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How can I find out if a person has a criminal background?

Updated March 17, 2017

These days it is remarkably easy to find out whether someone has a criminal background. If you have the right identifying information, dozens of online databases will provide you with a person's criminal records for a nominal fee or sometimes for free. In this way, you can quickly investigate the backgrounds of potential employees, neighbours, tenants, babysitters or dates and lovers. You may even want to check your own criminal history to make sure that the information is accurate.

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  1. Collect identifying information about the person. At a minimum, get the first and last name and the estimated age of the individual you are investigating. You are more likely to get accurate results, however, if you include the middle initial, the exact date of birth and the current address of the person you're investigating. You are almost certain to get the correct results if you have the person's social security number.

  2. Conduct a search through an online database. While numerous databases offer to provide criminal information about an individual, every database provides different information. Some only focus on sexual offences (e.g., www.megans-law.net); others only provide criminal records from a particular state. If you want to conduct a comprehensive search, use a database such as e-Verifile.com, which searches all county, state and federal court records, or use publicrecordfinder.com, which performs a basic criminal search.

  3. Perform a general online search of the individual. By entering the person's name in a search engine such as Google or Yahoo, you might come up with information about that person that would not be included in an online criminal history database. For example, in search newspapers and news wires, you can find out whether the person has been linked to a criminal incident but never arrested or charged with a crime. You can even learn who that person's friends are through Facebook or other social networks to determine the kind of people with whom the individual associates.

  4. Hire a private investigator. The most thorough way to search a person's criminal history is to let a professional handle the matter. A private investigator can delve deeply into the target's background, not only by researching public criminal records, but also by asking questions of the person's friends, neighbours, relatives and colleagues, or by covertly watching that person to make sure that he does not engage in criminal behaviour or have criminal associations.

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About the Author

Barbara Diggs

Barbara Diggs is a freelance writer living in France. A former corporate lawyer, she has been writing professionally since 2006. She has been published in numerous print and online magazines, specializing in travel, parenting, history and law. Diggs is a graduate of Wesleyan University and Stanford Law School.

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