Criminal arrest and conviction records are generally available to the public. If an individual has had their records expunged, sealed or if the arrests occurred while the individual was a juvenile, records can only be obtained in special circumstances. If you know where to look, and how to look, you can often find and obtain copies of arrest and conviction records for free directly from the courts.
Conduct a free background search online. Before you can really begin to find arrest and conviction records, you will need some basic information on the person you are investigating. A database such as the one at criminalsearches.com will provide you with some information, such as full names, relatives and locations, for free.
Search the National Sex Offender Registry (see Resources). This database will allow you to find out whether an individual has ever been convicted of a sex-related crime. The registry might also provide you with information about the nature of the individual's convictions as well as current addresses.
Determine where arrests and convictions took place. Use the information you obtained in step two to discover where an arrest was most likely to occur. Compile a list of counties the individual lived in, and add some of the surrounding counties if the individual lived in a small county or near county lines.
Check county court records for information about arrests and convictions. County courthouses are the best and usually most accurate resource for finding public arrest and conviction records. After you have learnt where the individual you are investigating lived, you can log on to the website for that county's court system to check if they have an online database of criminal records. You might have to pay a nominal fee, typically less than £3, to use the online database. If no online resource exists, you might need to go to the courthouse in person to request arrest and conviction records. Obtaining records in-person is always free.
Contact state law enforcement agencies or national organisations. Often, these agencies will also have databases containing information on arrests and convictions from their agency, as well as records from county and local law enforcement or courts. For national organisations like National Criminal Records, you might need to become a member or pay a fee to use their services.
Use established criminal background check services such as Intelius. If you cannot find records on your own, services such as Intelius will provide you with detailed arrest and conviction records on individuals for a fee.