Public Records 101

For Background Check Sites

Author Written by Drew S (California)
UPDATED: July 22, 2019

Public Records have been around since ancient Babylonia and used to be etched in clay.

This guide is broken down into three easy-to-follow sections:

Most people have no clue that much of their personal information is actually very easily accessible to the public. Reason being that The Public Record Office Act was passed in 1838 to “keep safely the public records”.

“Keep safely the public records”

This act placed records of existing and ancient courts of law and their offices in a non-ministerial department under the keepership of the Master of the Rolls.

What You Can Expect To Find In A Public Record

Most common information that is available from public records are free and include birth and death records, marriage and divorce records, criminal records, bankruptcy records and lien information. However, depending on which state you live in, public records can extend even further and can cost anywhere between $35.00 to $40,000.00.

Contact Information

The most basic information that the public records database holds is contact information. First and last name, current and previous phone numbers, current and previous addresses, and email addresses.

Phone Numbers

Finding someone’s home phone, cell phone and even work phone numbers are all accessible.


A person’s current and previous home address and work address can be found in the public records database.

Email Addresses

Personal email addresses and work email addresses can also be accessed.

Court Records

Criminal Records

One of the most common uses of public records is to find out about ones criminal history if any. Assault, disturbing the peace, possession, theft, indecent exposure, and other sex offenses. Misdemeanors and felonies of said charges and more can all be found in public records.

Traffic Offenses

Traffic offenses found in public records include speeding, excessive speeding, driving without a license, driving without insurance, driving under the influence and failing to obey traffic rules/signs.

Arrest History

All arrest history, jail time, sentencing, convictions and the reasons behind those are visible on public records.

Personal/Financial Assets And Info

Personal Assets

Personal assets that can be found on public records include properties, motor vehicle registrations, watercraft registrations, aircraft registrations, corporate filings, SEC filings, patents and/or trademarks, nonprofit entities and small business retirement funds.

Financial Liens

Consensual liens, statutory liens, construction/contractor liens and tax liens can be found on public records.


Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy are visible on public records.

Information You Won’t Find

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets include any valuable business information that derives its value from secrecy. These will not be found in public records.

Medical History or Records

Any medical history of an individual is confidential and is not accessible through public records.

Personal Counseling Records

Any information regarding the use of a psychiatrist, psychologist or psychotherapist are not visible through public records.

How The Freedom Of Information Act Changed America

The Freedom Of Information Act, or FOIA, was passed into law in 1966. FOIA has played an important role in keeping our government transparent and accountable and continues to do so to this day.

Freedom Of Information Act Explained

FOIA was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966, giving the public the right to access records from any federal agency. FOIA has been used to expose governments of misconducts and waste, along with threats to public health and safety.

Since its passage, the FOIA has been strengthened by a series of amendments.

What Led To The FOIA In The U.S.A.

A Democrat by the name of John Moss from Sacramento, California started advocating for more government openness after the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower fired several employees accused of being communists.

After Moss became chairman of a congressional subcommittee on government information in 1955, he held a hearing about government transparency and conducted investigations into cases of federal agencies withholding information.

In 1966, more than a decade of effort, Moss finally gained enough support in Congress to pass FOIA.

How It Benefits Americans

In the 1980s, activists learned after filing a FOIA request that the Environmental Protection Agency knew paper mills were releasing a toxic substance called dioxin into rivers.

Following the tragedy that was 2005s Hurricane Katrina, FOIA requests uncovered that there were considerably large wasteful government spending during the recovery efforts.

In 2016, a FOIA request uncovered a report that a major American supplier of parmesan cheese was using wood pulp as a filler in its products.

Online Background Checks (For Public Use)

Benefits Of Deep Web Search Websites

A Deep Web search engine’s greatest advantage is the thoroughness and depth of its results. Unlike standard internet search engines such as Google and Yahoo just to name a couple barely scratch the surface of your intended search.

  1. High Quality & More Relevant Content
  2. Find Information Not Available Through Conventional Search Engines
  3. Anonymity

The Deep Web is a beneficial tool in any type of information based searching. In fact, 90% of all information on the world wide web can be found in The Deep Web.

Accessing Public Records (Via Court And Government Agencies)

Public Records VIA Court and Government Agencies have proven to be beneficial to the general public. But, like everything, they have their drawbacks.


  • Government Transparency
  • Personal Use - Finding a Relative You’ve Lost Touch With
  • Being Able To See Where Taxpayer Dollars Go Towards


  • Issue Of Privacy
  • Can Cost $1000s of Dollars
  • Identity Theft

Generally, most Information that is collected by government agencies is attainable by the public. Public records have done more good in American history than bad.

Popular Public Records Websites

As opposed to making a FOIA request to receive public records, there are numerous websites that allow access to public records all through your computer or mobile device.

  • TruthFinder
  • Whitepages
  • Instant Checkmate
  • Spokeo
  • BeenVerified
  • Intelius

These websites make receiving public records much faster and easier than making a FOIA request. Filing a FOIA request asks that you write and deliver your request to a government agency’s FOIA office.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Public Records Dismissible In Court

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Are Public Records Dismissible In Court

If you get charged in court, you will still have a court record even if you are later found not guilty or have charges dismissed.

How Accurate Are Public Records

Public records are very accurate. Due to the fact that these documents or information generally pertain to the conduct of the government.

Are They Included In Your Credit Report

Public records that can appear on your credit report include bankruptcy, judgment or a tax lien.

Can You Find Divorces In Them

Previous and current marital status can be found in public records.

Can They Be Deleted

Some public records available online can be deleted, though it includes going through a strenuous process.

Who Is Allowed To Access Public Records

Public records are available to the public

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