Beware: Your ‘past’ is a matter of public record
by Bill Lewis
April 13, 2014 12:00 AM | 1039 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
You can run but you can’t hide — from your past, that is. Think back. Maybe there was a brief lack of good judgment a short while ago. Or maybe you’ve been a model citizen ever since that evening you spent in the back of a campus police squad car simply because you thought streaking sounded like a good idea at the time.

Have you been ticketed for speeding? Or even cruised through one of those intersections with the all-seeing eye on the tail end of a yellow light that the camera saw as red? Perhaps you decided to cross in the middle of the street instead of putting out the effort to walk all ... the ... way ... down ... to ... the ... corner crosswalk.

Did you know all those transgressions of the law (and pretty much any other even slight infractions) are a matter of public record? And they’re online?

Yep. Apparently there are now websites, or at least one I saw extensively advertised, that allow you or me or Fred your neighbor to look up virtually anyone to see what they’ve been up to all their lives.

Full disclosure: Not that you would head to the ’Net and immediately look up yours truly, but just to set the record straight, I did kind of gently bump another car a little over 40 years ago. We were stopped at a light. He hit the brakes quickly, causing me to do the same and simultaneously dump a large cup of Coca-Cola down my pant legs. After coming to a complete stop, I must have tried to reach for the Coke, let up on the brake and dented the space between the “T” and “I” in the gentleman’s Pontiac. It was a lousy way to start dinner, let me tell you. But as far as I know, that’s probably the highlight of my boring public record file.

So don’t choose me as a guinea pig. It won’t be very exciting. Now your Aunt Carol and Uncle Al on your mother’s side, that may be a different story. Or your best friend, your college roommate, an old girl/boyfriend, an in-law or two, your boss, your doctor, dentist, grocery store manager, teacher, etc. There might be some really juicy tidbits in their past that would rival the latest James Patterson whodunit.

Of course, you might want to check on yourself first. Maybe do a little collateral damage work before the world finds out you were indeed arrested for impersonating an exotic dancer, even though it was part of a fraternity initiation. Or that you’re really two years older than everyone believes.

Maybe it would be good to know if your neighbor has a license to carry a concealed weapon, or an unconcealed one for that matter. That type of information could very well come in handy late one night when you hear noises downstairs. You could just give that neighbor a call and have him fire off a shot or two close enough to your house to scare away any ne’er-do-well.

I can also see this service being used to identify folks you would prefer not live down the street from you. Like maybe a sex offender. Or someone who blasts nothing but Black Sabbath from his basement stereo while accompanying the band on his very own set of drums at all hours of the day and night. (Actually, I made that last one up. I don’t think, technically, it’s against the law to blast Black Sabbath. It perhaps should be, but it isn’t. A little Ozzy Osbourne can often go a l-o-n-g way.)

I’m not sure if you can run these background checks anonymously or not. My guess is you probably can. That may be risky for those in the public eye, especially elected officials. Not that they don’t get put through the ringer enough as it is. But if everybody can check on them, it’s hard to think that something wouldn’t crop up.

Hey, maybe that’s the solution to the idiocy in Washington these days. We talk about wanting to throw everybody out and start over. What if We the People banded together and conducted a massive public records hunt on congresspersons, senators and administration officials? There are a couple of folks in California I’d really like to get the goods on. So I’ll start there. The rest of you, feel free to divvy up the country any way you want. Sounds almost as good as an Easter egg hunt, doesn’t it?

Bill Lewis is a freelance writer in Marietta.

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