To get a record of prosecution, or "rap" sheet, you need to access the person's criminal records through state or local government. You can usually do this online, by mail, or in person at the relevant agency. Each jurisdiction handles the process differently. In one state you may need to contact the state for state records and local law enforcement for things such as traffic tickets. The FBI only allows citizens to search for their own records using a fingerprint and does not provide rap sheets as a service to the general public.
Contact the Government
Contact the state or local government agency where the person lives or once lived. Different states have different names for the offices that handle criminal background checks. Some examples are the law enforcement division or bureau, the judicial division, or the bureau of records.
How you go about this will vary from state to state. You may have to go in person to make your request. You may have to make it in writing. You may be able to make a request by phone. Generally through, you should expect to have to pay a visit to your local police department or courthouse. Not everyone can access every piece of information held about a perpetrator or a suspect, and you may have to provide some detailed information about who you are and why you need the information, as well as some photo ID.
Your state may have an online database you can access. If you are searching online, make sure you are at the actual state website, not a third-party background check site. A state’s URL will contain the abbreviation for the state followed by a dot and the abbreviation for the United States. For example, “.il.us” is Illinois and “.ca.us” is for California.
Provide Detailed Information
Provide the information necessary for the criminal search. You should have the person’s full, legal name and at least one known address for the person. It will help to have a date range for when the person may have had a rap sheet. Any official data like a driver’s license number, date of birth or social security number can help.
Pay the Fee
Pay the necessary fee. Costs will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some states will take a credit card over the Internet to process your criminal background check. Some states may require you to come to the make a copy of the record yourself using their copier. Be aware that, although crimes committed across state lines hit the FBI database, they may not be on state rap sheets. If you are searching on a person who may have a rap sheet in different states, you may have to perform the same process, and pay the fee, in multiple states, since state and county-level searches will only include offenses committed and prosecuted in those jurisdictions.
Things to Watch Out For
If someone is arrested or convicted of a crime, then the conviction or police action becomes a matter of public record. Anyone can get hold of the record unless a judge has "sealed" the file. This might happen if the crime was the defendant's first offense or if he was a minor at the time the crime was committed. So, bear in mind that you may not be seeing the person's full history. If someone's record has been sealed, then she may answer "no" when asked if she has ever committed a crime.
- Although crimes committed across state lines hit the FBI database, they may not be on state rap sheets. If you are searching on a person who may have a rap sheet in different states, you may have to perform the same process in multiple states.
- Law requires that noncriminal information be expunged from a person's record. This means that unproven allegations will not appear on a record.
- If you are searching online, make sure you are at the actual state website, not a third-party background check site. A state's URL will contain the abbreviation for the state followed by a dot and the abbreviation for the United States. For example, ".il.us" is Illinois and ".ca.us" is for California.