An arrest record contains information about a person's criminal history, including arrests by any law enforcement agency. Many arrest records are available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), although some can be accessed only by law enforcement agencies. Arrest records contain important information including:
There are some exceptions to the above, and the availability of arrest records varies between states.
Arrest records include information about a variety of offenses, including:
Although many types of arrest records are available to the public, sorting through them on your own may be a slow, difficult process. Fortunately, there are many tools to help find records easily.
When looking at arrest records, you should distinguish between arrests and convictions. Individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Previously-arrested individuals may be listed in arrest records, even though they were later found innocent. Or, charges may have been dropped due to insufficient evidence.
There are several reasons to consider searching for arrest records. Law enforcement officers frequently search arrest records of suspects to see if they show a history of similar offenses.
Employers almost always browse arrest records of potential employees before agreeing to hire them.
Although there are some restrictions on the use of arrest records to disqualify prospective employees, such as in cases of employment discrimination, it’s usually prudent to avoid hiring people who were arrested for certain offenses, unless their innocence has already been proven.
Some employers are legally required to check arrest records before hiring any applicant, including:
Landlords and property managers often search for arrest records of potential tenants. This is part of their screening process to protect the safety of other residents.
Many people also perform arrest record searches about people they’ve met through online dating sites on sales platforms such as Craigslist. Running background checks helps protect them from becoming involved with individuals convicted of fraud, domestic violence, sexual offenses, or other serious crimes.
People can also search arrest records about themselves to verify the accuracy of their public records.
People often search inmate records for friends or family members who have been convicted of crimes to find out where they’re incarcerated.
You can check arrest record at the county, state or national level. Since people frequently move between counties and states, generally you should search arrest records at the national level.
Here are some general guidelines for searching arrest records.
First, you should use a reputable arrest records database. Some fraudulent or questionable websites contain false criminal records and mugshots of innocent people to slander them or extort money. Don't make any serious decisions without verifying the accuracy of any records.
You’ll need some basic information about the subject before conducting your search. At a minimum, you’ll need the person's full name, although some arrest records databases may allow you to search by using a partial name or alias.
When you use an individual’s name to conduct an arrest records search, you may receive numerous results. It’s important to cross-reference the details about any arrestee against anything you already know about him or her, to avoid making any mistakes about identity.
You should double check:
Pay close attention to the arrest details. Nowadays there’s plenty of controversy about using arrest records for background checks since many people have been arrested for offenses without being convicted.
You should be skeptical about an arrest if the person hasn’t been convicted yet since you don’t know what the outcome may be. Keep in mind that law enforcement officials usually only need probable cause with minimal evidence to make an arrest, but that evidence isn't always enough to prove guilt.
It's also important to keep the date of the arrest in mind. If arrest records indicate the person’s last arrest was over a decade ago, it may not be relevant today. That's because some people commit crimes when they're young, but later become mature and reliable.
You should also keep in mind the nature of the alleged offense. A person arrested for a misdemeanor usually doesn’t deserve the same scrutiny as one arrested for a major felony. Still, felonies always warrant attention, regardless of the date of the arrest.
It’s usually best to conduct your search by using a national arrest records database. If you search arrest records only at the state or county level, you may not find records from other jurisdictions if the person has recently relocated to your area.
You should also keep in mind that not all arrest records are available to the public in every state. Even though all 50 states have public records for everyone convicted of serious sex crimes, some details about other types of offenses may not be available to members of the general public.
Even some minor sex crimes aren’t always included in arrest records in several states.
If possible, you should try to learn more about the context of the arrest. Arrest records are usually vague about details of offenses. They might not differentiate between a necessary arrest and a nuisance arrest made at the request of an over-zealous prosecutor or a local cop who doesn't like a particular individual.
Arrest records yield important information about people, yet they don’t always provide a complete picture. It’s important to run a detailed background search about a person in order to learn the most information possible.