What Are Public Records? And Is It Free?
Public records are paper, documents or any type of information that is made by government agencies or legal officers that is necessary by law to be maintained and kept. These records are generally filed and registered some public officer or institution. Most of the public records are available at the request of the general public, although some are grouped as confidential or classified and cannot be accessed by all citizens.
Origin of Public Records
From the time that society has started functioning, for different disputes and financial matters records have been maintained. Even in the Babylon times records were maintained on clay tablets written in cuneiform. In Europe from the middle ages records have been made of the number of marriage, divorce, and birth in the states. The specifics of royal marriages between the European royal families which were essentially international treaties were also chronicled. The United Kingdom was the first place to formalize record-keeping by making the Public Record Office in 1838.
Restrictions on Public Information
Individual government has specific regulations and policies that supervises or oversees the availability of the public records to the people. The Freedom of Information that was first introduced in the 1960s has made access to public records much easier for the commoners. One common rule that safeguards the privacy of each individual is that the private information of any person under normal circumstances will not be available to everyone. The UK has a peculiar 30-year rule, which ensured that details of cabinet meetings and cabinet papers won't be released before thirty years.
Public Records in the USA
In the United States, The Freedom of Information Act or the FOIA guide the federal public records. Along with the national FOIA each individual state has its own FOI legislation. For example, California has its own California Open Public Records Act, or in Ohio, the laws are stated under the Ohio Open Public Record Act.
To get hold of some type of public record, you need to first submit a written request to the concerned agency and detail the information that you need from them. Any man can request any record that is maintained or obtained by that public agency. Some times you have to pay a minimal fee to get the records. Sometimes public records are hidden or restricted under some circumstances. For instance, the state of Maryland keeps all adoption records and personal documents as classified. This entails that any member of the general public cannot see adoption documents of another individual. The criminal records of a minor or the juvenile criminal records are kept hidden from the public view.
Why Are Divorce, Marriage, Birth and Death Data Public?
The divorce and marriage records are part of public records which are available on the request of anyone. In certain cases, divorce records are concealed and are not available to the general people. From the beginning of death, birth, divorce, and marriage rates have been recorded. This helps the government informing the census report or other statistical documents. It also helps the people and the government understand how society is functioning and what government plans need to be undertaken to solve a crisis or ensure development.
Are the Public Records Free?
Many wonder if public records can be accessed without paying. The answer is that some of the public records are indeed free for the general people. Unpaid or complementary data are available at the city, county, state and federal level. Some instances of free public data are criminal records, census data, tax liens, bankruptcies, etc.