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Important Facts to Know About Searching Government Records

There are four important truths about searching public records online from government agencies. Less than 70% of government maintained public records are found online. For example, only 65% of the state and local courts place access to felony data online.

Government sites can be free or fee-based. Generally, the fee-based sites are more robust.

Most free government public record websites contain no personal identifiers beyond the name. This can be a problem when researching a common name.

Depending on the type of record, often the searchable and viewable information found online is limited to name indexes and summary data rather than document images. Most access sites – especially the free access sites – permit the former, not the latter. Keep these four truths in mind and your public record searching will lead to better results.

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