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In this article, we examine the different ways in which you can access free public records to run a free criminal background check and also examine some of the other options available to you to obtain Criminal Records faster.
So can you access criminal records for free? The answer is simple. Yes in theory (mostly) but in practice this can be difficult, for a number of reasons.
What’s in this article?
- Is there a totally free background check?
- This seems very complicated. Is there an easier way in which background screening can be done?
Is there a totally free background check?
Yes, and no. This depends on how much information you are looking for, and if you know the details of the case in question. The following points remain important:
- What do you want from a criminal background check? Is it a full breakdown of convictions, arrest records, associated cases, sentances and prisons?
- Do you know the city and state where the case took place?
- Are you merely looking to check someone’s past and find out if they have convictions?
Are criminal records available for free?
The answer to this is categorical: yes. When someone is convicted of any crime in the US, this becomes a matter of (public) record. Anyone is able to go to a court’s office and search for criminal records unless the judge has sealed these records (which can happen for a number of reasons).
Do I HAVE to do to a Clerk’s office to find criminal records?
The answer to this is yes and no. Since 1999 many (but not all) records are kept on an internet-based system called Public Access to Court Electronic Records (“PACER”)
This is what https://www.uscourts.gov says about PACER:
However, as you can see, this is only useful if you know the specific court the case was filed in. As the picture shows, you can also do a nationwide search for a specific federal court case, but this relies on the case being federal and not state.
Can I still access criminal records are sealed?
Public records, including criminal records, and arrest records can sometimes be sealed, for a plethora of reasons. This means that they are effectively private records and can not be accessed by anyone, or certainly only by people with privileged access.
Records that are past a certain date can also be Expunging, meaning effectively deleted from history. However, as this article on slate.com points out, this is very difficult to do in the age of Google.
How else can I find criminal background reports and information?
Of course, it’s perfectly possible to use your own time and resources to at least run some introductory research without resorting to having to visit courts to check out court records.
Here are a number of ideas and suggestions on finding people for free:
- Google the following term “Persons Name” + conviction (or similar – arrest, trial, drugs, theft, etc)
- Search news archives. The local newspaper will almost always send a reporter for a case if it’s even of modest importance, and all of this information is free online.
- Run your own background check on social media (people lack a huge amount of caution in what they post).
This seems very complicated. Is there an easier way in which background screening can be done?
The answer here is yes, there certainly is.
Whether you are looking to check potential employees for your small business, or want to know the criminal history of your child’s nanny, there are now quite a number of people-finder websites that offer basic, through to extremely comprehensive background checks. We are one of the leading companies in this area and have been established for over 20 years.
Why should I Pay for a Criminal Check when I could do it myself for free?
This is not an unfair question. However, when you consider what you might gain for free in terms of money, you certainly will not in terms of time. Running a free criminal check, especially if you want to be thorough.
This is the sort of work that used to be undertaken by a private investigator before it moved to the online world. To conduct your own free check takes meticulous planning and times and requires you to access numerous sources.
For the cost of a trip to McDonalds, you can access highly specialized records yourself.
What is the advantage of a People Finders site like usatrace.com?
The advantages are many:
Firstly, the record information is of the highest quality. They are after-all public records.
Secondly, the data is compiled for you in an easy to use, highly readable format.
Thirdly, you get to check that you have the right person before you make any purchases. Have a look at this example where we’ve searched using a very generic name of “Roger Rogers” in the state of Connecticut.
This search generated 8 results for this query, and from the age, places they’ve lived, relatives, and phone/email information it is quite easy to see if you have the right person or not.
Remember – to get to this stage is FREE. You don’t even have to enter your name or email, let alone a credit card.
Once you know you’ve got the right person, you can then click See Full Profile to proceed with a search (which takes less than 2 minutes).Run A Search Now
Through our partnership with PeopleFinders.com, you'll receive Industry-Leading data by combining over 43 Billion Verified Public Records giving you the most comprehensive Background, Criminal, People, Marriage and Divorce Checks available Online. We receive income from our partnerships.
In the realm of information, the internet has provided countless free resources. Consequently, this gives people searching for criminal background checks reason for optimism. After all – criminal records are typically considered public records and, therefore, available for anyone to view.
Free Checks Are Not Easy and Don’t give you full information
The reality is that – while some criminal background check information is free, and a complete criminal background check can be run quick and hassle-free, it’s rare to be able to procure a complete background check for completely free – and certainly not in a hassle-free way. In fact, most times it wouldn’t be practical to even try.
Not All Public Records are online
Public records – while, indeed, public – are not always readily available. Many counties and local governments do not put all their criminal records online and even those that do often don’t make them easily searchable (i.e. by name). You often have to have a case number or other very specific information to access the records that may be of interest to you. Criminal records are also not usually indexed by Google, Bing or other search engines, so there’s no easy workaround to search what are often user-unfriendly county record systems.
Where do you start your search?
Compounding this is the fact that you’d have to know the exact local government courthouses and counties to search. If a person has lived in one town their whole life, you might be able to make some reasonable guesses, but you can’t be sure there isn’t a record in another courthouse – maybe in a completely different state. Especially for instances where the records aren’t available online, searching even neighboring counties usually make this kind of research impractical (and incomplete).
In addition, the fact that records are public doesn’t mean that a free criminal background check is available, even if they’re posted online. It wouldn’t be unusual to be charged $10-20 per record – and there might be additional fees for “research” if you go to a courthouse in person.
Fortunately, there are public record companies that have already done the legwork and paid the fees for you. They’ve compiled criminal records and completed thorough crime checks – and all other public records – from every county and courthouse in the US and matched it to each person associated with them. As a result, by simply entering a name and last known city and state (or even just the state), you can get results in just seconds.
A Professional Check is Packed with Information
The best part is that the cost of a comprehensive criminal background check/criminal record report – which will also include marriage/divorce records, address history, current & past phone numbers and more – comes at a cost less than what you’d likely pay for a single record from a single courthouse (about $10). It’s not free, but it’s most definitely hassle-free and comprehensive – and that makes it a bargain.
- How can I get a criminal background check free?
- Background Check by Phone Number
- How to Search Criminal Records for Free
Ron is the lead writer for USATrace.com. Ron has over 40 years of experience both as a private investigator and attorney. He brings excellent value to the site with his insite on public records and the changing demographics of people search on the internet. You can contact Ron via email@example.com.