How to Access Free Arrest Records

By Rachel Miller
You can access most public records online.
Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

Ever since President Lyndon B. Johnson singed the Freedom of Information Act in 1966, government-collected information in the United States has been available to the public. This major legislation was followed by the Privacy Act of 1974, which made it acceptable for individually identifiable information to be released provided it does not breach an individual's privacy. In the digital age, you can perform free criminal record checks, including arrest records, on almost anyone.

Gather as much information as you can about the person whose arrest records you want to find. The information includes his full name, state of residence, zip code and date of birth. Not all of these details are required, but the search is easier if you have that information.

Access the People Search portion of the SearchSystems.net website, which is linked in the Resources section. It is a nationwide directory, and for free you can search its more than 55,000 public record databases containing billions of records.

Select how you would like to search for records in the Free Public Records Locator section. You can search by type of record, zip code, country and state, state, city and state or international. Because you want criminal records in particular, click on the "Type of Record" drop-down box. In the menu of options that appears, select "Criminal Records." A new page will appear.

Scroll down on the page to the Categories section, and select "Nationwide United States Criminal Records." A different page will appear.

Scroll down the page to view the Featured Links and Links sections. The sections list various websites. Find the website most appropriate to conduct your criminal history search according to the information you have. If, for example, you conduct a broad search on criminal offenders, then the "Inmates & Criminal Offenders in the United States" website link is best. If you search for a specific record, such as sex offenses, then the "Sex Offenders Nationwide" link is the one to use. Read the summary of each website to ensure you have all the information necessary to conduct the search. For example, the "Inmates & Criminal Offenders in the United States" link searches records by state and country. The database includes clearly marked "pay sites" that offer the service at a price; so also avoid those website links.

Click on a link in the Featured Links section or the Links section. When you reach your chosen search engine, you will be asked to enter the specific details of the person whose records you seek. Details primarily include state of residence, full name, date of birth or age range and offense type. Enter as many details as you can, and click on "Search."

About the Author

Rachel Miller is an online and print journalist, copywriter and editor with more than five years of experience. She has written content for numerous online and print publications, including Sony Music Australia's website, bandit.fm and "Paws" magazine, a publication of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. Miller holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Queensland in Australia.