How to Find a Person in the Court System

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    • 1). Go straight to the local courts. Local general district, circuit and juvenile and domestic relations courthouses keep files on criminal and civil cases (lawsuits and divorce records, for instance). You can go directly to the courthouses, or in many cases nowadays you can visit court websites and find the information. Go to the court website and click on "Case Information" or something similar; this will take you to a page designed specifically for case searches. By simply typing in the person's full name in the space provided, you should be able to find her records. Juvenile and domestic relations courts typically do not post such records online, and records on juveniles are not part of the public record in any case; adult records can be found at these courthouses, however.

      The local online courts provide basic information (charges, case status, lawyers, important dates) but do not include case files. For those, you'll have to visit the courthouse or have them mailed or faxed for a fee.

      Court case files often include the initial complaint, filed motions, evidence and exhibits and in some cases transcripts. These files won't include probation reports, psychological evaluations and medical information.

    • 2). Check the federal courthouses. Just as with local courthouses, the federal courts house case files. But there is also a very good Internet resource called PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records). You will have to register to use the site and pay a small fee (8 cents per page as of December 2009) to view documents. Yet, a big plus with Pacer is that case file documents are available to be viewed and copied.

      The federal courts keep the same public records as local courts.

    • 3). Use a professional service to find court records on a person. There are plenty of companies that quickly track down a person in the court system nationwide. While there is a fee for such service, some of these companies also provide court listings by state on their websites, which you can use to make a search on your own less time consuming. (See Resources below for an example.)

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