Sunday, September 5, 2010

IS YOUR LIFE AN OPEN BOOK? WHAT ARE PUBLIC RECORDS AND HOW IT CAN AFFECT YOU?

In the event of a publicised, ongoing investigation, there is a great likelihood, that we will hear the various journalists and media personnel talk about 'Public Records'. From the name and its connotation, it is quite likely that many of us have wondered what these public records are and wondered if perhaps, our lives and everything that concerns it is possibly open to public access. If that is the case, then knowing what these public records are, and finding out its extent and limits can put those worries to rest. In every state, County, and country, there are rules governing the kind and amount of information that is open to the public.

 

WHAT ARE PUBLIC RECORDS?

 

These are government acquired and compiled information. They could be in form of video, e-mail, mail or any type of media which is retrieved by the government while performing its official business. Some transaction, such as preliminary drafts, however, are destroyed. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law which grants the public the right to access government records. These records are available to the public owing to the fact that the government agencies are mandated, by law, to disclose requested records except in a case where they are protected from public disclosure. Some of the public records granted to the public in the US, because of the FOIA are:

 

1.) Arrest records.
2.) Birth/Death records.
3.) Census/Statistics.
4.) Court dockets/Criminal records.
5.) Marriage records.
6.) Voters registration.
7.) Licenses.
8.) Sex offenders.

 

WHAT INFORMATION IS INCLUDED?

 

Normal basic information can be gotten for free, but in order to access the more detailed or premium information, a fee is usually required. This basic information may refer to name, address, contact information, census as well as address history. Conversely, the premium information may include credit reports, permits, bankruptcy, affiliations as well as other assets. In a case where you are curious about the contents of the report, it is advisable to visit the office which contains the records. Information like Births, marriages and death records can usually be gotten from the Vital Statistics Office while criminal records can be gotten from County courts offices. While a visit to the physical government office might be necessary, one may also request online at the government website. In a case of urgency, one may procure the services of third-party companies who provide that information.

 

CAN YOU RESTRICT ACCESS TO YOUR RECORDS?

 

Depending on the guidelines which the government agency follows, as well as the type of record involved, access to records may be restricted. Records which, for some reason may have been expunged or sealed for example are restricted from public records. Access is only granted to the specific court or even then, the information may have been destroyed, based on orders from the court. In a case where you happen to have an arrest record that did not end in a conviction, it is good to ensure online, that the records do not exist any longer. To do this, you can conduct a police records search and if you don't think the records are for public access, you can check at your local court clerk office or visit a legal advisor for assistance.