Court Clerk Information
Court clerks maintain records on all criminal and civil cases which are tried in their jurisdiction. This includes judgements, rulings, orders, and other proceedings of the court. To find records on a court case, first you need to determine the type of case. Criminal cases involve someone who is suspected of breaking a law, while civil cases are usually private disputes between individuals citizens, companies, or organizations. Each type of case can be tried at the local (county or circuit) level, in a state court, or at the federal court level. The level of court is dependent upon circumstances, such as whether a case is in appeal or the level of crime with which a defendant is charged.
About 70% of states in the U.S. allow public access to court records. In these states, once you find contact information for the appropriate court clerk, you may be able to search for the case file online or in person at the clerk’s office. Copies of court records generally require a fee. The amount is based upon number of pages of the document, plus time spent by office staff in researching or assisting with a search. Online services may allow you to view, but not print, a document, unless you pay a fee or register with a subscription. Specific records may include warrants, arrest records, case details, and convictions. Most states maintain a database with information about all court cases, both civil and criminal, at every level of court. In some cases, you may only be able to search for a court record if you know the case number.
If you are looking for records from a U.S. district, bankruptcy, or appellate court, you may be able to find the information through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) project. The PACER website will also let you know whether or not a case is active.
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