that keeps track of sex offenders.

What is a Mugshot?

As you look at criminal records, you’ll often come across mugshots. A mugshot is a photo taken when the person was arrested and booked into jail. It typically shows the individual standing and facing the camera. Some mugshots may include identifying information, including the date of the booking and the height of the individual. Jails may also include photos that show any identifying marks on the person, including tattoos and scars. This helps you make sure that the person you searched for is the same one in the report.

Can Anyone Access Public Records?

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a government act that provides the public with access to specific records. Each state has the right to adjust this act based on their own rules to limit the information that you can view and how you can access those records. In many cases, states allow counties and cities to set their own regulations too. You may find that you can only view certain types of records online. For all other types of records, you will need to visit the courthouse or other county buildings.

How Can You Access Public Records?

One of the best ways to access public records is through the web. You should start with different departments and offices such as the tax assessor’s office, which is responsible for maintaining property records. The recorder’s office often provides more information about property owners and can tell you if there are back taxes due on the property or if the property is in foreclosure. You can also use those records to see the value of the property as it stands. Some websites will gather public records and let you view all records in one place. You can do a search for the individual’s name and pick that person based on his or her age and other identifying information. Most of these sites charge a fee though.

You also have the option of visiting the courthouse and offices in the county or city where the individual lived or lives. This is helpful because there are often workers who can assist you with going through the records and make sure you find the info that you need. Most of these offices also make it easy to create copies of all those records that you can take home with you.

Our Top Ranked Public Records Sites 2020

Background Check Service

Score

Pros / Cons

Bottom Line

Site

0%
Database Size
5/5
Search Features
5/5
Cost
4.5/5
Customer Help
5/5

Our #1 choice for the best background search site on the web is TruthFinder. It’s a subscription service that does not offer free searches

0%
Database Size
4/5
Search Features
5/5
Cost
4.5/5
Customer Help
4.5/5

You can search by name or phone number on this site to see who keeps calling. It is also available as a mobile device for those who want to perform searches on the go.

0%
Database Size
4/5
Search Features
4.8/5
Cost
4/5
Customer Help
4.5/5
Though not as fast as some of the other background search tools on the web, this site lets you search by different types of information. Some searches include detailed reports too.
0%
Database Size
3.8/5
Search Features
4/5
Cost
4/5
Customer Help
3.5/5
Easy to use and has enough historical records data. Allows you to search through 20 billion records from 80 different countries.
0%
Database Size
3/5
Search Features
4/5
Cost
4/5
Customer Help
3.5/5

With no limits on your searches, this site is great for business owners. It does tend to run a little slower than other sites though and is more expensive too.

Our Top Ranked Public Records Sites 2020

0%
Database Size
5/5
Search Features
4.8/5
Cost
4.5/5
Customer Help
4.6/5
Our #1 choice for the best background search site on the web is TruthFinder. It’s a subscription service that does not offer free searches
0%
Database Size
5/5
Search Features
4/5
Cost
3.5/5
Customer Help
4/5
You can search by name or phone number on this site to see who keeps calling. It is also available as a mobile device for those who want to perform searches on the go.
0%
Database Size
4/5
Search Features
4/5
Cost
3.5/5
Customer Help
3.6/5

Though not as fast as some of the other background search tools on the web, this site lets you search by different types of information. Some searches include detailed reports too.

0%
Database Size
4/5
Reliability
3.5/5
Customer Support
3.6/5
Value for Money
3.5/5
Easy to use and has enough historical records data. Allows you to search through 20 billion records from 80 different countries.
0%
Database Size
3.5/5
Search Features
3.2/5
Cost
3.5/5
Customer Help
3.6/5

With no limits on your searches, this site is great for business owners. It does tend to run a little slower than other sites though and is more expensive too.