Home » How to Research Criminal Records

Arrest Record Research

In most cases, criminal records can be requested from local, state or national courts. Most criminal cases are considered public records. However, in several states including California, citizens cannot obtain another individual’s entire criminal record. But, in these states, criminal records for violations such as misdemeanors and felony convictions are considered public.

How Online Searches Work

There are right ways and ineffective ways to search for criminal records online. Follow these steps to get best results and the records you need.

Go to the Right Source – What can complicate your search is the fact that courts file their criminal records in the place where the offense occurred. So, if you know where a specific offense occurred, that it the location of the court where you should search. If you search where the offender presently resides, you may be looking it the wrong place and will obtain no criminal records. If you know the location where the offense occurred, you will want to search in the appropriate state or more specifically county.

It is also important to realize that many states do not permit access to juvenile records if the cases were sealed.

Visit the County Court Website – Many county courts have converted to digital record keeping. If you are lucky, a search of the appropriate county court website will be productive. However, it is possible that the only digital criminal records will be for recent cases. If one or more of a person’s criminal convictions occurred before the county went digital, you may have to request hard copies directly from the county. Generally, this process will take longer.

The county court website should sate the effective date of their digital records. Knowing an approximate date of a criminal record is very helpful for online criminal record searches.

Know Your Court – Most states have different levels of state courts. For example, tax courts, superior courts, appellate courts, supreme courts and others may have their own independent criminal files. Your search will be considerably easier if you search the specific court database where the case was heard. At the same time, some states have facilitated criminal records searches by combining digital records into a single database. This would be ideal but depends upon state policy.

List Basic Information – Many criminal record databases are extremely large. To facilitate our search and to increase your chance for success basic information will go a long way. Basic information includes:

• The offender’s full name – Criminal records are not based on pseudonyms or nicknames but by legal names.

• If searching for a business, list the full business name.

• Case number(s) – The best way to obtain specific details is with the actual case number. Even if you do not have this and you do have the offender’s legal name, you might come across the information you want. If a criminal record appears with an online search, open the record carefully and verify it is for the individual you want to check. If it is a recent offense and not listed, be patient. The court may take more time than anticipated to upload their digital files.

If you believe the information you have is correct and you still do not find the file, you have other options such as:

• Requesting a hard copy of the criminal record

• Retaining the services of an attorney familiar with criminal record searches.

Both these options will cost you time and money but if you feel the criminal record information is necessary for peace of mind, do not hesitate to be aggressive about your search.

Another option is an online criminal record search provider who may charge a fee but will not cost you much time. Online criminal record search providers have access to state, local and federal criminal records and know how to find