How to Search Someone's Criminal Record for Free

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You may want to run a criminal background check on a person you are considering hiring. This is important, especially if the job entails dealing with children or sensitive information in the workplace. Many web-based criminal background checks are marketed as being "free" — and it is true that many of the basic searches require no fee. The catch is that they provide very little information. For a thorough criminal records check, you must pay. It remains possible, however, to obtain the information you seek without paying a premium.

Search state record databases. Many states maintain websites on which the public may search court cases for free. Find these types of websites by visiting your state's superior court website and looking for links like "public records" or "court dockets." Most of these websites require that you know the person's full name and age.

Search the records of courts in counties where the individual is known to have resided. Different counties put their public records online in different departments, so check everything court-related. Also check the sheriff's office website for those counties. Few law enforcement agencies put records online, but there are some that do so it's worth checking while you're on the county website.

Search justice court Websites. While fewer justice courts offer information online than superior court and county websites, they are still worth searching. Check justice courts in the city where the person last lived and in surrounding cities. Look for links to "public records," "public information," or "court dockets."

Call local newspapers and police stations.

Some will charge a fee for searches, but many will run a quick check for you at no cost. Police departments are restricted on the types of checks and information they can release as public record. In most states, the police can release either a copy of the citation or police report that includes the charges against the person. Remember, however, that charges against someone are different than convictions. You will need to follow up with the local court to determine if the person was convicted of the charges.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't be shy about calling agencies in addition to searching online. While some require that they charge for personal searches, some are able to conduct basic searches to tell you whether they have a record on an individual at no charge. Then you can decide whether to pay for copies of the results of the search.
  • Always double-check information found online. Make sure it really is the person you are searching for and that there isn't an error in the record.

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