Probation is an alternative to incarceration that makes it possible for an individual convicted of a crime to remain in his community where he can continue to work and/or attend school while completing his sentence. Probation records, like arrest records, incarceration records and parole records, are publicly available for anybody to view for free. Public probation records can be found through the courts and often are published online.
Provide Identifying Information
The more information you have about the individual in question, the greater the likelihood that your probation search will turn up the information you're looking for, including:
- The probationer’s legal name.
- The court case number.
- The inmate number if incarceration was part of the sentence.
If you don't know which public probation records to search to get information about the person in question, you'll first have to determine the court that handled the case. You can do this through a general internet search, a social media search or by using an online court database tool. In cases like this, the more information you have about the individual, the easier it will be to narrow down your search to locate the correct court database. Helpful information includes:
- Previous names and aliases the individual used.
- Current and former addresses.
- Information about the individual’s offense, such as location, the names of other people involved and the nature of the offense.
- The city or state where the incident occurred or where the case was handled.
- Date of birth.
- Names of the police officers, judges or lawyers involved in the case.
Use Online Search Tools
Probation records are available for the public to view and, for many jurisdictions, this information is available to view online. In many cases, the easiest way to conduct a probation search is to search court records for the jurisdiction that handled the case. This could be a county court, a state court or a federal court. The National Institute of Corrections’ probation and parole database can help you find information about a probation case if you know where it was handled.
Nongovernment tools can also be used to comb through public probation records. Some of these tools are free to use, while others charge a fee. These websites include:
Other information you can use to locate probation records through general internet searches includes:
- The nature of the individual’s offense.
- The charge for which she was convicted.
- The release date, if the individual was incarcerated.
Records Might Not Tell the Whole Story
When conducting a probation search, it is important to remember that the probation records might not tell the whole story. It is quite possible for an individual to have been on probation in the past, even if a probation search brings up nothing about him. This is because in many jurisdictions, juvenile criminal records are automatically sealed so they cannot be viewed by the general public.
Additionally, a person convicted of a crime and sentenced to probation may have had his record sealed or expunged, a process that removes from the public record information about a conviction. Whether a conviction is eligible for sealing or expungement depends on a variety of factors, such as the jurisdiction, the nature of the offense and the individual’s criminal status at the time of his petition for sealing or expungement.
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.