Criminal Records Database Search and Record Retrieval


What is a Criminal Record?

A criminal record is an official account of a person’s criminal history. A criminal records database search is most often used by potential employers, lenders, etc., to assess the worthiness of an applicant. The information included in a criminal records database search record varies between countries and jurisdictions within a country.

In most cases, a criminal record lists the non-expunged offenses and may include traffic offenses such as speeding and drunk driving. In some countries, crime reports include only actual convictions (where the individual pleads guilty or has been proven guilty in a court of law). Still, in other countries, the historical record includes arrests, charges dismissed, charges pending, and even charges of which the subject has been acquitted.

Various law enforcement agencies have compiled and updated detailed records in the United States at the local, state, and federal levels. The primary goal of a criminal record is to present a comprehensive history. The reports may be used for many purposes, including identification, employment, security clearance, immigration, background checking, assistance in developing suspects in an ongoing investigation, and enhanced sentencing in legal prosecutions.

In the United States, these compilations are unlikely to be admissible in court as proof of arrest or conviction.

Criminal History

Law enforcement agencies maintain criminal histories at all levels of government. Local police departments, sheriff’s offices, and specialty police agencies may maintain their 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 readily available information about their crimes or misdemeanors. In many states, the Department of Correctional Services disseminates information to the public through media such as the Internet. Usually, the only group in society not subject to the dissemination of recorded history is juveniles.  Some adults can also be eligible for non-disclosure of their records through Record sealing or expungement.

Statewide Repositories

Some states have official “statewide repositories” that contain criminal history information contributed by the state’s various county and municipal courts. These state repositories are usually accurate so long as the state requires and supervises data uploading from local courts. Some states make reporting to the repository voluntary. The information obtained from these repositories can be incomplete, and using this information has associated risks.

The federal government maintains extensive criminal histories and acts as a central repository for all agencies to report their data.  The National Crime Information Center – NCIC is one such database. Generally, and with 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 crime records bought from other reporting agencies.

Criminal Records Resources

The following are resources for searching database records, doing background checks, and obtaining histories.  See also – Background Checks.

Instant access to state and national records. The search report includes the following:

  • The official case number and charge
  • The offense, arrest
  • Disposition date
  • Disposition & sentence

Searching for Criminal Records, Data, and Information On the Web

A background search is perhaps the most widely used tool for finding information about people. These records are mainly accessed by law enforcement agencies and employers that require an employment check. While you can now easily find public records online, old-fashioned P.I. skills typically come into play to make the search more efficient.

BeenVerified’s Background Report allows you to search for public records, bankruptcies, contact information, and more. Go to BeenVerified. Also, try Intelius or TruthFinder for people search reports, background look-ups, real estate, and financial reports.

Criminal Records Searches: Fact and Fiction

Many websites you stumble upon advertise access they have to a nationwide database. Although their system may be vast in records, the FBI maintains only one nationwide criminal database. The database is known as the National Crime Information Center. These records are not for the public’s eyes and are only available to law enforcement.

Gaining access to this data is strictly prohibited, with severe penalties. This adheres to the party selling the records and buying them. Even with that fact, a profitable black market exists, with many people hosting this exclusive information.

These individuals usually have close ties to other members of the NCIC who choose to profit from the relationship.

State and County Records

In the past, individuals were required to be interjected into the judicial process to search for court records. This meant that an inquiring party had to be a member of the law or a court official.

The ability to search statewide criminal records online is available in many states. The public typically accesses such records via the state index. The county index is also available. The state receives a portion of its index from the county. Without the county records, a state index may be incomplete. The best method would be to check both indexes of the state and county when looking to access criminal records.

Also, learn how law enforcement works with pawn shops by using online databases to track items and property.

If you have any questions about how to run a Criminal Records Database Search, please leave a comment below.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including Michael created more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at


  1. Hi. Is there a list of which states have a online search data base for a criminal records search? Finding hard to locate in some states such a data base. Thank you.


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