As a hiring manager or business owner, you may want to conduct a background check or police report of an incident a potential employee was involved in. If you are a job seeker, you may want to check your own background so that you know what employers will see. You can often request this information using online resources, such as local police departments and court houses or online background check services.
The information you need varies by website and the more information you have, the more accurate the results are. The individual's name, date of birth, address history and social security number will be helpful as you conduct your search.
Not all states allow hiring managers to request arrest records or criminal checks unless the information is directly related to the job. Check with your state's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office for your local rules.
Criminal Background Check
If you are performing a background check on a potential employee, you will need his written consent to do so. You must also inform the employee of the potential consequences of finding criminal convictions.
State Bureaus of Investigation or Departments of Public Safety may also offer online background check services. For example, to check the criminal history of a person in Missouri, search for the person's name and date of birth or social security number on the Missouri Automated Criminal History System.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation does not currently accept online applications for a criminal background check, or Identity History Summary, although you can still request the information they have on you by mailing in the required application and fingerprint card. The FBI does not provide this information to outside parties, such as prospective private sector employers, but it can be obtained through a state agency if that state has a law that specifically allows it.
An arrest record cannot be used to exclude a person from employment. Although a person may have been arrested for a crime, he may later have been found not guilty in court. Only conviction records from a criminal background check provides evidence the person has committed a crime.
You can find many online public records search services that allow you to conduct a background check for a fee. This is a good place to start if you do not know if an individual has a criminal history.
When selecting a service, review the notes and fine print to establish what information it is searching for, what sources it is using and what time frame it is searching. For example, SearchSystems.net charges $14.95, as of 2015, to do a nationwide search for criminal records, traffic violations, court records and parole information. If the search reveals criminal convictions, you can request more detailed reports from the police department or courthouse that handled the charges.
Some services may only search records for the previous 10 years, potentially leaving out a criminal conviction that occurred 11 years ago. Check the site's reputation with the Better Business Bureau.
Despite what many ads imply, there is no central database containing all criminal records. You may need to use multiple sources to obtain all of the information you need.
Police Incident Reports
If you are looking for a police report for a specific incident, you can check with the department that handled the complaint to see if it has a report request capability on its website. Obtaining police incident reports is helpful if you need more information about a specific incident you were involved in or an applicant informed you about on an application or in an interview.
You will need to know the location of the incident so that you can contact the correct police department. Other information needed varies by department, but may include the victim or suspect's name, date of birth and the date of incident.
The Tucson, Arizona Police Department for example accepts online requests through the Tucson Police Department Open Records Request System. While some records are available for free, expect to pay a fee to obtain these records. The availability of reports varies based on each state's statutes. Some information may be blacked out to protect informants or information in an on-going investigation.
Police accident reports are available online through PoliceReports.us. Search for an incident report by selecting the state and department that handled the incident and then searching by report number, date or name.
Court records provide the most accurate details about charges and convictions. However, records are limited to the local area, so you may miss things if the applicant you are researching has moved around. Conduct searches in the county court houses where the individual lived or where you know or suspect charges were filed. Consider searching surrounding counties as the individual may have committed a crime across the border in a neighboring county.
Check the local court to see if they allow online searches and what information is required. The Tucson City Court, for example, allows you to search online for cases by case or citation number or the person's name.
For federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy court documents, you can conduct an online search on the Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER, site. You will need to register for an account to use the PACER search option.
Other Sites to Consider
To round out a criminal background check, you can search for the individual on the National Sex Offender Public Website or your state's sex offender registry. In addition, if you know an individual was in prison, you can search for their prison records through the Department of Corrections Web site.