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Where to Find North Carolina Civil Court Records

North Carolina civil court records are the official accounts of civil court proceedings of civil cases that were tried or handled in North Carolina courts. These documents may include details such as the transcripts, dockets, pleadings, recordings, exhibits, motions, and judgments pertaining to civil cases. Generally, civil court records are maintained by the court where the case was initially filed. Interested parties may also access information about these records through third-party sites such as CourtRecords.org.

Are North Carolina Civil Court Records Public?

Yes, North Carolina civil court records are public records, as given by the North Carolina Public Records Law. The public record law allows any member of the public to access civil court records. These parties can request to obtain or view these records from applicable courts, often by submitting a written or oral application and paying the required record fees. However, certain civil court record information is exempt from this law and inaccessible to the public. These include information on the following:

  • Adoptions
  • Mental health
  • Mental illness
  • Substance abuse
  • Juvenile abuse, neglect, and dependency
  • Information obtained by a probation officer
  • Settlement documents in civil cases where medical malpractice actions were brought against public hospital facilities.

Following provisions set in the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, the presiding judge in a civil case has the inherent authority to order records sealed in the interests of privacy or justice.

However, although these civil court records are barred from public access, eligible persons have access. They include the defendant/person named on the record, attorneys representing the defendant, certain law enforcement officials and federal/state agencies, and in juvenile cases, legal guardians, parents, custodians, or caretakers.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

Types of Cases in North Carolina Civil Courts

Civil Courts in North Carolina have sole jurisdiction over all non-criminal cases that are filed in the State. These cases may involve individuals or private/public organizations and institutions. In North Carolina, civil cases are heard by the Superior Court and the District Court. The key distinction between these two civil courts is that the District Court hears all civil cases under $25,000 in damages while the Superior Court hears civil cases above $25,000. The types of cases heard by these courts may include:

  • Traffic violations or infractions
  • Domestic or family issues such as child custody, child support, divorces, adoptions, juvenile delinquent cases.
  • Landlord or tenant disputes
  • Contract disputes
  • Medical malpractice
  • Property disputes
  • Workplace accidents
  • Personal injury claims
  • Class action claims
  • Tort claims
  • Equitable claims
  • Employee complaints
  • Consumer complaints
  • Complaints against the city

What is the Difference Between Criminal Cases and Civil Cases in North Carolina?

In the North Carolina judiciary system, court cases are classified into two broad categories: civil cases and criminal cases. Civil cases stem from non-violent conflicts that occur between individuals and businesses, typically over money. While criminal cases stem from violent altercations committed by individuals, typically by violating criminal laws in the state. Generally, in civil cases, the action is brought by the aggrieved individual or organization. In criminal cases, the offender is subject to prosecution under the laws of the state or federal government that prohibit the specific offense. Civil cases are usually settled financially by private, mutual agreement between the two parties or by court order against one party. In addition, the involved parties may or may not request a jury trial. Criminal cases, on the other hand, usually result in the offender paying a harsh fine or being subjected to incarceration within a timeframe. Also, the accused does not have the authority to request for or against a jury trial as it is mandatory for a jury to give the verdict, as given by the U.S. Constitution.

How Do I Find Civil Court Records In North Carolina?

North Carolina Civil Court records are maintained by the Clerk of Court in the presiding court where the case was filed. Interested parties may obtain and copy these records by written or oral request to the Clerk's office using the mail or in-person services provided by the office.

The following procedures may be used by interested parties to request civil court records from North Carolina courts:

  • Provide sufficient information on the record: The requesting party is required to provide relevant information about the record, in order to assist the Clerk in identifying the record promptly. Depending on the record being requested, this information could include the full name and date of birth of the defendant, the case number, the case type, the city/county where the case was filed, and other information pertinent to the case. Usually, the courts provide application forms to assist requesters in providing the proper information required to access the records.
  • Find the court: In North Carolina, there are two courts that handle civil claims and disputes: the Superior Court and the District Court. Record requests are often made to the Clerk of Superior Court who acts as the records custodian in court districts across the State. Interested parties who want to obtain civil court records must identify the county where the case was filed and contact the Clerk of Superior Court in that county to find out methods by which requesters can obtain or view records. Common methods include mail or walk-in requests but the office may provide fax or phone services as options to retrieve sought-after records.
  • Visit or Mail the Request: Most Clerks of Superior Court offices provide in-person and mail options to request records, usually with a copy fee attached. Civil case records may be viewed in-person by visiting self-service terminals located at the Clerk of Superior Court offices. Interested parties may use this Civil Case Processing System to access civil case files by inputting the case types, case numbers, and the names of involved parties which may include the witness', defendant's, or victim's name. Physical copies may be obtained by visiting or mailing in a request to the Clerk's office and paying the required record copy fees.

How Do I Find North Carolina Civil Court Records Online?

Interested parties may obtain North Carolina Civil Court records online through the Remote Public Access (RPA) Program provided by the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (NCAOC). The RPA platform requires a subscription. Using this portal, it is possible to obtain civil records from all 100 counties of North Carolina. Among record information available to users are

  • Infractions
  • Tax liens
  • Evictions
  • Judgment

However, civil court records available on this platform are the same as those available at self-service terminals. Generally, North Carolina courts do not provide specific online access to civil court records. To acquire civil court records electronically, interested parties are required to visit the self-service terminals or request paper copies at the applicable Clerk's office.

What Is Included In a North Carolina Civil Court Record?

The information included in a North Carolina Civil Court record depends on the type of civil case. However, most civil records share the following similar information:

  • Identifying information of all involved parties
  • Court documents such as summons, arrest warrants, restraining orders, and notices
  • Docket information such as transcripts, motions, appearances, and oral arguments
  • The defendant's plea
  • Details on all suits and complaints, as well as all amendments
  • All filings, affidavits, and pieces of evidence presented by the plaintiff or defendant
  • Memorandum of decision
  • Final judgments
  • Court-ordered settlements and agreements
  • Details of court-ordered rights and privileges

How to Access North Carolina Civil Court Records For Free

North Carolina civil court records can be viewed for free through the self-service terminals located at Clerk offices across the 100 counties in the State. However, to make copies of civil records, interested parties are required to pay the copy fees of the records at the applicable Clerk's office. Free remote access is not available to the public in North Carolina. To access and view civil court records online, members of the public are required to subscribe to monthly or yearly plans and pay the necessary fees.

How to Seal Civil Court Records in North Carolina

Civil Court records can be sealed in North Carolina, if they meet the requirements for sealing. Some records are automatically sealed by law, others require that the involved parties petition the presiding court to keep the records confidential. When a record is sealed in North Carolina, it is hidden from public inspection or disclosure and it is impossible for any member of the public to access the records unless they are eligible by law or permitted by court order. Ultimately, the presiding civil court holds the power to seal or unseal civil records.

How to Access Sealed Civil Court Records in North Carolina

Only eligible parties may access sealed civil court records in North Carolina. These parties include the persons named on the record; the parents, custodians, caretakers, or legal guardians, and legal representatives of such persons; probation officers; and certain public or law enforcement agencies or personnel. Other parties who may access these records are required to provide a court order given by a court of competent jurisdiction.

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