How to Do a Criminal Background Check
Approximately 25 percent of U.S. citizens have some form of criminal record. The likelihood that any random person one might encounter on the street has been convicted of a serious crime varies considerably by location. However, even in the nicest neighborhoods in the country, wouldn’t you like to know if your neighbor is a sex predator or if your mechanic has been convicted of fraud? Finding out , ” how to do a criminal background check , ” can help to keep your family and loved ones a little bit safer.
If so, then you will want to know how to lookup someones criminal record. It turns out that there are a variety of ways to do so. And the most thorough and reliable means of establishing someone’s criminal past are often easy to access online.
Different Types of Criminal Background Records
There are four main types of criminal record: arrest records, civil infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. All four can typically be searched for online. However, the researcher must typically know in what state, county or city the person in question has lived. Furthermore, people may commit crimes in jurisdictions where they do not live, making it difficult to uncover those crimes.
All of this means that you may have to do quite a bit of digging if you really want to get the full criminal picture of a subject. But while there are many pay services that promise to deliver someone’s full criminal history, there really is no substitute for going with the primary sources yourself. And the best news is that the most serious red flags on someone’s criminal past can usually be uncovered quickly and without cost to you.
Let’s take a more detailed look at the four types of arrest records and how best to dig them up.
Why Perform a Criminal Background Check
So, you want to learn how to do a criminal background check? The first step is to recognize the four types of criminal background records that may exist for any American.
The first category of criminal background records consists of arrest records. An arrest occurs when someone is suspected of committing a crime. While it is safe to say that most arrests result in some kind of conviction, it is important to remember that all parties, even those with mugshots online, are innocent until proven guilty.
Still, as far as criminal records go, arrest records can provide you with a good place to start when researching an individual’s background. While an isolated arrest may not convey much information, the majority of people are not repeat customers at their local jail. Long arrest records tend to indicate a criminal or scofflaw lifestyle.
Secondly, arrest records are a great starting point for uncovering more detailed accounts of someone’s criminal past. That’s because every criminal conviction started with an arrest. And even many misdemeanors and civil infractions involve a booking at the county jail.
The jails of most larger cities and counties will typically have an internet-based inmate-lookup feature. These are great tools for determining why someone was recently arrested. However, inmate lookups for county jails will typically not maintain inmate and case information after the person in question is released from custody.
How to Lookup a Criminal Offender
When it comes to determining if someone has committed a serious crime in the past, there is no substitute for state inmate lookup systems.
Inmate lookups for state prison systems can vary considerably by state. For example many states use the VINElink system. VINElink is primarily a victim-notification service that was initially created to let the victims of violent crimes know when the offender was scheduled for release. But the system can provide a number of other useful services, such as telling where an inmate is housed and, in the case of indeterminate sentencing, when their custody remands to the parole board.
Other states may have more robust background criminal record search systems. For example, the state of Michigan operates the OTIS Online site. OTIS is a powerful criminal record search tool that allows users to not only reveal virtually all relevant information about inmates who are currently housed within the Michigan Department of Correction, but it also shows all those who have been convicted of a felony in the state of Michigan in recent decades.
Many states have such systems. And unlike local district court search tools, they usually only require that the researcher know what state the target individual has resided in. Pound for pound, state-run felony search tools like OTIS are the best place to start because they’ll quickly let you know if the person you’re researching has committed any serious crimes in a given state.
Background Checks for Traffic Citations
Criminal background checks can be performed for a list of traffic citations, DUI arrests, misdemeanors and civil infractions. A good place to source these public records is to look is your local district court’s website.
Researching civil infractions, lawsuits and misdemeanor crimes is generally an area where returns begin rapidly diminishing. While all of these records are technically public, many smaller towns and counties will not maintain online search tools. This means that in order to obtain these records you may have to physically visit the county courthouse in question. And this can become a major gamble unless you know for sure that the target has resided in that county for a long period of time.
If you know that the target of your research has lived in large cities, and you know the exact cities in which they have resided over their lives, then you should be able to get a very clear picture of their misdemeanor and civil criminal background. However, many people who live a criminal or scofflaw lifestyle are innate nomads. And when someone has lived in 20 different small towns over as many years, piecing together an accurate history of their misdemeanors and civil infractions can be very difficult.
This turns out to be an area where paid background services can be worth the investment as many are able to give you at least a semi-accurate picture of someone’s low-level criminal past even if they have been frequent movers and have lived in out-of-the-way places.
Criminal Background Checks for Sex Offenders
Before closing, it should be noted that one of the most important online lookup tools for determining someone’s serious criminal past, including sex offender records, are public record.
Sex offender registries, like the The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, can instantly give you a zoomable local map view and detailed accounts of registered sex offenders in your area. In fact, for those who are concerned about their family’s safety, sex offender registries should probably be their first stop in researching people’s criminal backgrounds.
By performing a criminal background check on anyone deemed suspicious, you can finally answer the question, ” how to do a criminal background check .”