How to Conduct a Criminal Records Search
A criminal record is a record of a person’s criminal past. The contents within a criminal record may vary across various jurisdictions within a state and between the various states of the United States.
Generally, a criminal record is a document containing information about all the non-expunged criminal offenses that the person may have committed. These may also include traffic law violations like driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and speeding. Some criminal records may contain only information related to convictions while some may be as comprehensive as to include details about arrests, charges dropped, outstanding charges, and also acquittal information.
Types of Criminal Records
There are various types of criminal records that are maintained by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. These may be arrest records, incarceration, prison and jail records, driving records including charges of “Driving Under the Influence” and Operating Under the Influence” (of alcohol and/or drugs,) misdemeanor and felony records, and sexual offender records.
Incarceration records contain information on the number of times a person has been jailed and for what offenses. Minor offenses that did not necessitate serving a prison sentence are not included in these records. In the U.S., the state incarceration records are more comprehensive than those maintained by the federal agencies in the sense that they also contain information on whether an inmate is under probation or not.
Most inmates are given parol, and federal parole records are useful when you need to check the background of a suspicious individual. Federal parole records in the U.S. are accessible to the public, but you would need permission from the state parole board to access the state parole records. Both contain similar information.
Federal probation records contain information about federal offenders who are not incarcerated but are serving probation sentences to determine if they may be relied enough to be freed. These records also contain information about prison sentences that have been reduced. These records are stored in a central repository and as such they are easy to access.
Megan’s Law dictates that all registered information about sexual offenders be made available to the public. Both the state and federal law enforcement agencies store and provide free access to information about the sex offenders: their names, addresses, mug shots, and details of the crimes committed.
Federal fugitive records include information about wanted fugitives and the offenses they have committed. These records are open for public viewing and employers should always look them up before hiring a new employee.
Military criminal records contain information about men and women in uniform who have violated military laws. These records are also available for public viewing.
When are Criminal Records Needed?
A criminal records search may be requested for a variety of reasons–when you hire a new employee, to identify a person or to verify the credentials of an individual, to issue security clearance, to approve adoption, to license immigration/international travel or visa documents, to draw up suspect lists in criminal investigations already underway, and to provide the right sentence in criminal prosecution cases.
A common man may also access criminal records if s/he has to conduct a background check on a suspicious individual. Most criminal records are made accessible as a public safety measure.