• Kyle Persaud

How to Do a Background Check: How to Find Court Records


Recently a client asked me, “How can I do a background check?”


With the advent of the internet, almost anyone can perform a simple background check. In this post, I’ll explain how to find court records. In this post here, I discuss how to locate prison records.


· You can find Oklahoma court records on OSCN or ODCR

· Many other states also publish court records online

· You can find federal court records on PACER


Because the Persaud Law Office is an Oklahoma firm, I’ll discuss primarily how to find Oklahoma court records. However, I’ll also explain how to locate federal court records, and court records from other U.S. states and territories.


How to find old court records online


The first step in doing a background check is to look for court records. In the United States, the federal government has its own court system, and each state also has its own court system. So, you’ll probably have to look at both state and federal courts. NOTE: While the information in this post is current as of April 25, 2022, online court record systems change rapidly. Some court websites may have changed since then. If you need help in finding a record, contact the state or federal court where the record is located.


How to find Oklahoma court records


Oklahoma has two websites where you can find court records: www.oscn.net and www.odcr.com.


Here are some of the features of OSCN and ODCR, and how they differ:


OSCN

· Contains records of all Oklahoma counties

· You can look at the record of a court case for free

· You can also view the actual court documents for free, if the case was filed within the past few years

· In Noble County, you can view the record of a court case, and all court documents, in all cases since statehood

· The state court system has said that they “plan” to allow you to see all court documents in all counties, filed since statehood. So far, they have not done so.


ODCR

· Contains records in some Oklahoma counties, but not others.

· You can look at the record of a court case for free.

· However, to see the actual court documents, you have to pay for a subscription. To pay for a subscription, you generally have to be a licensed attorney.

· Generally, it only shows cases filed after 1998.

· For marriage licenses in some counties (but not others) you can see marriage licenses filed far earlier than 1998.

· Often, court records appear on ODCR before they appear on OSCN. So, if you’re looking for a record that was filed within the past few hours or the past few days, you might want to try ODCR first.


How to Find Court Records on OSCN

· Go to www.oscn.net.

· Click on “Court Records.”

· Click on “Search OSCN Dockets.”

· You will now be on the search page. That page looks like this:



· Type in the name of the person you want to look for.

· You can limit your search by county, date filed, type of case, case number, or date of birth of the party. You may also leave any of those spaces blank.

· Once you’ve entered in all the search terms, click on “Go.”

· You should then see a page that looks like this:



· The wording in light blue shows a court case. If you want to look at this case, click there.

· You should then see a page that looks something like this:



· This is called a court record. It shows all documents that have been filed, and all actions taken in the case.

· If you see the letters “TIFF” or “PDF”, then that means the actual court documents are available online. To read a document in TIFF form, click on “TIFF.” To read a document in pdf form, click on “PDF.”

· If the court documents are not available online, contact the county court clerk and ask them to send the documents to you. To find contact information for the court clerks in all Oklahoma counties, click here.

· If the case is criminal, then, scroll to the top of the screen and look at the word “PARTIES”, like this:



· Read the letters before “Arresting Agency.” This will tell who arrested the person. For example, “BPD” means “Bartlesville Police Department.” “WCSO” means “Washington County Sheriff’s Office.” If you contact the arresting agency, they should be able to provide you with records of the arrest.


How to Find Court Records on ODCR

· Go to www.odcr.com. You should see a screen that looks like this:



· In the space that says “Party Name”, type in the name of the person you’re searching for.

· You can also limit the search by county, case number, type of case, date of filing, or date of activity. You can also leave any or all of these spaces blank.

· Click on “Search for cases.” You should see a screen that looks like this:



· Each number in blue is the case number of a court case. If you want to look at the case record, click on the case number. You should then see a page that looks something like this:



· This is called a court record. It shows all documents that have been filed, and all actions taken in the case.

· Note the blue wording that says, “9 images” and “1 image.” These are court documents. If you have a paid subscription to ODCR, and you are logged in, you can click on this blue wording and read the actual court documents.

· If the court documents are not available online, or if you don’t have a subscription, contact the county court clerk and ask them to send the documents to you. To find contact information for the court clerks in all Oklahoma counties, click here.

· Also, look at the top of the page under “Parties Involved.” Read the letters before “Agency.” This will tell who arrested the person. For example, “BPD” means “Bartlesville Police Department.” “WCSO” means “Washington County Sheriff’s Office.” If you contact the arresting agency, they should be able to provide you with police records of the arrest.


How to Find Court Records in Other States


Below, I’ve listed the addresses of the websites of the court systems of all other states, as well as the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. To find the court records in those states, click on the website of a state. From each website, you may be able to find where to go to locate court records in that state.


If you’ve clicked on a state court website, and can’t find court records, contact the court system in that state. Each of the below websites should have a phone number and/or an e-mail address to contact the state court system. Most court systems will be helpful in telling you how to find court records.


Each state is different as to which records the state posts online, and whether they will charge you to view the records. There is a trend toward greater access and greater transparency in most states. Even if a state doesn’t post its records online, you can probably call the state court system and ask them to mail you paper copies of the records. In almost all states, the law requires courts to make their records available to the public (except in certain confidential cases, such as adoption cases, and sexual assault cases where the victims’ identities are protected.) While many states charge for records, they generally charge by the page, and charge only a small fee per page. So, unless you’re requesting a lot of pages, you probably won’t have to pay a lot of money.


