Tips on Court Records Searches

Performing a court records search can be difficult. Because of the lack of standardization in the organization of court records across the country, courts in the United States are notorious for the variances in their court record keeping systems. From their system for numbering cases to their minimum search requirements, you cannot expect consistency in court record keeping systems from court to court. This can make your search for court records frustrating.

However, there many aspects of the court record keeping system that will remain consistent across the board. Thus, there are steps you can take to ensure you make the most of your time and search efforts. By knowing what types of information you can hope to find when you search court records, and where in the system you'll find them, you can drastically expedite your public records search. Here, for your convenience, we've compiled a list of some court record search tips.

Understand How Courts Maintain Records

This is the first step in a successful court records search. Without understanding the basics of the US court record keeping system you can waste time looking in the wrong places. Despite variances in record-keeping systems from court to court, there are some factors which will remain consistent from state to state. Understanding the basics of this system will simplify your court records search.

For example, knowing that all cases are assigned a number when they are processed gives you a clear search point: the case number of a particular case. You would not have known to look for a unique search number had you not bothered to research the system, and therefore could have spent hours wading through a list of names. Take some time to research the ways that courts maintain records and you'll uncover copious amounts of useful information. You will also learn useful tips for court records search projects, like being sure to look for court docket sheets which are a running summary of a case history from initial filing to the case's current status.

Understand the Search Requirements

Before you begin, you should know the minimum amount of information will you need to perform an online court record search. Researching the requirements of a particular court before you request your information can save you, and the court clerk, some time.

Watch for Multiple Courts in the Same Location, or Courts With Overlapping Jurisdictions

One of the most common misconceptions about court houses is that sharing an address also means sharing information. Just because two courthouses exist in the same building or utilize the same staff, it does not necessarily mean that a search of one court will garner results for both.

Be Aware of Restricted Records

The types of public records (juvenile, for example) of a particular case will often determine whether or not public access to the case is permitted or restricted.

Finally, Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help

With so many details, particulars and barriers, beginning a court records search can be intimidating, time-consuming and frustrating. If you find yourself hitting roadblock after roadblock, hire a professional. These individuals and organizations are trained in dealing with courts, wading through paperwork and understanding the type of legal language that may cloud the average person's understanding of a case.