County Court Records
County court records are an essential component of a comprehensive background search, since they contain the most accurate, timely and complete data available and include information on open cases, convictions, dismissals and diversions. The only information that is unavailable involves cases that have been expunged, sealed or handled by the juvenile courts.
ChallengesEach state is divided into counties, from as few as three to as many as 200 per state. County courts throughout the United States have a variety of names such as Circuit, District, Supreme, Municipal, Magistrate, Common Pleas and General Sessions, and each state has its own court structure that determines jurisdiction within each county. In many states, one court handles felony cases while another court handles misdemeanor cases. In other states, there are also numerous smaller courts that have jurisdiction over lesser crimes and traffic offenses. Furthermore, the county in which a violation of state law occurred processes the offense through its own court system, not through a unified court system.
In addition to the numerous variances in the jurisdiction of the counties in different states over criminal records, there are several other challenges that need to be addressed. The first entails the use of individual online county criminal record retrieval systems and the type of information that may, or may not, be provided through these systems. The second pertains to instances where a researcher must be physically present at the court in order to conduct the search, and the third involves the policies of certain counties, which mandate that county clerks must do all criminal record searches.
Knowledge and SkillAlthough there are many hurdles in obtaining comprehensive information from county court systems, Justifacts has a solution to each difficulty. With the rise in computerization and Internet usage, many counties offer access to their court records through online county court records systems, which eliminates the need to be physically present at the court. While this has made searching criminal records convenient, it has also created a quandary as to how much information is available online and how far back the records go. Also, every county uses its own software system, each with its own search methods, which require skill and experience to navigate and to interpret the results. Justifacts’ knowledgeable researchers understand the specific indexing systems of the various counties, the proper input parameters, and the meaning of the acronyms and abbreviations displayed in the results.
A Proven NetworkEven though Internet use is commonplace, many courts maintain case information at the courthouse only. These records can be searched only by physically being present at the court and using the public access terminal or, in some cases, books or card files. This type of county criminal search often requires the services of a public record retriever, usually in the jurisdiction being searched, who has experience dealing with the court’s computer system and is familiar with the differing policies of each local court. Justifacts has developed a network of qualified public record retrievers. These record retrievers are required to certify their ability to adhere to Justifacts’ privacy and quality procedures and are periodically tested for accuracy and completeness. Additionally, most of the record retrievers are members of professional groups such as the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) and the Public Record Retriever Network (PRRN). These groups assist in maintaining high standards of quality and in providing updates on any changes to applicable law regarding the access to and use of the information being supplied. To view other organizations that Justifacts is associated with please visit our Associations Page.
Experience and ProficiencyLastly, there are courts that have developed a policy that requires all requests for county criminal searches to be done through the Clerk of Courts’ office. This is often due to privacy concerns and/or the inability to redact non-public information from the courts’ records. It is also frequently used as an additional source of revenue for the court to help pay for enhancements, upgrades and labor used to maintain case records. In many cases, courts that require clerks to perform criminal record searches will charge a court fee for each name searched and often have longer turnaround times due to limited personnel or a large volume of requests. Although Justifacts has no jurisdiction over these policies and fees, we immediately recognize when a request is made for a search in one of these counties, and we promptly submit the request, along with the necessary fees and forms, so that there is no added processing delay.
To learn more about our County Court Records services: Request Information