Even though we like to believe that our friends are acquaintances are honest, we can’t be sure that there aren’t dark secrets lurking behind. You never know when you can face the situation wheт performing a background check is a matter of personal and financial safety.
Why Do Arrest Records Search?
To many people, arrest records search seems to be too radical of a solution when in reality, it’s the most accessible background check method. It’s used in multiple situations - here are just the most basic ones.
Background check of a potential job candidate, partner, contractor: before providing a colleague or a potential stakeholder with confidential information, you want to make sure that a person doesn’t have a questionable past;
Getting detailed information about a date, friend, or relative: sometimes even people whom we think to know well can surprise us. If you detect the shady behavior of your friend or relative, it’s best to cross off the worst suspicions.
Verifying that own arrest records have been deleted: if you have committed a minor offense, your public records can be removed from a database after a certain period, depending on the crime. Were they indeed deleted? You can find out.
Checking the criminal history of your child: running a background check is faster than interrogating your kid, trying to get out details — plus, it’s confidential;
Analyzing the safety of a living area: buying or renting a property is a responsible decision, and you need to make sure that your neighbors haven’t committed a felony or sexual assault.
You don’t have to confront a suspected individual or obtain consent — in most cases — public databases provide access to 95% of all arrest data.
Types of Public Arrest Records
Arrest records are made when the police arrest a person whom they suspect of a crime. The person may or may not be the criminal. Arrest files simply prove that there was a suspicion, not the fact of a crime itself.
Legal records VS Criminal records
A typical arrest record includes the full name of a person, charge data, source state, location, case type, and number, and a court name. It’s important to draw a line between arrest records and criminals records.
What’s the difference? Criminal records mean that a person was proven to be guilty of a crime. Unless someone doesn’t have a criminal record, only the arrest one, this person is not considered guilty — unless legal authorities proved otherwise.
Is It Legal To Search For Arrest Records?
Some arrest records holders choose to seal or expunge their files, making them unavailable to other people. It’s a way for a person with an arrest record to get a clean slate — only the record holder can expunge the data with the authority permission.
However, not all records can be sealed. In the United States, it depends on the laws of the state and the type of crime. If the record is open, you will easily access it in the database, official registries, or by a request to a police department.
Looking up records of other people VS Your own
If you are searching for a file of an employee or neighbor, you’ll have to dig open databases or send a request to the authority services. If you choose to cooperate with the police, you have to provide a legal explanation as to why you need this explanation. So, if the motivation is driven by mere curiosity, it’s better to find a roundabout way.
Looking up your records is much easier since you technically have every right to do so. The public records search request has to be answered by your police department or local court. However, we recommend to perform an additional online search first - sometimes you can get the data with much less bureaucracy.
How Does Public Records Lookup Work?
Let’s take a look at publically available and legal methods of public records search. The lookup usually starts with governmental registries and updates, published by local police departments and courts.
The good news is, if you leverage publically available data well enough, you won’t ever have to request official permission.
Sex Offender Registries
Sex Offender Registries collect information about people who received sex assault convictions. They most often don’t feature people who were only suspected in the rime, so you will get criminal records as well as the arrest ones.
The biggest sex registry websites are the following ones:
The National Sex Offender Public Website — a governmental public records directory, regularly updated by legal authorities and opened to the public;
FBI Official Page — the website features a detailed map of sex offender databases, divided by states and tribes;
The Supreme Court of the United States website — this is the highest-level destination for sex offense records search.
The reason why we advise starting with these registries is so that you certainly make sure that your paths don’t cross with a sex offender if you are planning a common business, investment, or any project. Sex offenses are also one of the most common ones — so chances of encountering a criminal are, unfortunately, rather high.
Local courthouses and police departments
When a person is arrested or convicted, courthouses are obliged to report this data as a public event. The most tried-and-proven source of such updates is the website of your local courthouse. Here, you will likely find the news with all arrested and convicted individuals — unless they have been removed by a specific individual request, which is a rare event.
