How to Find My Criminal Charges

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Criminal charges can be accessed through the online database of the court in which the case was heard. An individual can also learn her criminal charges from the clerk of court, the court's library or a public terminal at the court. She may also be able to call or email the clerk of court.

An individual can view her criminal charges online by searching the database of past and present criminal cases on her county’s website. Sometimes a database will cover an entire state rather than a county. The individual can search using her name, driver’s license number, date of birth, case filing date and case number. She can view criminal charges in federal court using the Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER tool.

Where to Get Copies of Criminal Charges

An individual can request copies of her criminal charges at the clerk of court’s office. An individual can also go to the court in which the charges were filed and look up criminal charges using the court’s library or its public terminals. She can print documents showing the charges. The court’s library may be in the civil courthouse rather than the criminal courthouse.

Usually, an individual can also call her local criminal court to hear her charges. Depending on the court’s rules, she may be able to email a request for her criminal charges to the criminal clerk of court .

Why Police Records Are Not Complete

An individual can visit his local police or sheriff’s station to request a copy of his arrest and conviction records. These records may not contain all of the information about his criminal charges. For example, sometimes a prosecutor will add a criminal charge late in a case, and the individual will be acquitted of the charge. The acquittal may not show up in his arrest or conviction record.

What Criminal Charges Can’t Be Found

An individual will be unable to view expunged or sealed criminal charges in an online search. She may be unable to view pardoned criminal charges as well. She will not be able to view records of juvenile charges. Juvenile charges are usually brought in family court, a division of civil court. Juvenile charges are considered delinquencies rather than crimes, and juvenile records are protected information. An individual or her attorney can request copies of expunged, pardoned and juvenile charges from the court that adjudicated the case.

Criminal Charges Are Not a Criminal Record

Criminal charges in one court are a small piece of an individual’s criminal history, also known as a criminal record. An individual’s criminal history can span many counties, states and even countries. In order to get a copy of a criminal history, an individual should contact the department of justice in his state.

Depending on the state’s rules, he may need to submit fingerprint images. He may also need to pay a processing fee or apply for a fee waiver. Third parties are usually prohibited from getting a copy of an individual’s criminal history. There are exceptions for federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and law enforcement agencies, such as a sheriff’s office, as well as certain employers.

Commercial Databases Are Often Inaccurate

An individual should not use a commercial database to search for criminal charges because such databases may be incomplete or erroneous. They often produce reports that contain records of people with slight name variations or different Social Security numbers. Sometimes such reports do not go back far enough in time or are outdated. For example, an individual may have had certain criminal charges expunged from her record, but an outdated report will continue to show the charges.

Reasons to Check Criminal Charges

An individual should review his criminal charges to make sure the court’s records are complete and accurate. He can provide proof of why the records should be changed using documents he received during a court proceeding, such as a trial, or obtains from his attorney.

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About the Author

Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.