Florida Court Records Search
The term "court record" refers to documentation generated or filed because of a legal proceeding or action that occurred in a court of law. In Florida, court clerks' offices keep court records containing litigants' information, dockets, motions, transcripts, orders, documentary exhibits, and more.
Florida court records detail court cases' events, activities, and outcomes. They can be obtained by persons looking into another's background, individuals who want to uncover legal precedents. Individuals who wish to expunge/seal or appeal a court case, and those curious about how the Florida court system works.
The court records search process in Florida involves querying a court clerk's office for case information or documents. However, the exact process may differ from court to court. While all courts in Florida provide court records search services to inquirers in person or via mail, not all courts have an electronic case management system that can be accessed to find court records online. At the same time, some court records require payment before access can be provided, while others are available for free.
Are Florida Court Records Public?
The Florida Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a series of laws providing public access to public records of government bodies in the state. Established in 1995, the Florida Sunshine Law considers any record including maps, tapes, letters, recordings, and other materials regardless of characteristics or physical form received or made pursuant to law or ordinance in connection with the transaction of official business by any government agency a public record. According to Section 119.07(1)a of the Sunshine Law, record custodians in Florida are obligated to permit the inspection or copying of any records in their possession by any interested persons at any reasonable time and under reasonable conditions.
Under the Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.420, the public has a presumptive right of access to all court records with the court clerk. These records include case dockets, transcripts, motions filed by the parties to a case, filed exhibits, and disposition records. Note that certain court records may be confidential in situations where making them public will prevent a serious, imminent threat to the administration of justice or where there is no reasonable alternative to closure.
The Florida FOIA is regarded as the oldest state-level open government law in the United States and is keenly enforced by the relevant authorities in the state.
How Do I Find Court Records in Florida?
The first step to take when trying to obtain court records in Florida is to ascertain the court where the case was filed. The Florida court system consists of the Supreme Court, the District Courts of Appeal, Circuit Courts, and County Courts. For cases heard in the circuit and county courts, obtaining the location of the court in question will be required. Visit the Florida Courts website to access court locations in the state. Upon locating the address of the appropriate court, the next step is to make a request to the keeper of records in the court. Court records are typically in the custody of the Clerk of Court.
Records in cases that have been finalized in the Florida Supreme Court are transferred to the Florida State Archives or returned to the clerk of court in the county where the case was initiated. Hence, requests to obtain such court records should be made to the Division of Library and Information Services (DLIS) or the local county clerk. The DLIS can be contacted at:
R.A. Gray Building
500 South Bronough Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250
Phone: (850) 245-6719
Florida Court Records Public Access
The Supreme Court of the State of Florida provides online access to its Opinions, Disposition Orders, Case Summaries in oral argument cases, and Dockets. Case summaries are archived yearly and can also be accessed in monthly view. The online docket portal allows users to search docket information by the date filed, case number, party or attorney, lower tribunal case number, and cases filed options. The online docket portal is updated every fifteen minutes and provides public access to all non-confidential briefs, petitions, referee reports, and dispositional orders filed on or after February 1, 2015.
Docket information for Florida District Courts of Appeal is available online. Docket information for all the districts are refreshed at least once daily. Cases may also be searched using case numbers, party or attorney information, lower tribunal case/county, date filed, and cases filed options.
Court records from Florida trial courts can be obtained in person or by mail requests. Some counties like Broward County make electronic certified documents available at a fee. However, some courts provide online access to the public for viewing court records. For example, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Orange Counties provide portals for accessing case information online.
Obtaining court records in person or by mail costs $1 per document page, $2 per certified document, and $2 to search cases per year in Broward County. The county charges $8 per electronic certified court document. Miami-Dade and Orange counties charge $1 per page and $2 per document certification. Typical payment options are by cash, personal check, money order, and cashier's check.
Individuals who wish to obtain court records in person or by mail will be required to provide relevant case information for requested records. These include the name of the parties to the case and the case number. Mail requesters are generally required to include self-addressed stamped envelopes. Surcharges may apply for transactions carried out using credit and debit cards where permitted.
