How to Search for Free Criminal Records by State

By Rhonda Donaldson
Obtaining criminal records can be done if you have the necessary information.

handcuffs image by William Berry from Fotolia.com

Several agencies exist that allow you to search criminal records free of charge. Some give a limited amount of information, while others report all information that is public record. You can search your own record or anyone else's if you have the proper identifying information required by the reporting agency. Most states offer information regarding the locations of sex offenders with limited information available on the specific offense.

Obtaining Criminal Records

Go to the VineLink website and click on the state you wish to search. Type the name of the person whose records you want to view and the approximate age of the person for whom you are searching. You can view the offense and conviction information free of charge, as well as where the offender is being held, or where and when he was released. You can also register with the site to be notified when there is a change in status regarding a particular case. The Victim Information and Notification Everyday, or VineLink, is a national agency that allows the public to obtain timely and reliable information about criminal cases as well as the custody status of offenders.

Contact a law enforcement agency to request a free copy of your own criminal record through the National Crime Information Center, or NCIC. Be prepared to give your fingerprints and other proof of identity. Your records through NCIC cannot be obtained by anyone other than a law enforcement agency. You may review the information and get a copy when you present appropriate identification.

You have the right under the Freedom of Information Act to access county, state and federal criminal and arrest information in the U.S. Courthouses in the county where the offense occurred and most law libraries are open for research if you have basic information regarding a court case. This can be time consuming. There are also online agencies that will provide you with limited information free of charge.

About the Author

Rhonda Donaldson began writing for a daily newspaper in 1991. She was published by the Associated Press and the National and International Wire, as well as a Texas college alumni magazine. Her work includes writing the history for one of Texas' oldest television stations. Donaldson has won several Associated Press awards and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications.

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