[NR] Re: Facts

Decker, Terry D. TerryD at Health.State.OK.US
Wed May 23 08:23:21 PDT 2001

If "background checks" were illegal, then a lot of private investigators
would be out of business.  It is illegal to obtain confidential information,
such as personal financial and medical information (which are not part of
the public record) without permission.  Public records are fair game.  So,
if there is a lien on your property, that has been properly filed at the
county courthouse, I can find out about it without breaking the law, where I
may not be able to find out about a lien on your automobile, depending on
the state laws about identifying vehicle registartion owners.

In the matter of court actions, the complaint, its amendments, the testimony
and the disposition of the case are public record, unless protected by
statute or sealed by the court.  I ran into this one a number of years ago
when I was accused in the SCA of "protecting criminal."  I was the local
seneschal then.  I had loaned a spare bedroom to SCAer who had moved into
the area.  He proved to be less than scrupulously honest, wound up being
arrested, and my enemies decided that they would capitalize on my being a
nice guy by tying me to a "convicted sex offender."

As part of the response to the accusations, I checked the court records and
found the case had been sealed by the judge and that the defendent had been
released.  Usually, this means an agreement has been reached and if the
defendent commits no further acts, the record is expunged at the end of the
sentence.  Because I checked, I was able to point out that my accusers could
not have legally obtained the information they were stating as fact.

If the "background check" was a check of public records, then it may be
lawful.  That would be a question to be decided in a courtroom.

The questions for us, individually and collectively, are; was such a search
ethical and having such information, what may one properly do with it?


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