How to Conduct a Florida Court Record Search by Name
To perform a Florida court record search by name:
- Determine the court of filing, i.e., the court that received a complaint or petition.
- Visit the court during regular business hours or send a mail request to the clerk of the court's office. Alternatively, check the presiding court's website for a court records search tool.
In any event, each requestor must provide at least a party name (e.g., a defendant, plaintiff, attorney, or judge's first and last name) to complete a search. That is, a person visiting the court must give a case party's name to staff, a person writing to the court should include the case party's name in their letter (and a self-stamped addressed envelope for the return of copies), and someone using an online court records search portal should input the name into the indicated search field or box. Those sending mail requests, requesting copies of court records in person, or requesting certification of court records should note that a fee must be paid to the court clerk's office.
How to Get Court Records Online for Free
In many cases, a person can view and download a court record on the internet for free. Access is often provided via a case management system on a court's website. In other cases, one must visit the courthouse where a lawsuit was filed to view records at no cost or purchase records at a small fee. The ability to view a record at the courthouse largely depends on whether the court provides computers or terminals that the public can use to retrieve case information or documents.
It is worth noting that a person can also obtain court records online through non-government public records sites (also called third-party aggregator sites). However, one may need to pay a small sum for access.
Considered open to citizens of the United States, court records are available through both traditional, government sources, and through third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order to gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
- The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.
While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources.
Types of Courts in Florida
On the whole, the State of Florida has about 93 courts established to decode the laws and protect the rights of citizens. Certain courts (like the county courts) are situated in each county, and others (like the six district courts of appeal) serve a larger area. Either way, all courts in Florida are classified as trial or appellate-level courts.
A trial court is where most cases begin and end. Trial courts in Florida possess either limited or general jurisdiction. Florida's general jurisdiction trial court - a court that can hear almost any type of criminal or civil case - is the circuit court. Meanwhile, the limited jurisdiction trial court - a court whose jurisdiction only extends to some legal matters - is the county court.
An appellate court reviews litigated cases for errors or mistakes. Florida has two appellate courts: the supreme court and the district courts of appeal. The courts of appeal accept all reviews of judgments (appeals) from lower courts, but the supreme court has mandatory and discretionary jurisdiction. Hence, although the supreme court must accept certain case types, it can decide whether to accept others. Notably, while originally trial courts, Florida's circuit courts can hear some appeals from the county courts if authorized by statute.
What are Florida Judgment Records?
Florida judgment records are court documents detailing the outcome of a criminal or civil case in Florida. These records are available to interested members of the public per the Florida Freedom of Information Act. Thus, any individual can obtain copies of a judgment record on a case of interest provided that person can identify the case and pay the associated costs.
The search for Florida judgment records begins at the clerk's office in the court where the case was finalized. This court is located in the county where the defendant lives or where the crime happened in most cases. Once the requester identifies the record custodian, they may visit during business hours to request the judgment record at the administrative desk. The court staff will require details, such as the case number, litigants' names, and the year of judgment to search and retrieve the case record. Upon retrieval, the requester can obtain copies of the entire case record or specific documents, like the judgment record. Either way, they must pay the applicable copying fees and certification fees.
An interested person may also obtain a Florida judgment record from the repose of their home. This method involves visiting the court of jurisdiction's online portal for storing digital copies of court records. Here, the requester must also provide the necessary details to facilitate a search and obtain the judgment record of interest. Most courts charge a search fee for online court records, albeit nominal.
Persons who obtain Florida judgment records can expect to see the litigants' names, the judge's name, and judgment date. In addition, judgment records contain the specific claims of the parties involved (civil cases) or the charges against the defendant (criminal cases), as well as the issued judgment in the case of interest.
What are Florida Bankruptcy Records?
Florida Bankruptcy Records provide financial information about people and corporations who have instituted bankruptcy proceedings. These records consist of the applicant’s total annual income, investment assets, and development properties. The public can view Florida’s Bankruptcy Records from the following Federal Courts: North, Middle, and Southern Bankruptcy Courts of Florida. Generally, bankruptcy records can be accessed within the State on the internet via the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) platform and the Clerk’s Office.
