Most district courts publicize civil and criminal record cases and make those files available for free through a state's official judiciary website. Some states, such as Alabama and Colorado, contract private companies to manage the state's court data, which then offer searches for a minimal fee.
Depending on the state, the information available includes docket sheets, criminal charges, fine payments and appellate court cases. The amount of data also varies by jurisdiction and may be affected by certain policies, including public safety and the preservation of the court system.
Although most states recognize the common law right and make most court records available to the public, some states reserve the right to not publicize records of trial court proceedings. Certain types of cases, including mental health, domestic violence, sealed and probate cases, may not be available online to protect the privacy and the rights of the involved parties. Personal identifications, such as Social Security Number, address, telephone number and vehicle license numbers may not be accessible online as well.
The Public Access to Court Electronic Records provides a centralized Internet-based search service for court records. It allows someone with a PACER account to obtain docket and case information from bankruptcy, district and federal appellate courts throughout the United States. Signing up for an account is free, but as of 2015, the site charges 10 cents per every page of information obtained on the site.