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Jail Public Records – Ignorance is Risky!

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By: James Blackwater

Ever wondered if that jail stay when your were younger is still on your record? How about as an employer wondering about the background history of a new job applicant? These and hundreds of other questions relating to public jail records are asked by people every day of the week. No matter what your interest in these records, you want reliable public information quickly and easily.

The Good News

The good news is that most jail public records are just as the name implies “public records”. This means that the files are kept in a government facility somewhere and indexed, usually by name, for all criminal offenses in the local jurisdiction. Any member of the public can access these records either online or by a visit to the local court clerk or other records office. Most court clerks have special employees available to assist individuals with records searches. You can usually get copies of any jail public records for a fee per page.

Many jurisdictions have made their jail public records available online in the last few years. This development has made public records searches much, much easier. Most online records stems are also tied to the local jurisdiction’s criminal court docket. The court docket will contain information about pending charges or pending criminal proceedings in the jurisdiction.

The Bad News

The bad news is that a simple, local jail records search may be insufficient or even worse, unsafe. With the development of national, state and local criminal records indexes (like the national crime index), you can’t be sure which indexes have collected information about a certain jail jail record and stored it in their database. You could search hundreds of local public records and still never find the reference to a particular incident that’s stored in a state or national database.

As an employer, what if you check out a prospective employee in your local area, or even your state and find no records? You’re safe right? WRONG! What if your applicant had a prior offense in his previous state of residence? What if that offense would directly relate to your business and could be a serious danger?

As an individual, what if that new employer finds your arrest record in a national index (many employers use national services for this very purpose) and surprises you with the information in your interview? Would you be able to answer both the spoken and unspoken questions on the spur of the moment? Are you willing to take the chance with your career and livelihood?

Fortunately, approved businesses with special access to government databases can now search system-wide for any jail or other criminal records. You can rely on these nationwide searches to scour every available local, state and national database for any public records or index entries for any individual across the country. The days of hand searches in the courthouse basement are over. Thank God.

Best Wishes In Your Search,

James Blackwater


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Lawyer Legions Recognizes Terry Lavenstein, ESQ.

Over 40 years experience. Distinguished member of the Maryland State Bar Association and Federal Bar Association.

The article presented here is the opinion of the author. The opinions expressed in this blog are the sole opinions of the author and do not, in any form, reflect the legal advice or opinions of Lavenstein Law LLC. Lavenstein Law LLC does not co-author, nor promote the opinions, ideas, or statements published in this forum. Any information supplied in this forum is for editorial purposes only and should not be accepted as legal counsel provided by Lavenstein Law LLC. If you seek professional legal counsel in matters of criminal law, contact Lavenstein Law LLC. Lavenstein Law LLC is a criminal defense law firm in Maryland.

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