Bankruptcy records and related documents such as Florida Liens, writ notices, foreclosures and contracts are maintained and disseminated by government-run institutions throughout the state. Interested persons may request these records by making in-person or mail-in queries to the relevant agency
How to Find Bankruptcy Records in Florida
Section 107 of the United States Code enables public access to bankruptcy records in the absence of exemptions. As a result, any interested person can request a bankruptcy record from an official custodian. However, the request will not be submitted to the state court system but to the federal court system. This is because bankruptcy is a legal matter administered by the federal courts.
Generally, there are three ways that a person may find a bankruptcy record in Florida. The first involves stopping by the Florida bankruptcy courthouse in which a case was filed during normal working hours. Alternatively, one can register for the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) service or call (866) 222-8029 to access a record.
People visiting the courthouse can view bankruptcy records for free (copies typically attract fees). A person calling the case access telephone line can also find bankruptcy case information for free, but what is available is limited. Similarly, someone who logs into PACER but does not accrue more than $30 worth of records in one quarter will not pay any charge for access. A bankruptcy court's website can provide more information about obtaining a bankruptcy record. For instance, persons interested in a bankruptcy record maintained by the United States Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Florida, can review its Obtaining Copies of Court Records page.
Can You Look Up Court Cases in Florida?
Yes, Members of the public may lookup Florida court cases. Note that certain records such as juvenile court records are kept confidential in the state. Interested persons can remotely access online portals made available by many of the County Courts to look up court cases. The appellate divisions of the Florida court system also provide online access to court cases on its Supreme Court docket portal and the District Courts of Appeal docket portal. In-person requests are also accepted at the courthouse locations where cases are filed. Note that nominal fees may apply for in-person requests, while access is free for the majority of the remote access provisions.
Florida Court Case Lookup Exemptions
Members of the public can look up court cases in Florida unless otherwise specified by law, court rule, or court order. Any case exempted from the public can only be accessed when certain conditions are fulfilled - for example, when a case party makes the request or the requester possesses a court order enabling disclosure. Below are examples of court case information and records exempt from public inspection in Florida.
- Adoption records
- Unexecuted arrest and search warrants
- Any court record deemed confidential because disclosure will jeopardize the fairness or administration of the justice process, reveal trade secrets, or cause substantial harm to an innocent third party
- Grand jury records
- Protected information about victims of sexual offenses or child abuse
- Juvenile delinquency records
- Complete presentence investigation reports
- Any court record restricted by federal or state law
Rule 2.420 of the Florida Rules of General Practice and Judicial Administration contains the complete list of court case lookup exemptions in Florida.
What is a Court Docket in Florida?
A Florida court docket is a list of pending court cases or a chronological summary of proceedings held before a court. The information in a court docket differs by the court and, sometimes, by case. However, one can usually find the names of parties involved in a court case, the presiding judge, case status, docket number, filings, court hearing dates, and other pertinent details. For this reason, a court docket is important to persons who want to know the cases set to be heard in a court of law, the venue and disposition of a court hearing, or documents filed in a case.
In Florida, court dockets are available at the courthouses, but one may also find them on the internet, provided the presiding court provides electronic copies or remote access. For example, a person interested in viewing dockets from the state's supreme court or courts of appeal can visit the Online Public Docket page on the Florida judiciary's website.
What are Florida Civil Courts and Small Claims?
Florida small claims courts are divisions of County Courts that resolve minor legal disputes among parties where the amount in controversy does not exceed $8,000, excluding costs, interests, and attorneys' fees. Small Claims Rules apply to small claim actions. These are special rules which are different from regular court rules. Under these rules, individuals can handle their own cases without an attorney.
Civil cases may be handled in the Circuit Courts or the County Courts. Where the amount in dispute does not exceed $30,000, general jurisdictions over actions of law in these matters fall under the purview of the County Courts. The Circuit Courts have jurisdictions in all actions of law where the amount exceeds $30,000.