The most basic approach is using a website search — some courthouses don’t keep this information, so you might get lucky. The majority, however, dedicates the storage of public records to the clerk of courts. You can contact this person and provide information on the individual.
The information, required for courthouse search:
Name and last name;
Location and type of crime;
Age occupation of a person;
A social security number.
Be sure to check the courthouse where the person is most likely to be convicted. To improve your chances, try out different local courthouses unless you know a particular location for sure.
You can go to governmental institutions to get detailed information about someone else’s criminal records. You need to submit a request to your local administrative authorities — if you don’t know the exact destination, ask a police officer.
To obtain the record, you need to provide a valid reason. Typically, governmental authorities allow accessing arrest data for the following reasons:
Weapon purchases — a buyer can find out criminal information about the dealer;
Educational deals and school applications — a citizen has a right to know that a teacher or school principal wasn’t legally compromised;
Employment request — you have a right to perform a background check on the employee if you have his or her consent. A rule of thumb usually is, if a person doesn’t consent to an arrest records search, there is something to hide.
The availability of the record depends on charge and states. New York authorities, for instance, keep almost all records private, while in Montana, you can access data on felony and sexual assault.
Consumer Reporting Agencies
If you are an employer who is looking to perform a background check of an employee, you have an additional road. Consumer Reporting Agencies have been created exactly for such purposes, although the record availability is limited by the Fair Credit Report Act.
According to FCRA, you need to provide a valid reason and an employee’s consent. More often than not, the chances to obtain consent depend on your industry — if you are work in financial, healthcare, education, or legal fields, you will likely get permission.
Start to search criminal records by going to the website of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners. This is an organization, responsible for request admission and moderation — it also unites organizations that perform professional screening. Just open the list of the providers, select your area, and send a request — you’ll be shortly contacted by the company.
Arrest records services
There are two kinds of online databases with arrest records: federal and unofficial sources. Both of them have own advantages and drawbacks — let’s take a look.
Government services (Public Access to Court Electronic Records and the National Sex Offender Public Website) require a user to register and submit a record search request. This is the most reliable search method, but it’s time-consuming and expensive — you need to submit a fee for each request.
Unofficial services are riskier — you can accidentally use an untrustworthy provider and violate privacy laws. Also, private services don’t update their databases as often, so results might be outdated. On the other hand, they provide a detailed profile and allow getting a free summary. You also don’t have to submit requests and wait for it to process.
How to obtain permission for arrest record search?
You have to contact a local courthouse, background check association, or a government agency.
How to access public records for free?
Start with publically available arrest record directories. The most available one is the Sex Offense Directory — all information regarding sex assaults is available openly and freely.
How to do a background check of a person?
We recommend combining federal and unofficial check methods. You can contact the clerk of courts with a request and use private lookup services that collect millions of arrest entries.
Is arrest records search free?
No, if you are doing it on the federal level. Private services, on the other hand, offer a free version that allows you getting a limited summary. For a detailed profile, you also have to pay a fee.
Is arrest record search legal?
Yes, it is. You might be requested to submit your motivation, but as soon as you are using a publically available database, you are not violating any regulations.
How to get my criminal history?
The main destination is the FBI’s website where you have to register an account a request Identity History Summary, an official criminal report. You can get a copy of your file, but the original version will remain in the database.
How to search public records by name?
You can use official directories and private services. For both destinations, a name is usually enough to perform a basic search, but for in-depth examination, it helps to know the type of crime and location, so you can contact a courthouse where a person could be arrested or convicted.
The bottom line
Arrest records search doesn’t have to be tied to bureaucracy. Sure, you might have to file a couple of requests and make several calls to local authorities, but at least, you get the option of exploring online databases first. Federal sources will require you to pay a fee and register an account. Private services won’t require even these investments — you can pretty much just enter the name into a search bar.
Arrest record search is an open and legal activity, and there is more than one way of doing it. As long as you check the validity of the source and don’t violate the privacy regulations, you are safe.