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Criminal Records / Background Checks


How can I do a criminal record check?

Librarians get this question so frequently we could practically answer it in our sleep. I’ve addressed it before, but it’s worth repeating.

Locating criminal records is always harder than most people imagine. There is no single database for searching criminal records, unless you know for a fact that the person never committed a crime outside of a single county, in a single state, in the U.S. Even then, records migrate over time and it might be necessary to research print records and online ones.

It also depends on whose criminal records you want to see. Are they your own or someone else’s records? Are they records from one county? From the whole state? From every state? Are you looking for past convictions, past arrests, open cases, post-offender status, or warrants? There are databases, some local, state, federal, and national, and generally you will need to pay a fee, even if it is only for the search and the copies.

Virtual Chase has an excellent introduction to searching criminal records.

Open Oregon has some useful information and especially their chapter on Oregon criminal records (including a Procedure for Obtaining Criminal History).

For information on how complex criminal record-keeping is see the BJS, Criminal Records Systems Statistics.

Here is information on how Oregon DHS does criminal records checks.

And I’ve posted before, here and here. But the question arises again and again and it never hurts for me to update what I’ve posted and to look to see if something new and useful has popped up. So thanks for the question!

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