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Helpful Articles on Public Record Searching

The articles on this page will assist you in how to search for public records. Besides the many searching tips herein, this resource is also helpful for finding where certain types of government records can be accessed, accurately and inexpensively. Regardless of what camp you fall into – the legal professional or casual requester – to some degree the articles below should help the way you search for public records.

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BRB Publications, Inc. is the nation’s premier publisher of references and websites used for locating public records. BRB’s books and electronic products point the way to over 28,000 government agencies, and 3,500 public record vendors who maintain, search or retrieve public records.

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Public Record Searching Techniques (New Article)

Not all Public Record Searching is created equal, so it’s important to understand two certainties about this important step in background checking: 1. Not all states or counties maintain records in the same way and 2. Not everything can be found on the Internet. In other words, it’s not always worth it to save a buck or two. Key factors to consider when searching public records at a government agency or within the database of a private company involve record storage, data retention, and currency and record indexing. Also, keep in mind that there is a difference between a record search and a document search. One (a record search) usually incurs a fee and the other (a document search) is typically free of charge if an exact file or case number can be provided. Identifiers, such as last name, date of birth, and social security number, act as an important safeguard for both the requesting party and the subject of the search. Three levels of matching logic are then used to determine if the record found belongs to the subject, including partial name match logic, name match only, and strict match logic. If a personal identifier does not exist, it may be possible to find one within the record file or associated paperwork. The methods to access public records from government agencies include visiting in person, requesting a specific document or file through the postal mail (if allowed by law), fax (if pre-approved), telephone, online, bulk or database purchases, monitoring or notification programs, hiring someone else and using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Fees and charges often do apply when requesting to obtain files, especially when government personnel must be involved with the search. It is important, in all cases, to pay attention to disclaimers that may be posted on government websites offering record access. Some could be a boilerplate statement, while others serve as a warning that information should not be used in place of a background check.

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Searching At State Agency Criminal Record Repositories

Researching liens through an Asset Lien search is one-way private investigators and attorneys conducting a deep background check can gain access to an information trail in the public record, often being led to assets or other liens. Local municipalities, county or parishes, and state agencies are the various levels at which one may file a lien notice or record a document. In fact, there are more than 3,600 locations in the United States to do so. But a researcher must know the particular index to search for a particular record, including real estate transactions, Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) Filings, Judgments, and other liens since some government agencies maintain an overall index, while others maintain a series of separate indices within the same office. It is important to first understand the difference between the personal property (bank accounts, vehicles, jewelry, computers) and real property (homes, apartment buildings, land) because each is recorded in different locations. Two types of liens are recorded: with consent, or voluntary, and without consent, or involuntary. Following a judgment in court, a lien notice, called an Abstract of Judgment, in some states, is filed by the winning party, which, in some cases, can be used to garnish wages or be placed on bank accounts. These can be searched at the local or county level in the same index as real estate records. It can be puzzling, however, to know where to begin a search since more than 8,000 of the approximately 45,000 ZIP codes in the country cross county lines. This means that more than one search may need to take place to find the property or liens being researched. To complicate things even more, finding the right location of a related UCC filing is different from finding a real estate recording and identical place names could refer to two different places. Types of real estate recorded documents are numerous and include a deed of trust or mortgage deed of trust, a bill of sale, an assignment of deed of trust, and an abstract judgment, among others, and it is important to consider all County Rules when searching real estate records in states that have multiple recording offices, as well as those that have independent cities that should be treated as if they are counties and those in which the recording jurisdiction is the town, not the county. Tax liens are non-consensual liens placed by a government agency for non-payment of taxes and can often be found by the state agency that maintains UCCs records, although some exceptions do apply. Other types of recorded documents include fictitious names or assumed names, forcible detainers, vital records and wills.

