How to Do a Free Criminal Background Check

In most cases, an individual’s arrest and conviction record is publicly available. This information can be found in county, state and national court databases, though combing through these databases to conduct a criminal background check can be time-consuming. A person searching for someone's criminal past can pay an online service to conduct a background check or she can conduct a free comprehensive background check using online resources. This option can be challenging and tedious, but it is available to anybody who wants to conduct an arrest background check free.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Check your state and local laws before performing a criminal background check on someone without their permission. Some states may require written permission from the individual on whom you want to do a background check before you legally can do so.

Gather the Necessary Information

To conduct an arrest background check for free, you'll need to have some basic information about the person, including:

  • Name and all variations, such as nicknames.
  • Known aliases and previous names.
  • Current address.
  • All previous known addresses.
  • Driver’s license number.
  • Age and date of birth. 

Other information that can be helpful includes occupation, height and weight, race, tattoos and other physically identifying information, as well as known relatives. Sometimes, having a relative’s name can lead the individual conducting a criminal free background check to information about the person of interest, particularly if she is using genealogy websites as part of the search.

Sometimes, an individual conducts a criminal background check with little or no knowledge of the subject’s past. In other cases, it is to uncover important information about a known offense. A searcher in this category can often easily find information about an individual’s criminal past by using information such as the case number for the offense, the date of the offense, the charge the individual faced and a description of the offense.

Know Where to Look

If you know – or have some idea – of whether your search subject’s criminal history includes federal, state or local offenses, you can use this information to narrow your search to the appropriate database for a criminal free background check. The information you gather from a larger online search can direct you toward the right state or municipal database.

Use Online Resources

There are lots of websites you can use to conduct a free comprehensive background check including:

  • Staterecords.org.
  • Publicrecords.com.

With some of these websites, only basic information is available for free. Access to additional information can be purchased, typically with criminal information costing an additional $10 to $50. To conduct a completely free comprehensive background check, the searcher can search municipal and state court records. Conducting this type of arrest background check will yield all publicly available arrest and conviction information, but it will not show arrests that have been expunged or convictions that have been sealed.

If you know or suspect that the subject of your search is a sex offender, you can search for him on your state’s sex offender registry or at the National Sex Offender Public Website.

Support Your Search

The more information you have about the person on whom you are conducting the criminal free background check, the more effective your search will be. If you are missing key information about the individual, like a current address or other names she has gone by in the past, social media is a great tool for finding this type of information. Even knowing her current city of residence can get you closer to learning her current address; by knowing her city, you know which public residential records to search.

Additionally, local news sources can also be helpful resources for finding information about an incident and the individual’s ensuing trial. Search online databases for local newspapers and online news outlets to find details about criminal incidents like the dates on which they occurred, the locations where they occurred and details about the people believed to be involved.

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About the Author

Lindsay Kramer is a freelance writer and editor who has been working in the legal niche since 2012. Her primary focus areas within this niche are family law and personal injury law. Lindsay works closely with a few legal marketing agencies, providing blog posts, website content and marketing materials to law firms across the United States.