Where do i find criminal record?
- Criminal record search
- Criminal record check
criminal record searches anywhere in the United States and the World.
Wouldn’t you like to know if someone you are in contact with has a criminal record:
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Checking Criminal Records
You'll need to protect your business from liability by doing
criminal checks on applicants who will:
be bonded because of access to money or valuables
carry a weapon
drive a company vehicle
have access to drugs or explosives
have access to master keys
have a great deal of contact with the public, patients, or
be filling a position that requires a criminal record check
under state law
Checking criminal records is a sensitive issue.
Restrictions on Criminal Record Checks
There are two types of law that regulate the use of criminal
Federal Civil Rights Law.
Asking applicants to disclose
their criminal records may violate their civil rights. Before asking
about them, ask yourself:
Is there an adverse impact on minority applicants?
If there is an adverse impact, is the record check related to
the performance of the job or some other business necessity?
If there is a business necessity, is there another way to
investigate the applicant's background to get around the adverse
Some states restrict checks of criminal records
to those employers who are checking for specified reasons. Some
states even prosecute employers that violate laws preventing
criminal record disclosure. On the other hand, most states prohibit
people convicted of certain crimes from holding certain occupations,
such as home health worker, daycare worker, teacher, etc.
Checking Conviction Records
We recommend that you check conviction records only if you need
to do so to protect your business from negligent
hiring claims. Whether you are justified in requesting a
criminal record check can be determined from:
the type of position being filled
the information that you had obtained from the applicant,
former employers, personal references, and educational
references before you started a criminal record search
the ability of your business to bear the cost of the search
Where do you check?
The easiest way to check conviction
records is to have a private detective agency do it for you. You
can also do it by communicating directly with:
the state's central repository of records
state and local criminal agencies
any county in which the applicant may have been living
the state's department of motor vehicles for records of
driving-related convictions and violations
the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Because conviction records can
cover an array of behavior and can sometimes unfairly affect
certain groups of people, be sure to:
comply with antidiscrimination laws, both federal
(if you have 15 or more employees) and state
avoid violating state
laws that restrict use and disclosure of criminal records
or that require you to check conviction records based on the
nature of your industry or the type of position you are
Checking Arrest Records
Routine checking of arrest records isn't permitted. An arrest
record alone is not proof that an applicant committed a crime.
In the event that you are permitted to check arrest records,
in order to deny employment on the basis of an arrest record,
consider the relationship of the arrest charge to the
position applied for
determine the likelihood that the applicant actually
committed the conduct alleged in the arrest
If the arrest is related to the position, you must still:
look at surrounding circumstances
offer the applicant the chance to explain
make follow-up inquiries to evaluate the applicant's
Generally, applicants do not even have to disclose any
information concerning arrest or criminal charges that did not
result in conviction.
A number of states have laws
that grant applicants and employees certain protections against
criminal disclosure based on privacy concerns.
Read our case
studies for examples of how to use and evaluate arrest
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Navigating the Maze of Criminal Records Retrieval - Updated
is president of PFC
Information Services, Inc.
A check of criminal records is standard procedure when due diligence
research is conducted on individuals. However, even in this age of instant
access to digitized information, old fashioned “gum shoe” techniques
usually must be relied upon for the research of criminal records. This article
will discuss how criminal records are maintained and the alternatives
available for retrieval.
There is no such thing as a national criminal records check.
There is one "nationwide" criminal database, the FBI database, which
is known as the NCIC (National Crime Information Center). The FBI
database is NOT public record and cannot be legally accessed by anyone other
than criminal justice agencies. There are strict penalties for
unauthorized access to this data, and there are penalties for buying
information that is illegally obtained. In spite of the fact that
unauthorized access to NCIC is illegal, there is an enormous black market for
this information. The information is often obtained by individuals
who were formerly in law enforcement and who have a "good old boy"
network of associates who have access to NCIC. And, even if FBI records
were available as public record, it would not be possible to obtain a true
nationwide criminal search without submitting a fingerprint card, as
Interstate Identification Index (the non-fingerprint NCIC database) only
receives data from twenty‑two states.
There are thousands of separate criminal indexes maintained
at the county, parish, township, and city levels throughout the United States.
To conduct a nationwide search would require accessing each individual index.
Obviously, this would be difficult, time consuming, and prohibitively
expensive. While there are numerous investigative firms advertising that they
provide “Comprehensive Nationwide Criminal Records,” it is obvious that
what they are advertising is too good to be true.
It is possible to search statewide for criminal records in
29 states. From a practical perspective, a county level check may be a
better option even though a particular state may have a publicly available
statewide index, as it may take weeks or months to receive the information.
Also, the state criminal indexes receive their data from the counties.
If a county fails to report criminal data to the state, the statewide index
may not be complete. The most thorough approach is to search both the
statewide index and at the county level in the counties where the subject has
Statewide searches are available within 3 to 5 days in
Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida,
Georgia, Hawaii, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, North Carolina,
Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota,
Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. However, some of these
states may require a signed release, and do not provide a complete history of
felonies and misdemeanors.
