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Online Court Records on Statewide Judicial Systems

Every state has a judicial branch that oversees that state’s trial and appellate court system. The agency's name will vary, but it is often known as the Administration Office of the Courts (AOC) or State Court Administrator’s Office.  

Knowing about this agency and its online services is important because more counties and courts are online via AOC sites than from the individual county-based systems. Consider these overall statistics about states’ judicial systems:

  • 28 States Offer Online Access to Both Civil and Criminal Records
  • 4 States Offer Access to Only Online Civil Records
  • 16 States Have Online Access to Neither

A search from one of these court systems can be a particularly useful criminal record search tool in those states that do not permit a search at the state criminal records repository agency.

Of course, these court systems can be useful in those states that do offer access to the state criminal records repository agency because often the court data is usually much more current than from the repository – especially when not submitting fingerprints.

But just because the records are online - does that mean this site is the primary source for record searching?  The answer is a very strong  “no.”

These Systems are Not Created Equal - Know the State-by-State Variations

Anyone conducting research online must be aware that the value of a “statewide” court search varies by state. Consider these evaluation points:

  • Is there a cost? Some systems offer free and paid search options. While many of the free searches are good, the adage “you get what you pay for” can certainly apply here.
  • Is the search a statewide search? Some systems are said to be statewide, however, all counties may not be on the system.
  • Is the throughput posted and is there uniformity? For example, one county may have cases dating back seven years, while another county may have only two years of history.
  • Are Identifiers shown? The lack of identifiers to properly identify a subject varies widely from state-to-state. A lack of this is especially apparent in the free access search systems. Additionally, in some places verifiers that were previously available have been removed in recent years.
  • And perhaps the most important evaluation point: Is an online search equivalent to searching onsite? The level of your due diligence and need for accuracy will determine if using an online site, that is in reality a supplemental search, is sufficient for your needs. This, of course, is true for ANY online site for ANY type of public record.

In-depth details about each state’s court system including a link to access each AOC database are contained in the Criminal Record Sources subscription product and in the Public Record Research System at https://brbpublications.com/.  

Do you need to know more about the online-onsite equivalency of a state’s AOC database or Criminal Repository? We have the only Online-Onsite Equivalency Matrix. Learn more at https://brbpublications.com/subscribers/criminal-record-sources.


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