Criminal Records Check – How to Check a Criminal Record Online

We live in what’s known as the information age. With sites such as YouTube and Google, we can query practically anything we want at anytime. With so much information floating around online it’s easier than ever to dig into someone’s past to learn more about them. If the person in question has been convicted of a crime at any point in the past you may even unearth a criminal record.

What is a criminal record?

To put it simply, a criminal record is a compilation of an individual’s criminal history. This record often contains information about crimes committed at the local, state, and federal levels.

Besides a person’s criminal history, you’ll also find the following information in their criminal record:

  • Fingerprints
  • Address
  • Photograph
  • Name and known aliases
  • Date of birth

Depending on where a crime was committed and the government agency that created the record, you may also find the following information:

  • Dismissed charges
  • Acquitted charges
  • Past arrests
  • Warrants
  • Current pending charges

Rarely will criminal records include expunged records, a process where you can legally remove certain aspects of your criminal record. If you have expunged your criminal record, you can legally answer “no” when asked if you have been charged with or convicted of a certain crime.

How to use a criminal record

It’s commonplace for agencies, individuals, and organizations to run background checks and subsequently access the criminal record of an individual for a variety of reasons. These include:

  • Property rental
  • The purchase of firearms

Felons are not allowed to purchase or own firearms under federal law. In some cases, a felon can undergo a process where they can have their gun rights restored.

  • Security clearance
  • School admittance

More often than not, students who apply to colleges that specialize in the medical field or law will have to undergo a background check.

  • Adopting or fostering children
  • Specific types of licenses such as applying for a commercial drivers license (CDL).
  • Voter registration

Depending on the state, you may not be able to vote if you are a felon. With that being said, specific states (not all) will allow a felon to vote after they have met their penalty requirements, such as serving their sentence in jail.

  • Military service
  • Use by law enforcement

For example, criminal records would be pulled if a person of interest is being investigated for a crime.

The above list is not all-inclusive, but it demonstrates how much a criminal record can affect the way you live your life. Though a criminal record can make your life more difficult to navigate, that doesn’t mean you can’t work to get yourself back on track.

Gaining access to someone’s criminal record

Generally, when an individual is convicted of a crime their criminal history becomes public record, meaning just about anyone can gain access to it through the right channels. In fact, accessing a public record can be as easy as searching an online public database such as

Not all criminal information is available to the public, however. In some cases, you may have to officially request access to view a person’s criminal history, and there’s a chance you may be denied access depending on your intentions and the scope of the requested information.

General Public

Not all criminal records are available to the public. Some information, as mentioned, is restricted. However, if the information is accessible via public database you’ll find a wealth of information. For example, you may find information pertaining to specific convictions and arrests, race, hair and eye color, tattoos, height, weight and so on.

During you search, you may uncover additional information such as marital or divorced status, current address, driving offenses, bankruptcy filing history and more. Though this information has nothing to do with an individual’s criminal history it will likely show up during your search.

Government agencies

In most cases, government agencies won’t have any issues pulling up your criminal record. In some situations, such as hiring a volunteer, government agencies may require your consent before accessing your criminal record.

Non-Government agencies

Where government agencies have the authority to pull up your criminal record without your permission (except in special circumstances) all organizations, agencies, and individuals not associated with the government must have your full consent before accessing your criminal record for the purposes of determining your eligibility for something.

Take, for example, a college that requires a background check during the application process. The staff members of the college would not be able to pull your criminal record until you gave them permission. Denying permission, however, would likely send up red flags and likely decrease your chances of getting into that college.

Requesting a criminal record

You can easily gain access to someone’s criminal history online if it has not been restricted from public records. Sites such as makes the process incredibly easy. However, if you have to request a criminal record through more formal channels things can get a bit more tricky.

You may be able to gain access to someone’s criminal record through one of the following methods:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

·      The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System can be accessed by Federal Firearms License (FFL) holders who require background and criminal checks for those who wish to purchase a firearm.

·      In most cases, criminal records provided by the FBI tend to be much broader than other sources and may require you to register fingerprints before gaining access to the information.

Your local courthouse or sheriff’s department

  • You will likely only gain access to information pertaining to crimes committed in a particular county. In such a case you will have a limited view of a person’s entire criminal history.

State government offices

  • You can request access to criminal records from the State Bureau of Investigation, Department of Public Safety and State Police Department.

An additional search option includes the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) website. If you decide to go this route here are a few restrictions you should be aware of:

  • You can be denied access to criminal history if the information is seen as an invasion of an individual’s privacy.
  • Your chances of gaining access to criminal history are more likely if you have the person’s consent or if you can provide proof that the individual has passed away.


It’s easier than ever to pull up a criminal record, especially if you do it online. With the wealth of information out there and online services that simplify the process you’ll find that obtaining a criminal record is often quick and painless. However, if you run into restriction issues, you may have to check into one of the many alternative options mentioned in the article.