Websites of state and territorial court systems:


Alabama

https://judicial.alabama.gov/

Alaska

https://courts.alaska.gov/home.htm

Arizona

https://www.azcourts.gov/guidetoazcourts

Arkansas

https://www.arcourts.gov/

California

https://www.courts.ca.gov/2113.htm

Colorado

https://www.courts.state.co.us/

Connecticut

https://www.jud.ct.gov/

Delaware

https://courts.delaware.gov/

Florida

https://www.flcourts.org/Florida-Courts

Georgia

https://georgiacourts.gov/

Hawaii

https://www.courts.state.hi.us/

Idaho

https://isc.idaho.gov/

Illinois

https://www.illinoiscourts.gov/

Indiana

https://www.in.gov/courts/

Iowa

https://www.iowacourts.state.ia.us/

Kansas

https://www.kscourts.org/

Kentucky

https://kycourts.gov/Pages/index.aspx

Louisiana

https://www.louisiana.gov/government/judicial-branch/

Maine

https://www.courts.maine.gov/

Maryland

https://www.courts.state.md.us/

Massachusetts

https://www.mass.gov/orgs/massachusetts-court-system

Michigan

https://www.courts.michigan.gov/

Minnesota

https://www.mncourts.gov/

Mississippi

https://courts.ms.gov/

Missouri

https://www.courts.mo.gov/

Montana

https://courts.mt.gov/

Nebraska

https://supremecourt.nebraska.gov/

Nevada

https://nvcourts.gov/

New Hampshire

https://www.courts.nh.gov/

New Jersey

https://www.njcourts.gov/courts/index.html

New Mexico

https://www.nmcourts.gov/

New York

https://www.nycourts.gov/

North Carolina

https://www.nccourts.gov/

North Dakota

https://www.ndcourts.gov/

Ohio

https://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/judsystem/

Oregon

https://www.courts.oregon.gov/pages/default.aspx

Pennsylvania

https://www.pacourts.us/courts

Rhode Island

https://www.courts.ri.gov/Pages/default.aspx

South Carolina

https://www.sccourts.org/

South Dakota

https://ujs.sd.gov/

Tennessee

https://tncourts.gov/

Texas

https://www.txcourts.gov/

Utah

https://www.utcourts.gov/

Vermont

https://www.vermontjudiciary.org/

Virginia

https://www.vacourts.gov/courts/home.html

Washington

https://www.courts.wa.gov/

West Virginia

http://www.courtswv.gov/

Wisconsin

https://www.wicourts.gov/index.jsp

Wyoming

https://www.courts.state.wy.us/

District of Columbia

https://www.dccourts.gov/

American Samoa

https://new.asbar.org/category/about-the-bar/court-information/

Guam

http://www.guamsupremecourt.com/index.asp

Puerto Rico

https://www.poderjudicial.pr/

U.S. Virgin Islands

https://www.vicourts.org/

Northern Mariana Islands

http://nmijudiciary.com/


How to Find Federal Court Records


Federal court records are available on PACER, located at https://pacer.uscourts.gov/. You have to have a user account on PACER to view court records there. You can set up a user account for free. But, there are costs of using PACER:


· Any time you do a search, you are billed $0.10 per page.

· If a document is more than thirty pages long, you won’t be billed more than $3.00.

· If you are billed less than $30 in a three-month period, you pay nothing for that period.

· So, if you’re only looking for a few pages or a few documents, your search will be free.


How to use PACER


· Go to https://pacer.uscourts.gov/.

· If you don’t have an account, click on “Register for an Account.”

· Once you have an account, click on “Log in to…” You will see a page that looks like this:



· If you don’t know which federal court district you’re looking in, click on “PACER Case Locator.” If you know which federal court district you’re looking in, click on “PACER Log in.” (Note: to find a federal court district by location, click on the Federal Court Finder of the U.S. courts website, or click on this map here.)


I’ll explain first, how to use the “PACER Case Locator”; then I’ll explain how to find a case when you already know the federal court district. If you already know which district you’re looking in, skip to “How to Find a Federal Court Case when you already know the district” below.


How to use PACER Case Locator

· Log in to PACER Case Locator.

· You should see a screen that looks like this:



· To look for a certain person, click on “Find Parties (Advanced).” If you’re looking for bankruptcy cases, click on “Find Bankruptcy (Advanced).”

· Enter the name of the person you’re searching for. Also, enter any other information that you might find helpful. Then click “Search.” You should then see a screen that looks like this:



· To look at a particular case, click on the case number. You should then see a screen that looks like this:



· From this page, click on “History/Documents…” Then, click “Run Query.” You should see a page that looks like this:



· If you want to read an actual document, click on the document number. PACER will then give you the option of viewing the document or downloading the document. Click on “view” if you want to view, and “download” if you want to download. You should then be able to see the court document.

· If the case is criminal, you may be able to read the criminal complaint, or other documents, and see which law enforcement agency arrested the person. If you contact the arresting agency, they should be able to provide you with records of the arrest.


How to Find a Federal Court Case when you already know the district


· Click on “PACER Log in.”

· Enter your username and password. Then, under, “Where would you like to go?” scroll down to the district you’re looking for. Click on “Log in.”

· Once you’re logged in, you should see a link that says, “Document Filing System.” Click on this link. You should see a screen that looks like this:



· Click on “Query.”

· Enter the name of the party you’re searching for, and enter any other relevant information. You should then see a screen that looks like this:



· If you want to look at the record of a particular case, click on that case number. You should then see a screen that looks like this:



· From this page, click on “History/Documents…” Then, click “Run Query.” You should see a page that looks like this:



· If you want to read an actual document, click on the document number. PACER will then give you the option of viewing the document or downloading the document. Click on “view” if you want to view, and “download” if you want to download. You should then be able to see the court document.

· If the case is criminal, you may be able to read the criminal complaint, or other documents, and see which law enforcement agency arrested the person. If you contact the arresting agency, they should be able to provide you with records of the arrest.