How to Find Someone’s Criminal Records

how to retrieve someone's criminal record

A person’s criminal history could provide insights into minor offenses as well as a variety of more grave acts, from burglary to sex crime and murder.

Details relating to many of these are categorized as public records, meaning they’re readily accessible for anyone to check.

But how exactly can you retrieve someone’s criminal record? In this article, we discuss six effective ways to search for arrests, fines, court cases, and similar details. Before we get to that, let’s first understand the different occasions that may demand such data.

When Would Criminal Record Checks Become Useful?

Here are the most common instances you might need to conduct a criminal background check.

  • Neighborhood safety

If you live in an unsafe neighborhood or are just curious about what your neighbors are up to, you can conduct a criminal background check on them. You never know who could live on the same street as you: sex offenders, murderers, thieves, you name it. And the more you know about those you live next to, the better.

  • Online dating

Online dating isn’t all fun and games. Your potential partner may seem nice on Tinder, but who knows what they’re hiding from you. According to the research, in 10% of sexual assault incidents involving dating apps, users had been matched with someone who had previously been accused or convicted of sexual assault. That makes it only natural to want to know whether you online date has any criminal records.

  • Making Friends

There are many places to meet with new friends. However, some people go so far as to invite those they barely know to their house without first learning who they are. A criminal background check is an effective way to find out whether the person you would like to become friends with is safe to be around.

  • Employment

A company would have to check a candidate’s criminal history as part of routine background checks when, for instance, hiring for finance- or security-related positions.

However, remember to refer to relevant employment laws and other legislation, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act, beforehand to determine what specific information you can access and how.

  • Renting a Property

Many landlords resort to a background search of potential tenants to help them make informed decisions. In fact, after completing a tenant screening, many of them found that 25% of their applicants had some type of criminal record, according to the Rental Research Services statistics.

  • Selling Weapons

Running a criminal background check when selling firearms is a federal requirement for licensed gun dealers. This is to ensure that the person purchasing a gun isn’t legally prohibited from owning one.

How to Find Someone’s Criminal Records

you can search for criminal records both online and offline

What options are available for you to obtain details about an individual’s criminal history?

Here’s what we recommend.

Visit the County Clerk of Courts

One of the easiest and most reliable methods to uncover court records is to contact the County Clerk’s office.

The exact process for requesting public records can vary between counties. However, the information they could provide will typically include the charge, filed date, citation number, and case status, among other details. 

Certain County Clerk offices may request a fee for giving access to information, while others could require a payment for issuing copies of court documents.

Nowadays, many of them have digitized their databases. So, it would be worthwhile to search online before you visit them in person. 

Check the PACER Website

PACER stands for Public Access to Court Electronic Records, which is an online portal for finding federal court documents.

To obtain someone’s criminal record details, you must visit the PACER website and create an account. The site’s search services start at $0.10 per page.

You can search records by a specific court or use the national index. PACER also lists contact information of courts in case you fail to uncover the details you require.

Browse the National Sex Offenders Registry

The National Sex Offender Public Website shares information about registered offenders using public records made available by each jurisdiction.

You can access its free search service by typing in a name, address, zip code, county, or city. An individual’s offense records include a full name, date of birth, photo, offense information, current address, compliance status, and last verification date.

Contact the Local Police Department

Law enforcement agencies are an excellent source to obtain criminal records that fall under a specific jurisdiction.

To find relevant documents, you’ll usually need to visit the police station and fill out a form. Some departments now offer this service online, too.

However, keep in mind that you may need to provide your identification details and a valid reason to access records. And in most cases, there’ll be a fee as well.

Use Nuwber

Nuwber is a people search site that collects and stores information about people’s criminal records. It obtains the information from federal, state, and local government agencies and compiles it into reports.

You can search Nuwber not only by names but also by phone numbers, emails, and addresses. This makes it easier to find accurate records, even when there are several people with the same name.

Nuwber accommodates 2 million searches every month, providing records of 300 million people through its search services. However, it’s important to note that using the service for employment background checks and tenant screening is prohibited.

Turn to a Search Engine

If you want to find someone’s criminal record information without incurring a cost, Google and other search engines are your best options.

Based on your search query, these platforms can retrieve indexed public records from various online data sources and list them down in their SERPs in under a second.

You can conduct searches using a name or any other identifier. Simply add “criminal history”, “mug shot”, “arrest records”, or a similar phrase to find relevant information.

But searching free resources using search engines isn’t without a few downsides. The most notable of these is the risk of inaccurate or outdated data.

To Recap

search someone's criminal records

Depending on your information requirement, there are several reliable sources at your disposal today to obtain an individual’s criminal records.

The County Clerk’s offices and police departments can often provide details of offenses that fall under their jurisdictions. If you prefer to search online, the PACER website, the National Sex Offenders Registry, and Nuwber are useful sources to check. Search engines can also get you access to public records quickly.

FAQ

Is it legal to check someone’s criminal history information without their consent?

Generally speaking, retrieving any form of data available as public records isn’t prohibited by law. This can include information released by government agencies or the person the data relates to. Carrying out criminal record checks using such material isn’t considered unlawful.

However, there could be legal restrictions when it comes to accessing certain details based on how you intend to use them.

What’s legitimately accessible to the public can also vary from country to country. Therefore, understanding applicable laws is important for ensuring legal compliance.

At the same time, you have a moral and ethical responsibility, too, to respect individual privacy even when accessing what’s legitimately allowed.

How can I find my own criminal record details?

The Identity History Summary issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation is the easiest source for finding details about your criminal records. It’s compiled based on information provided by authorized criminal justice agencies.

However, this document is only issued for the purpose of checking and correcting data on record and not for employment or licensing requirements.

You can submit an application to receive your Identity History Summary on the FBI website. The request process also involves a payment and the submission of your fingerprints.

Can someone manipulate their criminal records?

This is usually not possible since what should go on record, be edited, or made public is determined by government agencies based on federal and state laws.

However, sometimes, individuals could manipulate criminal records using various unlawful means.

For example, a criminal may evade arrest by assuming a fake, hybrid, or stolen identity. In such instances, tracing back a crime to them could be difficult unless they’re caught.  

What’s a Sealed vs. Expunged Record?

A sealed record is no longer accessible to the general public, although it’s available to certain officials, such as prosecutors and law enforcement officers.

Expungement involves completely erasing records and removing all traces of them.

Eligibility criteria for these two categories vary and may depend on the relevant charges and applicable laws.

How accurate are publicly accessible criminal record data?

Although rare, it’s possible for a public record to contain a mistake.

For instance, an individual could get inaccurate information recorded under their name when the police make an error entering details about an investigation.

A person could also get wrongfully arrested or prosecuted due to identity theft. Once acquitted, removing such records and updating details could take time, especially on public domains.

Therefore, use your best judgment and exercise caution when assessing someone’s criminal background. In addition, seek data only from reliable sources and verify details to determine accuracy.

Eugene Kirdzei
Eugene Kirdzei

Chief Technical Officer at Nuwber
With nearly two decades of experience in the IT industry, Eugene possesses comprehensive knowledge across his professional field, including in data management, data protection, and information search. Through his writing, he aims to provide valuable insights and practical advice on how to safely explore the online environment and leverage digital tools to enhance people’s lives.