Criminal Records: How to Search the Right Databases and Websites
A criminal record is an official record of a person’s criminal history. Criminal history and criminal record searches are often used by potential employers, lenders etc. to assess the worthiness of an applicant. The information included in a the record varies between countries and even between jurisdictions within a country.
In most cases, a crime record lists the non-expunged criminal offenses and may also include traffic offenses such as speeding and drunk-driving. In some countries, crime reports are limited to actual convictions (where the individual has pleaded guilty or has been proven guilty in court of law). In other countries, the criminal record includes arrests, charges dismissed, charges pending, and even charges of which the subject has been acquitted.
In the United States, the detailed records are compiled and updated on local, state, and federal levels by various law enforcement agencies. The primary goal of a criminal record is to present a comprehensive criminal history. The reports may be used for many purposes, including identification, employment, security clearance, immigration, background checking, assistance in developing suspects in an ongoing criminal investigation, and for enhanced sentencing in criminal prosecutions.
In the United States, these compilations are unlikely to be admissible in court as proof of arrest or conviction.
Criminal histories are maintained by law enforcement agencies in all levels of government. Local police departments, sheriffs’ offices, and specialty police agencies may maintain their own internal databases. On the state level, state police, troopers, highway patrol, correctional agencies, and other law enforcement agencies also maintain separate databases. Law enforcement agencies often share this information with other similar enforcement agencies and this information is usually made available to the public. Registered sex offenders have information about their crimes or misdemeanors readily available, and Department of Correctional Services in many states disseminate information to the public, through media such as the Internet. Usually, the only group in society that is not subject to dissemination of recorded history is juveniles. Some adults can also be eligible for non-disclosure of their records through the process of Record sealing or expungement.
Some states have official “statewide repositories” that contain criminal history information contributed by the various county and municipal courts within the state. These state repositories are usually accurate so long as the state requires and supervises the uploading of data from the local courts. Some states make reporting to the repository voluntary. The information obtained from these repositories can be incomplete and the use of this information has associated risks.
The federal government maintains extensive criminal histories and acts as a central repository for all agencies to report their own data. The National Crime Information Center – NCIC is one such database. Generally, and with a very few exceptions, the records compiled by the federal government are not made available to the private sector. Some private re-sellers claim to offer an NCIC record search. In most cases these claims are fraudulent. Though NCIC records may not be available to private sector companies, they still may hold very accurate criminal records bought from other reporting agencies.
Criminal Records Resources
Following are resources for searching criminal records, doing criminal background checks, and obtaining criminal histories. See also – Background Checks.
Instant access to state and nationwide criminal records. The search report includes:
- The official case number and charge
- Criminal offense, arrest
- Criminal file
- Disposition date
- Disposition & sentence
The results are available online in seconds if the date of birth (DOB) provided and not in California or Wisconsin. Otherwise, results are available within 24 hours.
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