Can I trust this stuff? Generally, yes. BUT you should know . . .
How public records rock – and roll
Public records are some of your best friends in researching your date. And many of them are FREE to access online.
They can help you learn if someone has a criminal past; is married, divorced or committed; pays alimony or child support; owns property and more. They can help you discover if love interests are lying to you. And they can alert you to issues that you might want to pursue, such as who co-owns their property or the story behind that bad debt or big lawsuit.
Public records tend to be highly reliable. But they aren't immune from being inaccurate, incomplete or even misleading. Still, they are essential for helping you to play the safest and best dating game that you can.
Many of the public records InspectaDate features are the same ones relied upon by police, state and federal prosecutors, lawyers, reporters, private investigators and other professionals.
Records such as marriage licenses, divorces and lawsuits, criminal records, deeds, mortgages, IRS tax liens and corporation records are official documents and highly reliable in establishing someone's background and credentials.
You have a right to know about them. But you should also know that public records aren't always infallable.
While certain types of records tend to be available coast to coast, what's on them, and what's online varies widely depending on state public records laws and offices practices.
And mistakes can happen.
A deed, for example, attests that someone bought or sold porperty. But, on occasion, a misspelling or a typo can slip through on the document.
Use public records in a well-rounded dating inspection that includes search engines, social media checks, and asking questions of your love interests and people who know them.
Details posted online by public agencies in Florida and elsewhere – sheriff's offices and court clerks, for example – can be huge for you in inspecting your date. You can discreetly check out someone. In some cases, you can see actual document images. Other times, you might get a highlight summary of the documents or files kept in the office. But keep in mind that what is posted and how often it is posted or updated can vary widely from office to office. And, because of legal restrictions and office practices, what is posted online may only be a portion of what you can see in person at the office.
Take divorce cases, for instance. You might learn online of a divorce lawsuit filed at a Florida county circuit court clerk's office. The parties, case number and perhaps even a docket sheet of proceedings may be available to see. Maybe that's all you want to know. But, if you want the scoop on who got the house and the car and who is paying alimony or child support and how much, you will have to visit the clerk's office in person and ask to see either the hard copy file or click through file pages at a public terminal in the clerk's office. Here's more about Florida's public records law and how document requests work.
Disclaimers on sites that offer public records are easy to gloss over, but they offer nuances that are wise to heed. Here are some examples:
On online arrests, bookings and inmate listings from the Manatee County (Florida) Sheriff's Office:
"... Please note that this page may not include information for all individuals that were arrested and booked. It should not be relied upon to determine a person's actual criminal record. This information does not reflect any charging decisions made by the State Attorney's Office nor does it reflect the outcome of any criminal case. Any acquittal or dismissal of the charge(s) does not necessarily negate the validity of the arrest. To obtain the final disposition of criminal charges please contact the Clerk of the Circuit Court."
On online criminal court records, lawsuits and court records from the Hillsborough County (Florida) Circuit Court Clerk's Office:
"The Clerk of the Circuit Court of Hillsborough County (the "Clerk") is providing the Court Progress Dockets of Hillsborough County, Florida, as allowed by Florida law. The Court Progress Dockets are merely a guide to the information contained within the records referenced and should not be relied on in making any decision or determination regarding the underlying document."
A premier site for checking out anyone on your dating radar is the U.S. Department of Justice nationwide search for sex offenders and predators. However, as valuable as this site is, it comes with some caveats. In urging its users to do their own research, online dating company eHarmony puts it well:
"While we conduct certain types of screening and utilize a variety of screening technologies and resources, such as screening our U.S. subscribers against public sex offender registries in the United States, it is important to remember that such screenings are inherently limited. Registries can be incomplete or inaccurate, and states and jurisdictions differ as to what type of crime must be registered on their registries and what types of crimes get removed. Many crimes often go unreported and perpetrators are not always convicted. Relying solely on screening can provide a false sense of security, so we strongly recommend that you follow the rest of the Safety Tips regardless of any screenings that we may perform. When it comes to your personal safety, you are in ultimate control."
Various private companies obtain public records and repackage them with other data to offer paid background checks. Typically, their web sites offer free searches and limited results in hopes that you will buy a subscription or a background check. Whether you take a chance on the paid subscription is your call.
Use the free searches or not at your own risk for optional clues and leads for inspecting your date. But proceed with caution. Results can be mixed and even wildly off base, as you may find if you run yourself through a search.
At best, details from the free searches are part of a broader date inspection. That inspection also includes using search engines, exploring public records resources, checking social media, and asking questions of your love interests along with people who know them.