Why Online Public Records Are Usually Not Free

You’ve probably heard the phrase “public records,” but do you know what it means? Generally speaking public records are those records that the public can access without restriction (mostly). The disclosure is because the records were made open voluntarily, or because some government transactions or archives require this to be the case. Most of these records have personal or even private information within.

Government agencies at all levels, from local through state and even federal, keep public records. All of these records are supposed to be free because they were disclosed for the purposes of public access.

Suppose you need a copy of a public record document. If you go to the right government agency, and simply ask for the record you want, you can generally get a copy. On occasion the agency may ask for a small fee to cover costs such as technical expenses and stamps.

If you go online, however, and use many of the online public record search sites, you will find that you are asked to pay for this same information. There are many reasons for this.

One reason a site may ask you to pay is that they themselves purchased the documents from government agencies.

On some other sites, the document is free but the search service isn’t. It costs a good bit of money to maintain a huge, complex database for you to search.

Suppose you need the information contained in a public record, but you don’t have a way to pay for the record. Don’t panic! You can always access public records for free online. Go to a major search engine, and search “public record access free sites.”

Some of these will be private websites that allow free searching, though often the database is smaller than are those that charge. You can also find websites that have links to government websites that allow online searching for records.

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