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Return of Remains of Deceased U. Estates of Deceased U. Citizen Deaths Overseas. Federal Benefits and Obligations Abroad. Absentee Voting Information for U. Sending Money to Destitute U. Citizens Overseas. Internet Transaction Step-by-Step Instructions. Criminal Record Checks. There are a variety of options available to U. Go to your local police department where you reside or last resided in the United States, request that the police conduct a local or state criminal records search and provide you with a document reflecting that there is no history of a criminal record.
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Local police departments may require your personal appearance in order to conduct the search. You should determine whether the country where you intend to use the records check requires that it be authenticated. For information on that process please see our authentications page. The Criminal Justice Information Services CJIS Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation FBI centralizes criminal justice information and provides accurate and timely information and services to local, state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies, the private sector, academia, and other government agencies.
The U. Department of State Authentications Office may then place an apostille document for use in a country that is party to the Hague Apostille Convention. For countries not party to the Hague Apostille Convention, the U.
See Fingerprint Identification: An Overview. Department of Justice Order fingerprint search results for international requests by placing the FBI seal and signature of a Division official on the results, if requested at the time of submission. Documents prepared in this manner may then be sent to the U. Department of State Authentications Office by the requestor to be authenticated, if necessary. Please be sure to indicate the country in which the document is to be used.
How to Find Public Records Online
In ancient Babylon records were kept in cuneiform writing on clay tablets. In the Inca empire of South America , which did not have writing, records were kept via an elaborate form of knots in cords, quipu , whose meaning has been lost. In Western Europe in the Late Middle Ages public records included census records as well as records of birth, death, and marriage; an example is the Domesday Book of William the Conqueror. Although public records are records of public business, they are not necessarily available without restriction, although Freedom of Information legislation FOI that has been gradually introduced in many jurisdictions since the s has made access easier.
Each government has policies and regulations that govern the availability of information contained in public records. A common restriction is that data about a person is not normally available to others; for example, the California Public Records Act PRA states that "except for certain explicit exceptions, personal information maintained about an individual may not be disclosed without the person's consent". In the United Kingdom, Cabinet papers were subject to the thirty-year rule : until the introduction of FOI legislation, Cabinet papers were not available for thirty years; some information could be withheld for longer.
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As of [update] the rule still applies to some information, such as minutes of Cabinet meetings. Some companies provide access, for a fee, to many public records available on the Internet. Many of them specialize in particular types of information, while some offer access to different types of record, typically to professionals in various fields. Some companies sell software with a promise of unlimited access to public records, but may provide nothing more than basic information on how to access already available and generally free public websites.
Each year news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested groups sponsor "Sunshine Week. In many states, state legislatures are often exempt from public-records laws that apply to state executive officials and local officials. In , the Associated Press made a request for the emails and daily schedules of state legislative leaders speakers of state Houses and presidents of state Senates in all 50 states; a majority denied the request.
Of particular significance was the evolution of the common-law right "to access court records to inspect and to copy". The expectation inherent in the common law right to access court records is that any person may come to the office of the clerk of the court during business hours and request to inspect court records, with almost instantaneous access.
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Such right is a central safeguard of the integrity of the courts. Any decision to conceal court records requires a sealing order. The right to access court records is also central to liberty: There is no conceivable way to exercise the Habeas Corpus right, deemed by the late Justice Brennan  as "the cornerstone" of the United States Constitution, absent access to court records as public records. In the United States the common law right to "access court records to inspect and to copy" was reaffirmed by the U.
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Supreme Court in Nixon v Warner Communications, Inc , where the court found various parts of the right to access court records as inherent to the First, Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments. As court records become increasingly more accessible online, concerns about the undermining of private information has become a significant issue. In the past, obtaining court records required people to physically go to a courthouse and request documents, making privacy concerns essentially obsolete.
However, with the relative ease at which people can now access these records, highly sensitive information i. Access to U. Requests for access to records pursuant to FOIA may be refused by federal agencies if information requested is subject to exemption, or some information may be redacted deleted.
There are many degrees of accessibility to public records between states, with some making it fairly easy to request and receive documents, and others with many exemptions and restricted categories of documents. One state that is fairly responsive to public records requests is New York , which utilizes the Committee on Open Government to assist citizens with their requests. Public access to arrest and booking records is seen as a critical safeguard of liberty.
With the advent of the Internet and the information age, access to public records in the United States to anyone who wishes to view them has dramatically increased. Third parties such as the information broker industry make regular use of public records to compile readily accessible profiles on millions of people, and may make a profit from the service of recompiling and mining the data.
Public record data is used for multiple purposes, such as ensuring that child support payments are made as determined by the courts,  assisting credit bureaus in keeping accurate data  and helping to pay pension benefits to retirees. Individual criminal histories are generally considered to be public records in the United States and are often accessed via criminal history background checks , but "access and use of FBI -maintained criminal history record information has been traditionally limited and controlled in large measure to protect the privacy of the individuals to whom the records pertain.