How to Access Free Arrest Records

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In the digital age, you can perform anonymous, free criminal record checks, including arrest records, on almost anyone online. You can access arrest records through municipal, state and federal court databases as well as state sex offender registries and federal and state inmate locator tools.

There are many different reasons why an individual might want to see another’s arrest record, such as to determine whether to pursue a relationship with that individual or screening her as a potential tenant. If you're considering conducting an arrest record search on someone, take the time to educate yourself about how conducting such a search could potentially violate anti-discrimination laws. Arrests are public record, and anyone has the right to access these records, but conducting an arrest record search on certain job applicants or prospective tenants, such as choosing to screen only male or nonwhite applicants, might be deemed a form of discrimination and subject the searcher to legal action.

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

Keep in mind that an individual can have certain arrests expunged from her record, which means they won't show up in public record searches.

Gather All Relevant Information

To conduct a free arrest search, you need to provide some basic information about the individual whose record you are searching for. The more information you have about him, the greater likelihood you have of successfully finding information about his previous arrests. Information to gather for accessing arrest records includes:

  • Individual’s name
  • Known alias or legal names used previously
  • Individual’s date of birth
  • Individual’s current and known former addresses

Additional information that can help you conduct a free arrest search include:

  • Date and location of the incident
  • Case number for the incident
  • The charge the individual faced following arrest, if she was, in fact, charged
  • Physically identifying information about the individual like height, weight, race and tattoos

Determine Where to Access Arrest Records

Conducting a free arrest search for an individual whose criminal background you are unsure of is a fairly different process from searching for free arrest information about an individual whom you know has been arrested. Additionally, if the individual was convicted of the offense for which he was arrested, you can use information about his conviction and resulting sentence to find free arrest information about him.

You can access arrest records through municipal, state and federal court databases. If you know or suspect that the individual for whom you are seeking free arrest information was arrested in a specific city, or that her case was handled by a specific county’s superior court, you can search for information about the arrest and case in the relevant court database. The information you collect about an individual’s current or past residence from an online record search can direct you toward a specific court database to search.

You can also use online inmate locators to find information about an individual’s arrest, conviction and sentence. This type of search can be performed for an individual who you know is currently incarcerated or an individual who you know or suspect was incarcerated in the past. These databases can also be used to locate information about an individual’s alleged immigration violation.

Use Free Online Resources

Arrest records are publicly available information. Under the Freedom of Information Act of 1967 and the Privacy Act of 1974, private citizens are permitted to access arrest records and other court information, like the details of a specific court case, as long as the information provided does not compromise the search subject’s privacy. Today, searching for arrest records is easy and can be done for free with the help of online resources like:

  • Searchsystems.net
  • Staterecords.com
  • Publicrecords.org

Under a section of the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act of 1964, commonly known as Megan’s Law, individuals convicted of certain sex crimes are required to register with their state's sex offender database. Today, all state sex offender registries and the federal sex offender registry are available online for anyone to access for free. If you know or suspect that the subject of your arrest record search was convicted of a sex crime, search your state’s sex offender registry to see if he is registered.

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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.