How to Look Up Records on Convicted Felons

By Colleen Collins - Updated April 05, 2017
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Details about felony convictions are found in court records. Most records can be obtained in person, at a courthouse, or via mail. There are a variety of reasons why someone might want to look up a convict's felony record. For example, an employer might want to know more details about a job applicant's felony conviction, such as the severity of the crime and if the applicant lost any legal or personal privileges. Although some courts offer online record orders, those records are typically summaries of cases.

Find the Appropriate Court

The records are in the jurisdiction where the case was tried or where the plea of guilty was entered. For non-federal cases, it is the county courthouse that processed the case and heard the felony plea; for federal cases, it is the federal court for that jurisdiction. The National Association of Counties offers county court lookups, and the United States Courts offers federal court lookups, both of which include courthouse addresses and contact information.

Order Files From the Courthouse

Request the files by the convicted felon's first and last names from the court clerk. Or contact the court and request their procedures for ordering records by mail. Expect to pay search and copying fees; if you request documents to be mailed, there will also be mailing fees.

Check the National Offender Registry

If the felon is a registered sex offender, but you are unsure which jurisdiction maintains the conviction records, look up the person's name in the U.S. Department of Justice Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, which often identifies the jurisdiction where felony convictions were entered. Contact that court and order the records.

Hire a Private Investigator

If you are experiencing difficulty locating records for a convicted felon, consider hiring a private investigator with experience in court record searches. Contact your state private investigator association and request recommendations for qualified investigators. Professional Investigator Magazine lists all state investigator associations, including links to their association websites.

Visit PACER

The Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) website allows the public to search electronic case files via a website. You must open an account to use PACER, and in some cases you may need to pay a fee to view or download documents. You can use the site to look up appellate, district and bankruptcy court case and docket information.

About the Author

In 1997 Harlequin published Colleen Collins' first novel, followed by many more by Harlequin and Dorchester. Her articles and writing have appeared in "P.I. Magazine," "Pursuit Magazine" and "Cosmopolitan." She earned a B.A. in theater arts from University of California, Santa Barbara and is an active member of Mystery Writers of America.

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