We often heard in the news of anchors or journalists talking about public records especially when there is an ongoing investigation. You might wonder about these records and might be concerned that your whole life might actually be open to the public eye and anybody can access it. That said, knowing what public records are and what is included and excluded from it would give you peace of mind. Each state, county and even countries have their own rules concerning the information provided to the public.

What are Public Records?

Public records are information compiled by the government whether in the form of mail, video, electronic mail or any media type that the government receives in the course of conducting an official business. Not every transaction however are recorded some such as preliminary drafts are destroyed.

The FOIA or the Freedom of Information Act is a law that provides the public the ability to access government records. As the law requires that government agencies to disclose requested records unless it is protected from public disclosure, these records are available to the public. Below are some examples of public records that are made available by the Freedom of Information Act or the FOIA in the US.

a. Arrest records

b. Birth/Death records

c. Census/statistics

d. Court dockets/Criminal records

e. Marriage records

f. Voters registration

g. Licenses

h. Sex offenders

What Information is Included

Basic information are usually available free however premium or detailed ones are available for a fee. Basic information may include the name, address, contact information, demographics/census and address history. Premium ones on the other hand, includes credit reports, bankruptcy, permits, properties owned and even affiliations and other assets.

If you are interested in knowing what information is included in the report, it is beneficial that you visit the office where the records are kept. Births, marriages and death records are usually available from the Vital Statistics Office whereas criminal records are available from county court offices. Information may be requested by visiting the government offices however, one may also check the government website to request online. If you need the information urgently, you may also check third-party companies that also offer such services.

Can you Restrict Access to your Records

Access to records maybe restricted depending on the type of record and the guidelines that the government agency follow. Sealed or expunged records are restricted from public records and access are granted to the specific court or may have already been destroyed depending on court orders.