Public Records Information
North Carolina’s state and local governments in all three branches, each with separate agencies and administrations, are custodians of public records routinely requested. The state’s expansion of internet services has facilitated a previously inefficient process to directly obtain certified and official documentation. No single agency provides records from all departments throughout the state, individual clerks follow various procedures and impose different policies. Since 1935, North Carolina has passed laws regarding public records and freedom of information statutes have eased access over the years. Improved government websites provide online forms, instructions and self help for individuals. State law does not bar agencies from imposing fees and policies so long as the process is not unjustly cost prohibitive and provided within reasonable time. Privacy protection concerns have raised the awareness of personal information being openly available.
Public records hold a wealth of information about finances, assets and personal background, many of which are regularly provided. A guide to North Carolina departments helps put an individual in control of their particular search. Conducting a background check can go further than a simple criminal history search. Instant databases from licensing boards and secretary of state allow employers to verify information. Applicants can see what others searching for information about them are able to obtain. Self searches require less clearance and application process, fees are generally lower when requesting documents directly from public entities. A list of where many of our everyday records are found shows the information that is available to members of the public, employers, and any others looking online.
Local governments maintain certain records not available from state agencies. Local level courts have general jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases, maintain filings from Superior and District court divisions for all 100 North Carolina counties. Police reports are amongst the most requested records from sheriffs offices. For many records, there are no central repositories or databases, individual station websites offer information regarding where and how to request a particular report.
North Carolina's supreme court is the highest court in the state with mandatory jurisdiction in civil, capital criminal, criminal, administrative agency, juvenile, disciplinary interlocutory decision cases and discretionary jurisdiction in civil, criminal, administrative agency, juvenile, advisory opinions for the executive and legislature, original proceeding, and interlocutory decision cases.
The state's second highest is the court of appeals with mandatory jurisdiction in civil, noncapital criminal, administrative agency, juvenile, disciplinary, original proceeding cases and discretionary jurisdiction in civil, non capital criminal, administrative agency, juvenile, original proceeding, and interlocutory decision cases.
Superior courts with 109 judges have jurisdiction in tort, contract, real property rights (over $10,000/no max), miscellaneous civil cases and has exclusive estate, and administrative agency appeals jurisdiction. Superior court's criminal division hears felony, misdemeanor, criminal appeals cases and has jury trials.
District courts have jurisdiction over tort, contract, real property rights ($0/$10,000), exclusive small claims up to $4,000, mental health, miscellaneous civil and exclusive domestic relations jurisdiction. Criminal district courts have jurisdiction over felony, misdemeanor, DWI/DUI, and traffic/other violation cases, exclusive juvenile jurisdiction, handle preliminary hearings and use jury trials in civil cases only.
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