Are legal notices going unnoticed?

Some legal notices are required by law to appear in a local newspaper. (KRNV/KRXI)

Prior to the age of television, newspapers were the only way people heard about what was going on in their community.

Today, most people get their news online. But there's some very important legal information in the paper that if missed could lead to property or even a child being taken away.

The legal notices in the newspaper notify the public of meetings and other government business. But there are also legal notices warning people that there's a lien on their property, that a city is attempting to take their land as part of eminent domain or that they're facing a termination of parental rights.

"We want to make sure that they're receiving these public notices by law," said Julie Duewel, spokeswoman for the city of Sparks.

It may seem like an outdated way of notifying the public, but by law, the notices have to be posted in the newspaper. It's the last option when an agency has exhausted all its options for contacting a person.

"It's a huge deal, the amount of resources we use to locate these people," said Jeff Martin, the Chief Deputy District Attorney in the Civil Division at the Washoe County District Attorney's Office. "The searches that we run are so extensive, you can be assured that if we have to go the publication route, we don't know where this person is."

Newspapers will often post their public notices online, but the law does not require that.

Not only is it the law, but printing the legal notices in a paper turns them into a record of archive that can't be changed like they could be if they were online.

Cities pay for their legal notices in the paper.

"Money well spent," said Duewel.

And city staff say posting public notices in the newspaper are effective.

"Oh, I know it's happened," said Martin.

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