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Eight Tips for Searching Courts’ Online Record Databases

Searching a court’s online record databases can be a tedious task, but a few important pieces of knowledge can make all the difference. First, understand that not all courts are online. In fact, a surprising number of courts don’t have computerized record keeping. In addition, most courts that offer online access limit the search to the docket sheet data, but be sure to check all name variations and spelling variations. When conducting a search, be sure to understand the search mechanics and make use of help screens that may offer advice. Also, be aware of restricted records, such as those associated with juveniles and adoptions, and those that may be sealed from view or expunged. This is particularly important when conducting employment background checks because reporting these restricted records in some cases may be illegal and/or expose your firm to lawsuits. Watch for multiple courts at the same location, which may require a search in each of the jurisdictions, and be sure to keep an eye out for overlapping jurisdictions on civil limits. Get to know what the time delay is for posting records and use comparative factors when comparing the results of an online search versus an onsite search. This includes the date range of the records online, how reliable the database is in terms of record completeness and accuracy, how reliable the database is in terms of geographic completeness and accuracy, what identifiers are provided, and how strong the disclaimer may be.

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A Guide to Motor Vehicle Records

Motor Vehicle Records, or MVRs, can refer to vehicle registration or title record, so it’s important to know exactly what is needed before making the request of a motor vehicle official. State statutes, administrative rules, and regulations, as well as compliance with federal regulations, all determine who is legally permitted to access driving or vehicle records, what data is found on a record, what information is masked from public view, and what degree of authority is needed to obtain a full historical record. Although there is no all-inclusive database of motor vehicle records, there are several national indices that contain pointers or summary data to certain types of records or content. The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), a federal law passed in 1994, mandated the states to pass laws or create administrative rules to differentiate between permissible and non-permissible use requests in order to determine if personal information can be released on motor vehicle records. The law designated 14 specific permissible uses. More than 700,000 driving record requests are processed daily in the United States for those seeking to obtain three significant data elements that are available on the driving record. These include traffic violations and accidents, withdrawals and administrative actions, and personal information about the driver. In most states, the standard reporting period typically coincides with insurance purpose requests, but some states provide a longer time period on standard records, while others offer additional options for more in-depth records. Various types of driving records include those for employment background checking purposes, those for non-employment purposes, those for insurance purposes, those for a set time frame, and a certified version of any of the aforementioned reasons. Methods to access records, which can vary from $2 to $27.50, include manual or electronic, but a participating party may also submit a list of driver names to a state agency to be informed of any activity on a submitted person’s record. Once the driving record is obtained, a license status report can help identify the type or class of license issued, any special conditions placed on the license holder, and if the license is valid or under suspension or revocation. Vehicle record information can be broken down into two categories, such as ownership, including titles and liens, and registration of vehicles, while a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) can help further to internationally identify an individual vehicle.

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Federal Agency Sanctions and Watch Lists

Federal Agency Sanctions and Watch Lists examines public record databases of individuals and companies that have sanctions, violations, enforcement actions, or warnings initiated against them by one of several federal government departments. These include the Department of Commerce Department, Department of State, Department of Treasury, FDA, GSA, Human Health Care Services Department, Justice Department, Labor Department, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), State Department, and Treasury Department. The Consolidated Screening List (CSL) is maintained by the Department of Commerce, State, and the Treasury as a method of restricting certain exports, re-exports, or transfer of items. Its purpose is to provide an aide to industries or entities when conducting electronic screens of potential parties to regulated transactions. The 11 database lists include the Denied Persons List, Unverified List and Entity List (Commerce Department, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)), Nonproliferation Sanctions List and AECA Debarred List (Department of State), Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List, Foreign Sanctions Evaders List, Sectoral Sanctions Identifications (SSI) List, Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) List), The List of Foreign Financial Institutions Subject to Part 561 and the Non-SDN Iranian Sanctions Act List (NS-ISA) (Department of the Treasury). The Food & Drug Administration regulates scientific studies designed to develop evidence to support the safety and effectiveness of investigational drugs, biological products, and medical devices. The Administration’s weekly Enforcement Report contains information on actions taken in connection with agency regulatory activities, such as recalls and field corrections, injunctions, seizures, indictments, prosecutions, and dispositions. The FDA also maintains a Debarment List and a Disqualified or Restricted Clinical Investigator List, which provide information about individuals and entities that are prohibited from introducing any type of food, drug, cosmetics, or associated devices into interstate commerce and details about disqualified or totally restricted clinical investigators.

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