Just how public is The Public Record?

I remember a column in a magazine from my childhood; it was a judge’s verbatim comments to a couple of teens who had been convicted of stealing a car. It started, “Young men, you have been convicted of a felony. The record of this crime will be here as long as this courthouse stands. No amount of restitution or good work on your part will ever erase it…”

Just how “public” is The Public Record? Can anyone go in and look up anything I’ve done? Can my fiancee’s father check out if I’m really as good as she thinks I am? If I get into a fight at a bar one night, can the other party check me out and blab about every mistake I’ve made the next night? I assume, of course, that lawyers and paralegals can access the Record because their jobs require access to it, meaning any company that employs or uses legal counsel (potential employers, banks, etc.) has at least some indirect access to The Public Record. But does even a lawyer have to have some sort of good reason to look up my record? (Eg., if the guy I get into the bar fight with happens to be a lawyer…?)

The public record is public. Every courthouse has clerks whose job it is to look stuff up for anyone (there may be a fee in some cases.) Lawyers can pay for access to legal databases like Lexis, but anyone can go down to the county courthouse to look up felony records or real-estate transactions.

A lot of jurisdictions are beginning to put some of this stuff on the web for free now, too.

Here’s Wisconsin’s version. It seems to be somewhat limited, but it can still tell you quite a bit about a person, their family or a business.

I talked a bit about that here: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showpost.php?p=10738212&postcount=2

The barrier to getting information from the public record is simply that you have to know there’s something to find. You could go to my local courthouse and you’d never discover that I drive pretty fast. But if for some reason you knew to check in Angelica, New York, or Occaquon, Virginia, you could get the information for any reason whatsoever.


Speaking of Public Records, How tightly sealed are juvenile records? ***

When a judge orders them sealed? (For an adult or a company)

What cause could someone use to open such records?
I am sure if the FBI wanted such records they would get them, but what about a regular employment say at WalMart ?
*** After the person in question is an adult.

I’m not aware of any state in which an employer can get access to sealed juvenile records. Many jurisdictions have strict limits on how a file gets unsealed.



But some jurisdictions do permit the use of juvenile records in adult sentencing: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pjjr.pdf

Here is Minnesota’s version

I was looking for a free Colorado search site. All I could find was a site that cost $5.98 for every search:mad: