Get Access to Court Records: Civil and Criminal

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In most cases, court records are available to the public, but they are not always easy to access. The Freedom of Information Act requires that courts make public information available to people who request it. If you need to find court records fast and easy, check out  If you have the time to take to do the search yourself then follow the steps below.

  1. Know what you are looking for. Getting information from court records is not like doing a general search online. You cannot just type in a name and find the information you need. You will need the full legal name, age, date of birth, jurisdiction of the court case and approximate dates of the court proceedings.
  2. Get the details right. Make sure you check the spelling of the names of anyone you are searching for. There are different kinds of court cases including civil and criminal. Records for criminal and traffic or speeding tickets may be easier to access than those for civil proceedings such as divorce, adoption or other suits. Know what kind of case you are looking for and which court was responsible to start your public records search.
  3. Try an online search. Some basic court information may be available online. Be aware that some sites are more reliable than others. They also charge for their services. Having the correct information will make these searches more accurate. Also, remember that these sites are limited because police and local courts do not all have their civil or criminal records accessible online.
  4. Contact the district court or Attorney General’s office. Once you know what you are looking for, you should head to the source. Contact the Attorney General’s office for the state where the court case was held. They will advise you which court to contact (county, state or federal) and what documentation you will need to request the records. Every state and court differs in their requirements.
  5. Hire a private investigator. If your public access to court information is limited or you aren’t sure about the details, you will need help. Hire a private investigator who can access searches and help you find the records you seek. Remember that these services can be expensive, so you have to decide how much you want the information.

Getting court records can be frustrating if you don’t have the right information. But remember, we're all granted public access to this information. Be sure you are prepared before you go to the courthouse, and good luck!


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