How to find out if someone has a criminal record
Your criminal history may be important to others, particularly potential employers or landlords. That’s why you may wish to know what information shows up on your criminal record, and how easily accessible your criminal record is.
What information can you find in a criminal record?
Employers and landlords often conduct background checks to ensure that applicants are qualified. People who conduct background checks are often concerned about an applicant’s criminal record. What shows up on someone’s criminal record varies widely depending on the court, police department, or other agency. In general, criminal records could include information about:
- Pending criminal charges
- Criminal convictions for felonies and misdemeanors
- Length of sentence received for criminal convictions
- Probation and other alternative sentencing information
- Traffic tickets and civil infractions.
Who can access criminal records?
Some criminal history information is available to the public. However, the public cannot always access information that will show up on a background check. For instance, court and police records may be public record, but information about marriages and divorces may not. In general, employers or landlords need your consent to do a background check. You may also check your own criminal records, which you can usually do online.
How accurate are online criminal records checks?
Online criminal record checks are not always accurate.Because many searches are done by name and birthdate, it is possible that the subject of a criminal records search will be mistaken for someone else. On rare occasions, even though courts work diligently to eliminate criminal records, expunged or sealed records could show up on an online search.
How much does it cost to see someone’s criminal record?
You can often obtain court and police records by contacting the agencies directly, or by filing a formal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or state-equivalent request. Some agencies do not charge for providing copies of criminal records, and others may charge a fee per page.
You can often conduct background checks online through consumer reporting agencies. These agencies may charge anywhere between $30-$100 for a background check, depending on how comprehensive the search.
If you're concerned about what might show up on your criminal record, you may be eligible for expungement.