How to Find Someone’s Criminal Record

Whether it’s for employment purposes, personal safety, or legal considerations, you may want to find someone’s criminal record to vet their trustworthiness. If you’re concerned about what shows up on your own background check, you can also request a copy of your own criminal record.

female officer reading police file

The FBI database is the largest, most comprehensive, and accurate way of finding someone’s criminal record. If you’re looking for a thorough overview of someone’s criminal history, you can go through the appropriate channels to request a copy of someone’s criminal records. This method has several drawbacks: it’s neither fast nor easy, and possibly not even cheap.

In many counties, criminal records are publicly accessible. You can visit law enforcement agencies, the local courthouse, or the county’s website to access criminal records. However, if this is too time-consuming of a process, you can also use an online background check service to find someone’s criminal record. All you need is their name.

Who Can Access Someone’s Criminal Record?

In the United States, criminal records are considered public information. Criminal proceedings are generally kept public in order to hold the justice system accountable. Part of how this goal is accomplished is by allowing the public and media access to people’s criminal records.

In summary, anyone can access someone else’s criminal records.

However, public access has limits.


  • Sealed records. Individuals can ask the courts to expunge certain convictions.
  • Limited information. Only certain government personnel have complete access.
  • Private information. Public records do not contain information that’s considered private, such as someone’s medical history.


Background checks run by potential employers may be able to access more information than a standard one. They must follow guidelines laid out by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

What Appears on Someone’s Criminal Record?

Someone’s criminal record contains the following information:


  • Mugshot
  • Arrests (old and recent)
  • Police records
  • Court records


Criminal records also contain information about pending cases and misdemeanors as well as convictions and settlements. Some states restrict the history to the past 5 years; others have no limit on how far into the past a criminal background check can go. However, the FCRA prevents civil suits from appearing on criminal records.

Anti-Discrimination Laws

Most companies run background checks as part of the hiring process, which can include someone’s criminal record. While no federal laws exist to prevent employers from refusing to hire someone with a criminal record, certain restrictions exist.

Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, private, state and local government, and federal sector workplaces are permitted to consider criminal records when making hiring decisions. However, anti-discrimination laws prevent them from hiring based on race or national origin.

If a company refuses to hire a qualified Black man on the basis of a criminal record, they must also similarly deny employment to equally- or less-qualified White men with similar felony convictions. The EEOC warns that it is very difficult to reject everyone with a criminal record without engaging in illegal discrimination practices.


Instead, employers are encouraged to consider the following:


  • The nature and severity of the crime
  • How much time has passed and whether the sentence was served
  • The relevance of the felony to the job


Although arrest records appear on criminal records, an arrest is not proof of having committed a crime. Therefore, employers cannot refuse to hire someone based on having been arrested. However, they’re permitted to ask for context and assess whether they are a good fit for the position from there.

Some states impose stricter restrictions. For example, New York does not allow employers to discriminate based on criminal history unless it’s directly related to the job, or if the offender’s presence would create a safety risk for other people or property.

Why Search For Someone’s Criminal Record?

You might be interested in finding someone’s criminal record in order to vet their trustworthiness. With social connections increasingly moving online, knowing whether or not to trust someone becomes more complex. Even famous dating app Tinder has packaged a limited background check service for their users to minimize danger and risk.

As many as one in three Americans has a criminal record. Keep in mind that there’s a huge difference between someone whose record consists of an arrest without conviction and someone convicted of a felony. If you want to find someone’s criminal record, use the information responsibly.