How to Search for Court Records

by Laura Stuart

Getting your hands on court records is easier than you would think. The first and the hardest step is knowing what records you are looking for, be it licenses, dockets, foreclosures, deeds, birth certificates, petitions, death certificates or any other type of court records.

Search court databases. Federal, state, county and municipal courtrooms are making the switch to digital records. You can get a wide range of court records, including jail logs, certificates and arrest information from general courthouse databases.

Call your courthouse. For records you cannot get online, call your local courthouse and ask how you would get copies of the information. This goes for anything that is filed in the courthouse. Unless the case is ongoing or especially sensitive, you should have no problem getting the information.

Search third-party sites. If you are having issues finding the court records you are looking for, you can opt to use a third-party site like LexisNexis or another record search program. Most third-party sites will charge a fee for the search.

Search online. If you are searching online, you will need the same information as searching in the actual courthouse. You will need a name, location or another piece of pertinant information. You cannot search for the guy who sued the other guy, but you can search for Mr. X who sued Mr. J. The more information you have, the faster and easier your search will be.

Tip

  • Know as much about the records you are searching for in advance. This information could be where it happened, who is included in the records, crime, type of document or any other relevant information. It is free of charge to access court records online or inside of the courthouse, but you will be charged if you request information faxed to your from the courthouse or want to copy the information. Third-party search engines will usually charge a fee per search.

Warning

  • Searching for records online or in a courthouse can be frustrating because it is trial and error. If a specific search does not work, try a different perameter and search again. Look for connections between information.

About the Author

Laura N. Stuart is a writer. She has served as a newspaper reporter, photographer, copy editor, feature reporter, editor, entertainment reporter and freelance writer for multiple community and regional publications. She holds a Bachelor of Mass Communications degree in journalism from Louisiana State University.