Searching for court records can be difficult. On top of the already convoluted process, many people find themselves hindered by operating under some common misconceptions about how the United States court system works, and about how to most efficiently search court records. Being aware of these misconceptions is an important first step in expediting your court records search.
Common Misconceptions about the US Court System
The United States court system is a highly complex hierarchy of courts divided and sub-divided to ensure appropriate attention and consideration of each type of court case. Because there are so many different sub-divisions of courts in the United States, with so many specific types of cases, there is a lot of confusion surrounding which courts handle what types of cases. This confusion can lead to a number of common misconceptions about how the US court system is organized, how it operates, and where to begin your court records search.
For example, because most individuals do not know the inner-workings of the United States court system and its organization, they may not know the correct name for a certain type of court. Because of this confusion, a number of colloquialisms emerge to describe the kinds of cases a specific type of court will hear. These colloquialisms are where terms like "Family Court," "City Court" and "Police Court," for example, come from.
These descriptive phrases are often easier to remember and communicate because they explain the types of cases a court will hear in a way that allows people to link a case to a court simply by hearing its name; which is why they are commonly used therefore becoming common misconceptions. Unfortunately, when you are dealing with court personnel or pursuing an online court records search, you will need to know what the courts are actually called, rather than what they may be commonly (and incorrectly) referred to.
Adopting these colloquialisms can lead to a number of misconceptions about the US court system, which will no doubt lead you astray in your search for court records. Before you waste time looking in the wrong places, you can learn from others' mistakes and get a handle on some of the prevalent misconceptions you may face. For more information, please see our overview of some of the most common misconceptions about the US court system.
Common Misconceptions about Court Records
Many people embark on their court records search with the misconception that, just because court records are public records, they will be easily accessible. With this common misconception about court records, many people will often fail to perform the appropriate research and will often wind up searching in circles and getting the run-around from courts to round up the necessary information.
One of the most important things to understand when searching for court records is that different courts will require different information, will be organized differently and may place limitations on the types of court records they will make available to the public. You cannot expect that courts databases will be organized the same way, nor can you expect that the information necessary to find records in one court will be the information you need to find the same records in another court.
That's why it is so important to do your research. Learn the basics of how the court system is organized on both a local and national level. Learn what types of court records will be available, and which types of cases a certain type of court will hear. Going into your search with this information will only save you time and confusion.