A surprising amount of personal data is considered to be part of the public record. You probably assumed that certain things – like marriage records – were public record. But have you ever stopped to think just how much someone can learn about you through public records?
Today, we’re getting to the bottom of things and explaining which parts of your personal data are considered to be public record.
What Is A Public Record?
A public record is generally described as public information that is fixed in any medium and is retrievable in usable form for future reference. Typically, this information is deemed important for retention by judicial, legislative, or local government officials – like local records committees or state records committees.
Public records date back as far as the early beginnings of civilization. Government officials in ancient Babylon kept records in cuneiform writing on clay tablets, for example. More recently, public records laws have expanded to include modern communication platforms – like emails.
In any country, public records are indispensable to the efficient and economical operation of government. Think of it as like the “memory” part of the government’s brain. Instead of having to ask someone “When were you arrested for DUI?” and then taking their word for it, the government can consult their own records and run an orderly society.
Okay, you get it. Now let’s get to the interesting stuff: what’s actually in the public record?
What’s In Your Public Record?
Your public record contains a surprising amount of personally identifiable information about you, including:
- Your Name
- Birth Date
- Home and Mailing Addresses
- License Number
- Physical Description
- Social Security Number
- Failures to Appear in Court Records
- Failures to Pay Traffic Fine Records
- License Status (whether it’s valid, revoked, suspended, or expired, for example)
- Major traffic convictions stretching back 7 years (and minor traffic convictions stretching back 3 years)
- Voting Records
- Birth Certificates
- Marriage Certificate Records
- Death Certificate Records
- Property Records
- Court Records
- Divorce Records
- Arrest Records
- Postal Address Information
Most of the above information is held within just one government agency: the DMV. They know almost everything about you.
What’s Excluded From The Public Record?
Certain government records are exempt from disclosure under state and federal law. Most state records laws exempt specific types of records from public disclosure. Some of the things protected under these laws include:
- Communications between attorneys and their government clients
- State tax information
- Trade secrets
- Certain lawsuit settlements
- Criminal investigation records
- Records about industrial expansion
The above are not considered public records, so they won’t be revealed during a public records search.
Criminal Investigations Are Not Public Records
Another major section of records that are blocked off from the public are criminal investigation records.
Records of criminal investigations conducted by public law enforcement agencies – or any criminal intelligence information collected by those agencies – are not considered to be part of the public record.
However, certain information about crimes is always public record. For example, the time, date, location, and nature of a violation of the law are part of the public record, as is the identity of anyone involved in that incident (including their name, sex, age, address, employment, and the criminal charges they were alleged to have committed).
Certain Government Records Are Considered Confidential
The government has some information about you that it will not reveal to the public. That information includes all of the following:
- Social welfare information, including Medicare records
- Social Security information
- Tax information
- School records
This information will not be disclosed to the general public.
However, it may be disclosed to certain groups. For example, the government can release your tax information (both federal and state) if it’s part of a court proceeding where tax issues are relevant, if a government agency is trying to locate a parent who owes child support payments, if state financial aid programs have been requested, or if it’s for statistical use or tax administration purposes.
Who Can Get A Copy of Public Records?
You can legally request anyone’s public record. That’s why it’s a public record. Check Criminal Record makes it easy to check someone’s public record. Our online search service can be used for far more than just criminal records searches. We can also deliver information about marriage certificates, death certificates, property holdings, and more.
If it’s part of the public record, then you – or anyone else – can legally access it. However, when you work with a public records search organization like ourselves, searches tend to be more thorough.
Some people take advantage of public records to look up their own public records, while others think it’s entertaining to look up a celebrity’s record under their real name. Whatever you choose to do, Check Criminal Record is here to help.