Florida Court Records

Conducting a background search on someone is much easier now that public records are largely online.  But the question of what is included in a standard background check is also made much more complicated by the same technology.  For example, do Florida court records include only convictions, or do they even include arrests for charges that were dismissed?

What Are Florida Court Records?

In theory, a background check (or criminal record check) should be limited to convictions that were passed down in a recognized court of law.  However, although many people believe that “innocent until proven guilty” is a codified part of U.S. law, the fact is that “presumption of innocence,” as it is known in legal terms, is not found in the Constitution.  Rather, it is a principle following logically from the 5th, 6th, and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.              What this means for anyone who has either been arrested or convicted on criminal charges is that although the law cannot put you in jail without a conviction, even an arrest without a conviction is a public document, and will therefore appear in any background check that includes an arrest search.

Florida’s Sunshine Laws governing the release of public information have blurred the lines between arrest records and court records for the purposes of background checks.  A potential employer conducting a court records search will invariably turn up both convictions and/or arrests.  Not only that, but by searching court documents he may also turn up civil court cases that were heard in Florida, as well as any traffic infractions that the potential employee received as well.  Should the employer be one that is required to check national criminal databases along with state databases, the national criminal history database will reveal arrests and convictions even in other states.  And if that’s not enough, a background check in Florida can even include arrest warrants that haven’t been served yet!  For further information, the FDLE provides an excellent fact sheet regarding court dockets that can and cannot be searched here (http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/Content/getdoc/1acc7c3e-dac7-45d4-8739-0d221749d8ce/FAQ.aspx#1).

How You Can Find FL Court Records

If you need to access Florida court records, there are basically two flavors of access:  online and offline.  The offline choice is the only one if you need officially certified copies of judicial records for immigration or adoption purposes, and you can obtain those by mailing your request to the address on this webpage (https://web.fdle.state.fl.us/search/app/memorandum).  If you don’t need official court documents, the online route is usually much faster.  For a fee of $24, you can access the FDLE’s criminal history information database directly here (https://web.fdle.state.fl.us/search/app/default), and search for records yourself.  Or, you can have someone else do the legwork for you, and use any of a background check services online. For example, you can use the search option on this page (see above).

The Importance of Court Records

In general, although background checks are occasionally done to view a person’s credit history or employment status, the most common use is to verify whether a person has a criminal history or not.  The use of accurate court records in any background check is an especially important part of any verification service, because they can determine whether or not a person gets a job, goes on a date, or is even able to rent a particular home.