Private Investigators In Virginia

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Oklahoma Supreme Court Reverses Closing Court Records

Posted by Bill on March 26, 2008

gavel-768279.jpg  The Oklahoma Supreme Court issued an order last week that would have restricted access to on-line court records and would have required that most identifying information be redacted from court filings.  The order was intended to prevent “identify theft,” although most identity theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission, is not a result of accessing court records.  The Court’s rule required that Social Security Numbers, dates of birth and addresses be excluded from public court records.

In Oklahoma the public reaction to such a restrictive rule was immediate and in opposition to the new rule.  Yesterday the Court reversed the proposed rule for further consideration.  The Enid Oklahoma News summarized the story yesterday and stated that “It appears the court did not fully realize or understand the overwhelming use of these records by all citizens of Oklahoma.”

The article pointed out two good reasons for the Court to reconsider its rule:

1.)  It would have been a giant leap backward in providing access to the public, and;

2.) The records are needed “for many users of such court documents to have access to identifier information, primarily birth dates. We can understand restricting access to Social Security numbers, but taking out birth date information could have led to people being misidentified for public information purposes.”  Click Here to Read Story

One significant item mentioned above is the lack of information in court records leading to “people being misidentified for public information purposes.”  As noted in a previous post yesterday, Virginia Court Records, the ability to identify persons involved in public court records is essential for all investigators, whether law enforcement or private security/investigators.  There are many reasons identification is so essential, but a major one is the right to due process of law and a fair trial.  In a criminal prosecution, the prosecuting attorney and the law enforcement authorities have all of the identifying information needed to locate witnesses, to interview witness and to obtain all background information on the alleged defendant.  If public or court records do not contain certain identifying data, criminal defense attorneys and private investigators are hindered in properly representing an accused.

PIAVA encourages the Virginia Supreme Court to consider the proposed changes in Virginia’s rules to restrict information in public court records, and allow identifying data to be included in the court records and filings.  If such data is not available the result will be, as the Enid News said, “people being misidentified for public information purposes.”

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA


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