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Under The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Title 5 of the United States Code, section 552, any person has the right to request access to public records: criminal records, arrests & warrants, inmate records, vital records & more.

Types of Public Records Databases

Several different types of databases gather and store public records at the federal level. These records are maintained and found with the National Archives, PACER, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office, and the Office of Citizen Services and Communications. The information kept in these commonly searched records is made available for public view according to the requirements outlined in the Freedom of Information Act, which directly affects the accessibility of federal records to the public. Here, you’ll find information about the types of records found with each of these federally maintained agencies and why you may want to access them.
 

National Archives

The National Archives, found at http://www.archives.gov/, provides a wide range of federal records to the public. This includes historical photos and documents, military service records, and even short films deemed important to the country’s history. This agency maintains the approximate 1 to 3% of records considered vital of all federal records created. Researchers, genealogists and simply citizens interested in learning more about the history of the government find this site useful.
 

PACER

The Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) site at http://pacer.psc.uscourts.gov/ provides information and updated court records from all district and bankruptcy courts in the country, as well as the Supreme Court. Information found here includes recent rulings, identities of parties to the case, and any pleas entered in a particular case. These are helpful when conducting a background check on a person or company or simply researching past court decisions.
 

U.S. Department of Commerce

TheU.S. Department of Commerce at http://www.commerce.gov/ provides recent and past census information. This can provide you with median income ranges, population and housing information about your local area.
 

Office of Citizens Services and Communications

The Office of Citizens Services and Communications maintains the public records and information available through http://www.usa.gov/. This site provides information about national surveys and statistics of public interest. These statistics include educational and crime information that may be of interest before moving to a new area or state, for example.
 

U.S. Trademark and Patent Office

Do you have an idea for a new product but aren’t sure if you’re the first? The U.S. Trademark and Patent Office, found at http://www.uspto.gov/, provides you with the ability to search for trademarks and patents. This site also contains information concerning laws protecting intellectual property, as well as the processes necessary to apply for a patent or trademark. If you are starting a new company or have a product or service you want to protect, this is the site you’ll need to visit to do so.

Public records maintained in various federal and state databases provide the information necessary to conduct background checks, find a lost loved one, learn more about the history of the U.S., and even legally protect your intellectual property. Federal statutes protect your right to access these records, though some personal identifying information such as Social Security numbers are protected from public view to thwart identity theft attempts.
 

 

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