A criminal record is a document showing someone's criminal charges and convictions, including traffic violations, misdemeanors, and felonies. They're also known as police records, criminal reports, and criminal history records.
National criminal records databases enable you to see if a subject was convicted in another state before relocating, while state criminal records databases tend to be more detailed.
All 50 states have criminal records databases available to the public. Criminal records contain information such as the name and known aliases of a convicted offender, the date of birth, and a physical description which includes height, approximate weight, tattoos, birthmarks and other distinguishing characteristics.
Criminal records also show the dates of apprehension, conviction, and sentencing, along with information about the offender's current status, whether incarcerated or released. `They also include the date of the offender’s release or expected release.
There are many reasons to search criminal records about someone. If you’re a landlord, you'll want to check criminal records to verify that a potential tenant hasn’t been convicted of a serious crime.
Or, if you recently met someone socially who seems special and you want to be sure, you may wish to check criminal record databases to avoid becoming involved with a violent offender.
Employers must check the criminal records of job applicants to protect employees, customers and company resources.
Law enforcement officials routinely check criminal records to see if a suspect has been convicted of similar crimes. And, adoption agencies and daycare owners are legally required to check the criminal records of those seeking to care for children.
Likewise, admissions offices at law schools and medical schools, health care organizations, and financial-services firms all run a criminal record search as part of the background check.
Close to home, you may want to make find out if your new neighbor or babysitter has a troubled past, to protect your children and family from potential harm.
Before searching criminal records, there are several important things you should keep in mind.
You should be aware that criminal records cover offenses that an individual has been convicted of, whether by pleading guilty or going to trial.
Unlike arrest records, a criminal record is a clear indication of guilt, except for the rare possibility that a conviction has been overturned by a court.
It’s important to review criminal records carefully and ensure their accuracy because both false positives and false negatives can have serious consequences.
That's why it's always best to use an accurate, up-to-date criminal records database to conduct your search. Some websites and third-party services may have incomplete criminal records or inaccurate information.
National criminal records databases and detailed state databases are the best because they show you whether a person has been convicted in another state before relocating.
For the widest and most accurate searches, you should use the resources you'll find on this site.
Even if you’re using a reliable criminal records database, the information may not be entirely accurate. Some states have a very narrow scope on the types of criminal records that are available to the general public. For example, there are different classifications of sex offenders, and they may only list the most dangerous ones.
It’s also important to cross-reference any information you know about the subject against their criminal record. Other people may have the same name, so you’ll want to compare the information in these files against the subject’s date of birth, any former residences, their height, tattoos, birthmarks and other distinguishing characteristics, and any rumors about alleged offenses.
If the subject has been convicted of a crime, you’ll need to take a variety of factors into consideration.
The first thing you'll need gauge is the severity of the offense. A subject convicted of a Class E felony should be treated more cautiously than one convicted of a misdemeanor.
You’ll also want to consider the context of the offense and how much discretion you’re given to provide leeway to the offender.
You’ll also want to consider the date of the subject’s conviction. If the conviction was years ago, you ought to take that into consideration if possible.
Keep in mind that many criminal records don’t provide full details of the offense. You’ll need to speak with the subject and others with knowledge of the offense to learn more.
You’ll also want to make sure the results of your criminal records search are accurate.
Some convictions may have been overturned on appeal or expunged because the subject later introduced evidence to prove their innocence, or the appeals court found problems with the admissibility of certain evidence.
If a subject claims a conviction was overturned, you’ll want to check with the courts in that jurisdiction to confirm the status of their criminal records. The clerk may alert you to a change in the criminal record that wasn't updated in your criminal records search.
You should also recognize that criminal records of offenders convicted in other states may be more limited. The Interstate Identification Index usually restricts criminal records to the nature of the offense and the date of conviction. State agencies typically have more detailed criminal records, which include court decisions after conviction.
The time it takes to search criminal records varies, depending on a variety of factors. State laws, the nature of the offense, the date of the last offense and other variables may require you to wait longer to receive criminal records.