Instead of paying for a full criminal background check, you can search public records for free using online sources. Many websites make it fairly easy to find absolutely free public records, especially when the searcher can provide information like the subject's name, address and case number.
When you want to find out information about an individual’s criminal past, you can search online for background reports free of charge. Most court records are available to the public, which means you have the right to view them where they are available, which could be online or as hard copies at the courthouse.
How to Find Free Background Reports
The more information a searcher can provide about the individual whose criminal record she would like to view, the greater likelihood there is of finding out information about that person. The most valuable information a searcher can use to find free background reports includes:
- Name and any previous names, nicknames or aliases he has used.
- Age and date of birth.
- Current and past addresses.
- Nature of the offense or alleged offense.
Other information that helps the searcher find background reports includes the individual’s height and weight, race and any identifying characteristics about him, like notable tattoos or disfigurement. If you know the individual’s court case number or prisoner identification number, you can usually find information about him and his case easily.
Websites for Free Background Reports
There are many websites where an individual can access absolutely free public records. These websites use keywords like names and locations, and comb through state, federal and county records to find matches. Because these types of websites cast a wide net with their searches, they are often a good place to start a criminal background search. Websites where you can find background reports free include:
Search Public Records
Public records are available for free through court websites and at courthouses. If the searcher knows where the individual was arrested or which court handled his case, she can go directly to that court’s website to find information about a person's criminal past. Finding this information may require a visit to the courthouse to speak with the court clerk to find out how to access court records. Using a service like Crimcheck or Zabasearch helps you narrow down where the individual was arrested or the court where the case was handled.
Accessing Public Records for a Fee
Some websites that offer absolutely free public records also offer additional information for a fee. These fees can be anywhere from $10 to $50, with some websites offering tiered access levels with different prices. The same information that can be accessed for a fee usually can be accessed for free through the court, making the fee more of a convenience charge than a gateway to otherwise-inaccessible information.
Understand the Limits of Free Public Records
Although many court records are available to the public for free, it is important to remember that not all criminal reports are public record. Many eligible individuals choose to have their criminal records sealed or expunged, which removes their records from public databases, making it nearly impossible for private employers and regular citizens to access them. In many states, such as Florida and Montana, most juvenile criminal records are sealed and/or destroyed when the offending minor turns 18.
There are also limits to how the information contained in free background reports may be used. Although an employer may ask a job applicant about her previous arrests and convictions, her criminal past cannot be used as a reason not to hire the individual if the applicant’s history would impact his ability to perform the job. Further, employers may not be discriminatory in their requests for applicants’ criminal histories. In other words, if an employer asks one applicant about his criminal past, the employer must ask the same question of every applicant.
- PhotoObjects.net/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images