Public records researchers know that the online court case index for any one county may not be as reliable as the one maintained at the courthouse. BRBPub reports that as much as 15 percent of counties have inaccuracies.
Some of the typical shortcomings noted for the online search of court records include missing cases, incorrect/missing IDs, wrong charge codes, missing dispositions, lack of sentence details, and missing probation updates/violations. The date range of online records online is often much shorter compared to searching in-person.
BRBpub has added a feature for subscribers to its Public Records Retriever Network — a nationwide directory of companies that search onsite government public records — that displays a warning when there is a discrepancy between the online database and the onsite index. Their caution for Hennepin County, Minnesota reads:
The online system for court records is incomplete. The federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) prevents the state from displaying harassment and domestic abuse case records online, but these convictions are available at the courthouse. Comment fields for all case types are not available online but are available at the courthouse. Party street address and name searches on criminal, traffic, and petty misdemeanor pre-conviction case records are not accessible, but are at the courthouse. Also missing are pending/filed cases, warrants, probation before conviction, and continue for diversion programs. A criminal/traffic/petty search excludes all Hennepin County and Ramsey County payable citations except: 1) those that result in a court appearance; and 2) Ramsey DNR payable citations.
Also, the Errors and Omissions insurance that private investigators maintain excludes online court research for background checks. You should tell your clients. Then they may appreciate why it’s cost-effective and prudent to pay you to go to the courthouse.