Maybe you are suspicious by nature or have a valid reason not to trust someone you do not know that well. Maybe you are a business owner looking to hire a new employee or you are renting out a place and want to screen your future tenants. These are all justified reasons to do a background check and make sure you are not dealing with a person who is hiding their criminal past. Often, people are not comfortable disclosing their previous transgressions, fearing those may affect their chances of landing a job or renting an apartment. And while everyone deserves a second chance, you have the right to protect yourself and your business from frauds and imposters who wish to do you harm. In this article, we will take a closer look at what you need to know about finding someone’s criminal records. 

What Is A Criminal Background Check?

A criminal background check involves a comprehensive search of someone’s criminal past, performed on a national, federal, county or state level. The search consists of checking court databases, digital and physical, for arrest records, convictions, charges, and known offenses. While criminal records are almost always publicly available, it is hard to find someone’s entire criminal history. This is often the case because a person’s criminal record is bound to the jurisdiction they lived in. If they resided in different places over the years, there may be multiple criminal records that are not connected, which is why it is recommended to do a thorough criminal background check and search multiple states based on the subject’s former residential addresses. Keep in mind that juvenile criminal records are exceptions and they remain sealed in most cases. 

What Does Someone’s Criminal Record Search Reveal?

Depending on the method and service you choose for a criminal record search, your report may cover a wide range of information available through public records or on special demand. There are many renowned online background check companies that include criminal record searches in their in-depth background checks and there are those that focus solely on obtaining criminal record information. Criminal record information can include the following: 

  • Court records
  • Arrest records 
  • Police records
  • Search warrants
  • Charges
  • Degree of offense
  • Felony and misdemeanor information
  • Sentence
  • And more

As mentioned, the search can be restricted or expanded on a county, state, and national level. Furthermore, the report can include searches for specific types of offenses like federal violations containing records of kidnapping, drug trafficking, bank robberies, embezzlement, and others. 

How To Perform A Criminal Record Search?

These days, it is easy to perform a criminal background check. When a person gets convicted in the United States, their conviction is categorized as a public event, meaning anyone who goes into a court clerk’s office is entitled to search the records. The only exception is sealed or expunged records in cases when the offense was minor, when it was a first-time offense or when the defendant served the sentence and did not repeat the offense during the probation period.

Until recently, criminal record searches required a visit to the county clerk’s office for each state separately, but ever since online background check companies emerged, everything can be done online. Background check companies like Spokeo and BeenVerified offer criminal record searches as a part of their comprehensive background check services using the information from publicly available records. The information found in these reports is not to be used for employment, tenant screening or other official business.

Other backgrounds check companies like conduct their searches under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, meaning that the data they gather is mainly used for employee and tenant screening, which makes criminal record searches the focal point of their investigation. The way these companies operate is that they compile records from many sources. The accuracy of the data you receive depends on the quality of the sources, information update, and gathering practices.

Apart from using online background check companies, you can find someone’s criminal record by hiring a private detective or doing the work yourself. Note that, according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, if a person had an arrest without a conviction more than seven years ago, the record should not be visible during the criminal record search.

How Long Does It Take To Find Someone’s Criminal Record?

While a general background check that involves searching through public records may produce a report in a few minutes, an in-depth criminal record search can usually take a few hours or even days, depending on the complexity of the report, whether it is restricted to a county criminal database or extends to a national search, and other factors. What also affects the turnaround time is whether the records are digitized or in the process of digitalization, which then requires assistance from a county court’s employee. 

Bottom line is, finding someone’s criminal record is not as hard as it used to be and it mostly comes down to choosing the right background check company and simply requesting a report.