Criminal History Checks

Criminal History Checks in the United States

Criminal Background Checks

A criminal conviction is a public record yet — unless you have FBI clearance — there is no comprehensive search available to find out if a person has been convicted for committing a crime anywhere in the U.S. Instead, you can search the available online sources and hire services to check the records of other courts where an individual lived.

Some online sources to consider:

  • A Federal docket sheet search. Use the PACER Case Locator or a Pacer-derivative database (see “Docket Sheets”) to find criminal convictions from the U.S. District Courts.
  • CriminalSearches claims to search the criminal records of all 50 states in the U.S. plus the District of Columbia.
  • Other free and low-cost internet sites. Many state and/or county conviction and/or incarceration records are available over the Internet. You can find links to most of these sites through and/or BRB Publications.
  • The National Sex Offender Registry. Also the relevant state sex offender registries.
  • A commercial database search. TLO, Accurint, TLO, FindOutTheTruth, Rapsheets,Lexis (FINDER;CRIMNL) and Westlaw (CRIM-ALL), have state-wide criminal history records for most states as well as inmate records for a few and criminal court records for a few more.

If you are looking for the police report for a particular incident (especially auto accidents), sells them for many states. For more, see the Criminal Law entry on the legal Encyclopedia.

Note: If you need a service to check courthouse records, Lynn Peterson has recommended Accurate Background, although there are many other good services around the country too.


See Also

Crime Statistics
Criminal Law
Docket Sheets
Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Further Reading

Criminal History Checks: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Criminal History Checks. This part provides references, in relation to Criminal History Checks, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Criminal History Checks by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Criminal History Checks and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Criminal History Checks or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Criminal History Checks and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Criminal History Checks. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Criminal History Checks should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Criminal History Checks when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

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