How Public Records are Classified?

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Public records can sometimes be confusing to the average person. Any files that are thought to
be intended for public viewing are actually restricted files that can only be accessed with proper
permission or authorization from the persons concerned. What exactly are public records? Does
this include criminal records, real estate appraisal records, and sex offender registration files?

State laws differ on the issue of what constitutes a public record. Hence, every state has its own
viewpoint on how personal, legal, or criminal files are classified as either public or restricted data.
In accordance to the Freedom of Information Act, criminal and real estate records, sex offender
registration files, legislation minutes, government spending reports, consumer protection information,
professional and business licenses, census records, and court dockets, are all considered public records.

Criminal records are among the most commonly accessed public document in almost every walk of life.
It contains personal information about criminal history, from minor offenses such as traffic violations to
major offenses such as treason or other heinous crimes. Employers, recruitment agencies, homeowners,
can take advantage of these vast amounts of information on background checking as precautionary
measures for job screening and evaluation prior to employment. Lending and credit companies may also
use them as a tool for measuring a person’s credibility.

As with any public record on any country or state around the world, the amount of information and
the kind of material contained in a criminal record are governed by state laws. It usually gives a list of
non-expunged criminal violations and sometimes even petty charges. This includes information about a
person’s arrest, conviction or acquittal, and charges that are still pending. There are countries, however
that limit information only to those cases in which the offender is convicted guilty beyond reasonable
doubt; all other information surrounding the case are expurgated from the criminal record. This is more
favored by human rights advocates because it carries the notion of presuming a suspect innocent until
proven guilty and does not expose people from unwarranted attacks on their credibility.

Another important type of public record that is frequently accessed is the real estate appraisal, also
known as property valuation or land valuation. This includes information on the real estate market
value and the nature of the property. Appraisals are usually conducted by a licensed, certified appraiser
who makes decisions on the real estates’ worth based on its class (private, residential, business or
investment class) and location. At times, the appraiser may base his judgments solely on the market
value and as such, it must be based also on the real property’s highest and best use.

Another document considered as public record is the sex offender registration. These records are used
by authorities to monitor the every important detail about the sex offender, including his residence,
recent and current activities. Details about the sex offender can be viewed through the internet all of
which are entered in the registry. It may also include restrictions such as getting along with minors,
living near public institutions like schools and day care centers.

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