The primary resources are:
- Police records of incidents
- Court case documents
- Inmate locators
- Court case audio recordings
People Search Websites:
PSWs were discussed previously, they are a great first step when researching someone as they will identify where the persons lives now and past addresses. After you obtain this information look up the counties for each address and then you can search if the person was involved in court cases of any kind.
County Court Systems:
While there are many courts with jurisdiction over a given location in some form, you should start with the county level courts. Any cases involving your person of interest are most likely located at the county level. If you have limited time, you can reasonably search only the county courts.
Each county court system will have a database where you should be able to search your person by name. The county circuit and district courts will entail cases ranging from criminal and civil cases as well as traffic violations.
The easiest way to find the relevant database is to google the county name and the phrase “court records”. Alters you can go to the county government website which will have a section for the courts. There will be a subsection for “case information” that tells you how to search court records. Many states have a single database that includes all of the counties’ court records.
In those states you can still begin at the county government websites which will inform you about the state-wide database.
When you find the database you should make sure you search the circuit and district courts.
If you find that your person was involved in a criminal case, you can lookup police records to see details of the events that led up to the charges. Once again the easiest way to find the police records is to google the county name, the word “police records”, and one of the following phrases “dispatch incidents”, “daily arrests”, “summary of arrests”.
Most police records are not publicly available. However , the local police generally publish some form of daily summary of incidents and archive them in a list or database on their website.
Unfortunately this information is usually retained in a manner requiring you to search for incidents based on the date, vice a specific person’s name. If you find court records for a criminal case, the records should include the date and general location so that you have the information necessary to find the police record.
For example in Loudoun County, Virginia, the daily reports are posted here in the Sheriff section of the county website – (https://www.loudoun.gov/Archive.aspx?AMID=43)
If you are willing to pay $15, you can use the website Broadcastify (broadcastify.com/listen/) to find the police radio broadcast related to the incident. This can be helpful but you should not assume it will provide relevant information. The website archives audio files of radio broadcasts for police and emergency services categorized by time, date, location, and service (police, firefighters, etc).
If the incident resulted in the person being incarcerated you can look them up by name in various inmate databases. The results will have the inmate’s name, serial number, and date of past or scheduled release.
If they are in federal prison you can look them up at – (https://www.bop.gov/mobile/find_inmate/byname.jsp).
State’s also have their own version, such as Virginia which has – (https://vadoc.virginia.gov/general-public/offender-locator/)
All bankruptcy cases are heard in federal courts which can be accessed with PACER (see below)
BKdata (https://bkdata.com/research/) is a private database that holds information on bankruptcy cases. It will charge a fee for full access but the free search is a great place to start if you want to find out if your person or company ever filed for bankruptcy
Court Listener (courtlistener.com) will search court case information across several hundred jurisdictions throughout the United States. Results include opinions, oral arguments, financial disclosures, and RECAP case files.
PACER (https://pcl.uscourts.gov/pcl/) charged a small fee but is the official database for all federal cases. You should always check the RECAP records (which are free versions of PACER records) in courtlistener.com before using PACER.
Obtain Audio Recording of a Court Case
If you are doing in-depth research on a court case you have the option to get an audio recording of the court proceedings. This requires paying a fee and a bit of legwork.
To do so, first use the state or county case information database and do a name search for the defendant as described previously. This will bring you to the court case information
In this case the court is the Loudoun county circuit court.
The records are handled by the Clerk of the court which will have a website or section in the county court system’s website.
In this case the website is here:
And then click on the section specifically for requesting audio files which has instructions on how to submit your request, see below;
The instructions provide a form that needs printing, filling, and physically submitting.
To fill out the form, we use the case records search for the court (as described previously) located in this database – https://eapps.courts.state.va.us/ocis/search
Here we can search for the defendant info to find the case and the record will give the information required by the form to identify the case and relevant information to input into the form for your request.
Here is an example of a case record;
Next, we take the form and check ($55 for two days of audio recording) and then head to the court!
That’s all for now.