A criminal background check is a type of public record which lists all criminal convictions an individual has. You might want to see whether or not someone has a criminal record, for example, if you're considering taking on a new roommate but don't know him personally. To obtain a background check, consult your state's Department of Public Safety website and have as much information about the person as you can. If no record appears when you input a person's full, legal name, it means that she hasn't committed any criminal offenses--or if she has, the court didn't find her guilty.
Obtain as much information about the person as you can. Get his full name (first, middle, last), date of birth and any other names he's used. Be straightforward and honest about your intentions to conduct the check. As a criminal background report is a public record, you are within legal rights to do this.
Visit your state's Department of Public Safety (or equivalent) website. You can locate the URL by performing a Google or Yahoo! search using the terms "(State name) Criminal Background Check." Navigate to the site's "Records" section and then "Criminal Records," which will include an option about how to perform the search online if you can.
Follow the instructions specific to your state. In Texas, for example, you'll need to register to use the service (free), after which you can find an individual's criminal background report by typing in her full name and date of birth. Arizona, on the other hand, doesn't currently have an online search option--you must call the Department of Public Safety to make your background check request.
Complete multiple searches (if you're able to search in the first place) if your first one comes up blank. For example, a criminal background record might lack a middle initial or name if the state's typist made an error. Additionally, if the person provided you with a pseudonym, you might find the record by searching using it. Always check your search terms for errors.
Contact your state's Department of Public Safety if you feel you need further confirmation. If multiple searches for a person come up blank, however, chances are good that he doesn't have a criminal background.
- Do not pay to use a service other than your state's Department of Public Safety. Some private services charge for perform criminal background checks but, typically, they have no more information than is available for free on the state's public website.
- In some states, an entity other than the Department of Public Safety deals with criminal background reports and other public records. In New Jersey, for example, it is the New Jersey State Police. The New York Department of Criminal Justice, on the other hand, performs background checks within that state. As a guideline, you should visit the first state-operated website that comes up when you perform your search in Step 2.
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