Online court records are not the same as background checks

Why online court records should not be used to check an individual's background

Online court records are not the official records of the court and are provided for informational purposes only -- and may be subject to error or omission. Users of these court systems therefore have the responsibility to verify the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information retrieved from those systems.

Moreover, in most states the information is limited to a single county; searching for John Doe in county Y may find no information, despite Doe's lengthy criminal history in neighboring County Z. Name searches can be unreliable. The identification of a person cannot be determined solely based on name.

For specific information related to a particular case, you must visit or contact the court in which the action was filed.

Please note that in some states the use of information obtained from an online court record
to deny a person employment, deny a rental agreement, or take any other adverse action
against a person is prohibited by law.


Users of the system have the responsibility to verify the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information.

Criminal:

Courts do not conduct criminal background checks. Criminal background checks are not generally available to the general public. Criminal background checks are not the same as searching an online court record and should not be treated or understood to be a substitute.

In some circumstances, the state criminal history system using a confirmed biometric identifier (fingerprints) may on request and, with payment of a fee, run such reports for activities within the state. These searches have nothing to do with the courts. Contact your state police or state criminal history system for more information.

Civil:

Online civil court records are not the official records of the court and may not reflect the official court file available at the court itself. There are a variety of reasons for this: 

  • some records are sealed,
  • others are in paper-accessible files only,
  • others are so old they are only available in the court's archive, not online.

As with attempts to use criminal court records, the use of civil court records against a person may be prohibited by law.