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How to find criminal records online

In this article, we are going to guide you through the process of finding criminal records online.

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According to the FBI, the number of people with a criminal record in the United States is as high as 73.5 million (in 2017). That means that about 1 in every 3 adults has a criminal history record. Although it is nice to trust that people are fundamentally good, in certain situations, it might be advisable to go on the safe side and make a background investigation as a preventive measure to protect yourself and your family.

Whether you are about to have the first romantic date with a prospective partner that you met online or you want to make sure you know the people living next to you can be trusted, doing a background check can avoid a dangerous situation. 

In this article, we are going to guide you through the process of finding criminal records online. We start with the basic definitions of what a criminal history record is so you know what you can expect to find. For someone that is not familiar with the legal terminology, some concepts might be somewhat confusing, this is why we created this guide to clarify any doubts.

After giving you the basic information, we will guide you through the process of finding someone’s criminal record. Since this might be very sensitive information, we will also tell you how you are allowed to use this information and what is forbidden.

What Is a Criminal History Record?

Let’s start with the basics: Is it legal for anyone to do a background investigation and obtain information about the criminal history record of someone else? The answer is yes. In the United States, if someone is convicted of a crime, this act is considered a public act.

This means that anyone can go to the clerk’s office of a court and make the request to see the records of conviction of a certain crime. The convictions are therefore gathered in public records and federal criminal databases. 

A criminal record (or rap sheet) is the summary of all the records that a person has in terms of felony or misdemeanor charges and the eventual convictions that succeeded from these charges.

The resulting penalties that might result from these convictions (like prison time, parole or probation) are also considered to be part of a criminal record. 

  • Arrest Records – the record that is created any time someone is arrested due to a perceived criminal action.
  • Arrest Warrants – the document that a judge signs that allows the police to make an arrest.
  • Misdemeanor Offenses – minor crimes, they tend to be punishable with fines or a maximum sentence of one year in prison.
  • Felonies – serious crimes, they are usually punished with longer prison sentences (minimum one year) and large fines, they are divided into violent or non-violent circumstances
  • Sex Offenses – anyone that was convicted for a sex offense is added to a special federal criminal database that is coordinated across all US states, the objective is to always have the latest information on the location of sexual offenders (even after they completed their sentences).
  • Traffic Violations – just serious violations are included in these records.
  • Conviction Records – a detailed description of the terms of the conviction of a misdemeanor or a felony act.
  • Inmate Records – detail information about the time in jail that is served as punishment for a crime. 
  • Parole Information – information about the conditions that the state boards of pardons and paroles has established for the release of an inmate.

There is an important case in which a criminal conviction will not appear in someone’s criminal record history. This happens when a judge seals or expunges a conviction.

This act allows the offender to legally say he has never committed a crime. The conditions for sealing a crime conviction vary from case to case.

But in general, it just granted to minor crimes, when it is the first time that a person transgresses the law, after having finished serving the sentence and after some time of proving that there is no recidivism. 

How Can You Conduct a Background Investigation – Find Someone’s Criminal Record Online 

As explained in the last part, anyone is entitled to go to a court clerk’s office and ask for criminal records history. It is also possible to do this search online. The National Center for State Courts has a list of all the courts’ webpages at the state level.

You can go to the webpage of each state that is relevant, each state that the individual has lived in, and search for their criminal record history.

After doing this, you might want to make your research more specific and search for misdemeanor convictions in all cities or counties where the individual has lived. This method of doing background investigation is free of charge.

There is a big downside of conducting a federal background check on your own. It presupposes that you already have a lot of information about the individual.

In particular, to find the information, you need to know all the cities, counties and states someone has lived in. If someone has something to hide, it is quite possible that they will not be honest about this information in the first place. 

Luckily, Nuwber has developed a system that uses state-of-the-art technology to enable thorough background checks. The system can collect information from a multiplicity of public records, federal criminal databases and publicly available information of a given person.

This means that, even though a person might have changed its location several times, Nuwber’s background check will give you all the existing criminal records that a person has (and even more information).

If our system does not find any criminal history record, the given report will be able to tell you that there is no history for this person.  

Nuwber, in the paid subscription option, provides a detailed background search that includes:

  • List of all registered marriages and divorces
  • Properties listed with this name
  • Declarations of bankruptcy 
  • Liens
  • Evictions from any property
  • Foreclosure
  • Records of businesses listed at with this name
  • Workplace

Doing a federal background check and getting the criminal history of any person in the United States is legal, however, the way you use this information is restricted.

In particular, it is strictly forbidden to use the result of a background investigation to decide whether to hire someone or take him as a tenant. In these cases, you need to go to a Fair Credit Reporting Action (FCRA) compliant background check provider. 

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Chris has been blogging since the early days of the internet. He primarily focuses on topics related to tech, business, marketing, and pretty much anything else that revolves around tech. When he's not writing, you can find him noodling around on a guitar or cooking up a mean storm for friends and family.

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