Criminal background checks are not the same as criminal records. A background check can include identity verification, a credit check, employment verification, information found in public records, and driving history. However, it doesn’t necessarily include all of these. In addition, credit checks are optional and performed only when relevant. The same goes for driver’s license checks.

Criminal records are available for access on the sites of the National Archives Court Records and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), as well as through screening services. All in all, finding criminal records online is not challenging by any means.

Defining a Criminal Record

Criminal records cover violations, misdemeanors, felonies, or other crimes someone may have committed. In addition, they include information about arrests, as well as the circumstances surrounding them. Using a criminal record check, you can find out whether someone has been convicted and what sentence they received: a prison term, parole, or something else.

Finding Information in State Records

To get started with a criminal background check, you can type in the name of your state, along with the keywords “criminal history records” into a search engine. In the list of results, you should look for records held by a state court or a state agency. However, it is important to take information on private company sites with a grain of salt – it’s not always current or accurate.

Arrest Records

An arrest record or report is the part of the record detailing someone’s apprehension. City and state police have records of every arrest that has taken place. You can access these at the city, state, county, and municipal level because they are public records. Looking them up is not unlawful, but it’s necessary to specify some details. Let’s say you’re running an employment background check. You might find that your candidate has been arrested, but the arrest didn’t result in a conviction, and/or the crime wasn’t related to the job you’re hiring for. In this case, you can’t hold this information against them. Otherwise, they can take legal action against you.

To look for an arrest report, you can check the site of the court with jurisdiction in the area where the person was arrested. Alternatively, you can also check with the sheriff’s department in that area. These are both good places to start.

Getting Help

Census data, property information, and court rulings are public records and free to access. For other information, you will need help from a state agency or a third-party website. They can help you find probation information if you’re looking for it. Your subject may have been given probation instead of or concurrently with a sentence. Their release is possible under certain conditions, such as paying a fine, taking an educational course, reporting to a parole officer, or performing community service.

On the Federal Courts’ website, click on the “Location” button to get in touch with the probation department. Under “advanced search,” you can type in the person’s city and click on the “Probation Officer” link.

Typically, state pardon boards store parole information. Convicted offenders are sometimes eligible for parole. In some cases, the board orders compulsory and discretionary supervision. The board will set the release terms if parole is granted. Parole boards often apply specific guidelines to determine whether someone poses a risk to the public. If it has been determined otherwise, the person is released. However, the parole board can revoke parole upon violating its terms. All of this information becomes available if you choose a trusted screening service provider.

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