A word of warning about statewide criminal records…some
commercial public records vendors claiming to provide statewide criminal
records are actually providing statewide inmate
searches, and calling them criminal searches. If the subject has been placed
on probation, released from prison, or is sentenced to the county jail rather
than state prison, the search will yield a “no record.” Prisoner locator
services are available free from the states’ corrections or prisons
departments, and online inmate locator searches for several states can be
found at the Corrections Connections
Level Criminal Checks
Checking criminal court records at the county level is the
method used in most parts of the country. In some counties felony and
misdemeanor records are maintained in a combined index, in others felonies and
misdemeanor records must be checked separately. BRB Publications’ Sourcebook
To Public Records Information provides detailed descriptions of each
jurisdiction, which can be extremely helpful in determining which court or
courts should be checked for felonies and misdemeanors. This sourcebook is
also available online for an annual subscription fee.
Many of the US District Courts provide access to criminal
cases via PACER, the online
federal court docket system. However, the inclusion dates available at many of
the courts are limited, i.e., the records may not go back as far as you need.
Also, the online dockets do not contain identifying information regarding
defendants, so additional research is required.
Records Are Recorded
How records are maintained at the federal, state and county
level has been discussed. It is also important to understand how the
records are recorded. It is not possible to "plug in"
someone's Social Security number into a criminal records database and find all
the criminal convictions pertaining to that individual. Criminal records
are indexed by the name of the defendant. Therefore, getting the correct
spelling of the name is critical to obtaining accurate results. If the person
had a former name, that name should also be checked. In those jurisdictions
where the clerk of court will be performing the research, a full date of birth
is usually required.
While the majority of jurisdictions have computerized their
criminal records, most do not allow off-site access. Therefore, a
researcher must be physically dispatched to the courthouse to search the
public access terminals. Many courts do not even offer public access
terminals, as they have not developed systems that separate public records
data from nonpublic records. Therefore, the researcher may have to
submit the request to the clerk and return in a day or two for the results.
The court may provide access to its criminal docket index (often in books or
microfiche). However, the index usually contains nothing more than dates, case
numbers and names of defendants. If the subject has a common name many records
will be found for that name that have nothing to do with the subject.
Therefore, all case files found on the index with the same name must be
examined for a match to date of birth, and sometimes Social Security number or
driver's license number. It will also be necessary to examine the case
files to determine the charges and the dispositions.
The large online public records vendors provide online
access to county criminal court records in some jurisdictions in California,
Arizona and Texas. However, in many locations the only information
available is name of defendant, case number, and date. Penal code
violations may or may not be listed, and disposition is rarely included.
If a record is found a court runner will still have to be sent to the
courthouse to find out whether the record is relevant to the subject and the
disposition. Therefore, the county criminal court records searches
available via most online commercial public records vendors should be regarded
only as a tool to rule out the existence of a criminal record.
How to Obtain the Information
In the majority of jurisdictions, a human being must be
injected into the process in order to research criminal records. Many of
the large public records vendors offer on-site court searches that enable the
user to request the search online and to retrieve the results online when the
results become available, usually within two to ten business days.
However, this is the least cost effective way to obtain the information.
The large vendors contract with large outside firms, who also subcontract the
research to smaller outside firms. With each step the cost is marked up
as much as 100%. Also, the information will not be returned for several days
after the research is conducted, as the results must work their way back
through the “information food chain” before they are finally ready for
retrieval by the user.
Some courts will perform a free check over the phone.
However, the information should not be relied upon, as the clerk answering the
phone may or may not provide correct or complete information. Most
courts will respond to written requests. However, it can sometimes take
weeks or even months to get the results back.
The optimum way to obtain the information as quickly and
inexpensively as possible is to develop a network of “court runners” in
locations where research is required on a regular basis. Another alternative
is to sign up with a good on-site public records research company that has its
own nationwide network court runners. The price will be higher than with
your own network, but will be much lower than buying from one of the large
commercial online public records vendors and turnaround will be
considerably faster. One of the very best of these on-site research firms is Accurate
Background Checks, Inc. They have a nationwide network of skilled court
researchers and have extensive quality control procedures in place.
has recently added 28 statewide criminal checks to their list of services. As
per the IRSG
(Individual Reference Service Group) principles these records may only be
used for the purposes defined as “appropriate,” and may not be obtained
from Choicepoint for pre-employment screening, consumer credit purposes,
insurance underwriting, or tenant screening.
Some of these databases include felony convictions only, so
it is important to check with Customer Service to find out what’s included.
(The help screens are not explicit.) These statewide searches are
excellent for due diligence research, when you want to “throw out a wide
net,” but are not a substitute for county level searches.
In the past few years a number of state and county
governments have started making criminal records available to the public via
the Internet. A comprehensive list of online criminal court records can be
found at the Pacific
Information Resources site. Some of these sites are free. For
example, criminal records are available free of charge from eight
Oklahoma counties. While the Oklahoma site includes defendant
identifiers, most of the free sites do not.
Some state and local governmental agencies have discovered
that “there’s gold in them thar records.” The Marion County
Sheriff’s Department and the Indianapolis Police Department make criminal
histories available at $15.00 per search on their
web site. A statewide criminal check is available for $25.00 per name from
Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
The US Department of Justice conducted a survey of prison
inmates in 1991. They found that crimes were usually committed near the
criminals’ homes and that 43% of inmates were in prison for crimes committed
in their own neighborhoods. If the subject is a criminal it is likely
that a record will be uncovered when all jurisdictions where he or she has
lived are checked. However, crimes committed in another county or state
will probably not be found. Arcane and fragmented record keeping systems can
make criminal searches seem like navigating through a maze and shoe leather is
still required to research criminal records in most locations. However,
more online criminal records may become available as governmental agencies
discover that they can make money by selling the records online. [Criminal
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