How to Do a Free Police Criminal Records Search

Perhaps you want to do a criminal records check on yourself, or maybe you want to conduct one on someone else. As part of this process, you might be wondering what sorts of things are part of someone’s criminal record and where you can access these reports. One of the most important reasons to check your own background is to ensure that all the information is correct, and there aren’t any dark marks on your history that don’t belong there.

What Is a Criminal Records Check?

Criminal records checks are typically comprised of data mined from a variety of sources, such as state criminal record repositories, departments of corrections and criminal county courts. A national search might yield additional results. If you are searching in a specific area, you might only get results for that local area.

Depending on the jurisdiction where criminal records are housed, you may find information that dates back for a limited period of time. For instance, five states can only report convictions back seven years from the disposition date, while Hawaii, on the other hand, can report convictions back 10 years based on the disposition date.

Free Police Criminal Records

Certain information should be returned in a quality criminal history report, including name, Social Security number, felony and misdemeanor convictions, pending criminal cases and any history of incarceration as an adult. Some reports may also include arrests pending prosecution, while others might include arrests that did not lead to a conviction. Again, this depends on the jurisdiction and the nature of the crime. These searches won’t allow you to view juvenile conviction and detention records, which are typically locked by the court system.

Obtaining a Report Online

Maybe it sounds a bit obvious, but the easiest place to start when looking for free police criminal records is the internet. To do this, type the person’s name in your search bar; using quotation marks will return the best results. This is especially useful if the person’s name happens to be one that’s unique and isn't likely to turn up too many results. Your search may yield paid criminal records search options, which you can select.

You can search for the person on various social media networks for free. Personal information is often available publicly. You can also do a reverse image search on Google if you have a photo of the person (perhaps one that you acquired through their social media pages) to see what you can learn about them. This could yield specific results, since there’s only one person with that face.

You may also wish to look at the sex offender registry, which will supply a photo, name and address of the person. If you don’t think that the person you’re searching for would appear in a sex offender registry, you can try the White Pages online to see if your party of interest is listed.

Legitimacy of Reports

Every criminal background report is an aggregate of different databases, and none of them are fully inclusive of all possible results. Reports can easily become inaccurate if they are continually being updated with new information. In addition, human error plays a tremendous role, as courts, police stations and the DMV rely on workers to input criminal records information. A criminal records search for free is not always as reliable as a paid version.

For employers using online resources to look up background reports, there are also legal constraints surrounding the use of these reports. Consulting a certified background check provider is a wise decision. Due both to laws protecting workers and the potential failures of background check reports, it’s important to take a comprehensive look at the applicant when hiring an employee.

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About the Author

Danielle Smyth is a writer and content marketer from upstate New York. She holds a Master of Science in Publishing from Pace University. Her experience includes years of work in the insurance, workers compensation, disability, and background investigation fields. In addition to being the content writer and social media manager for Alliance Worldwide Investigative Group, she has written on legal topics for a number of other clients. She owns her own content marketing agency, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing (www.wordsmythcontent.com), and she enjoys writing legal articles and blogs for clients in related industries.