It used to be that you needed to go to a civic department in your county or state to be able to do a background check on a company or an individual. If you do not want to do all that leg work, you pay a private detective to do the digging into information for you. It could be cheap or expensively packaged depending on the amount of information you want.
The advent of the Internet made things a lot easier. Government websites were put up and personal records of individuals slowly became available, gathered and compiled through various means. In fact, there are now several organizations that have made this information availability their business.
- The passing of the Freedom of Information Act makes it easier to search for a person's public records online. You can do a free online search by providing a person's first name initial, a last name and the last known location. You can also use the person's social security number to do your search to get more detailed information. But since not everyone has access to someone's social security number, then the former is your best option.
- To do a more comprehensive background check, particularly for possible police records, you have to search different government websites to view a person's court records online. An arrest without conviction will not show up in the public records. For you to be able to get a criminal record for a specific state you need to send a request form, pay a fee and wait for them to email you their records.
- You can check with any state government website that allows a free search. The result though usually is basic information only. The information you will get will be local. For a detailed report (the person's criminal history) you still need to pay their prescribed administrative fees, pay per copy of the report or pay a fee to be able to search the public records database, which includes all 50 states.
- There are businesses engaged in keeping databases of these public records and making them available online for public access. Basic search (name, general location and possibly relatives) are free. But to have a comprehensive report, you have to pay for a premium account before your report can be generated. The report will be available to you instantly. Police/criminal records only provide an adult's history. Juvenile records are sealed.
- Deal only with reputable providers as they maintain their business integrity by providing you with information gathered from the right sources.
- There is a new website that is still in beta format called CriminalSearches.com. With just a little information such as an individual's first and last name, you can look up criminal records that can be limited to a particular state or encompass all states. The resulting data sheet is very legible with helpful legends for offenses such as behavioral, business, sex-related, drug and alcohol, violent, theft and robbery and traffic/other.
The site also provides neighborhood watch, sex offender finder, criminal alerts and criminal statistics (data percentage on criminal offenses by category, ethnicity, gender and age).
Your reason for looking at someone's police record is to ensure your safety and that of your family, your business or organization, your properties and finances. There are sites that offer free downloads of detective software that are supposed to help you search for databases. Treat everything with caution. Do not use a police record check to harass, intimidate, blackmail or defame someone. The records may be readily available for as little as $20, but do not abuse it.