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How to Search for Criminal Records


This question comes to librarians usually in this form:

I am looking for Criminal Records for someone I want to hire, want to rent to, want to date, etc. Can I search for that information online – and for free?

The answer:
There are no reliable, comprehensive, accurate and free online criminal history records-check resources and in fact, searching criminal records thoroughly requires searching more than one database in more than one jurisdiction, not to mention specialized searching skills.

(Note: Do not confuse a criminal history check with a public records, skip-tracing, or social media search for an individual, though they do all have some common problems, not the least is which means remembering that many people share a name and not every Jon or Jan Doe is the Jon or Jan Doe you are seeking.)
1) Here is a sample research guide, from Wisconsin, on how to research criminal histories and public records — it gives you an idea of what your research strategy might look like.

2) Also, it is a lot more difficult to search for someone else’s criminal history than it is to check your own (unless you have been the victim of identity theft by someone who left a criminal history trail in your name, in which case, the search and the repair are a nightmare).

3) The Virtual Chase posts, Part 1 and Part 2, are still good places to begin if you want to learn about why criminal background checks are not as straightforward as one might think they should be.


1) If you want to know if there was a criminal (or civil) case filed against someone in Oregon, OJIN (Oregon Judicial Information Network) is the official online database of cases filed in Oregon courts. The records do not go back forever and it excludes some data on juvenile records and other protected information. Also, for the most part, it has docket (a list of documents filed in a case) information only about documents filed, not the actual documents. (Note: It does not have arrest records.)

OJIN is available to the public for no charge at courthouses, but few will allow statewide searches, and at some county law libraries. A directory of Oregon county law libraries is at

2) Your local law enforcement agency may have some recommendations or you may contact a private investigation company that performs criminal background checks for a fee. (But remember to check the bona fides of the private investigator before you hire anyone.)

3) Oregon private investigators can be licensed through the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST).

4) Also, there are other private investigator associations and blogs, e.g. PI Buzz, a PI blog, will give you lots of information and links to other private investigator organizations. They do loads of useful research and share it freely (thank you PI Buzz staff!).

5) There are many online social network and related public records sites online that you can search free, but these do not substitute for a criminal records check. For example, try these:

a) Virtual Chase People Finder Guide

b King County (Washington) Law Library Public Sleuthing website

c) Oregon Public Records Websites

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2 responses to “How to Search for Criminal Records”

  1. Hello @Laura! As everyone gets confused regarding background check, may the person is a employer, property owner, or online dater, they must get the clear and crisp information on—what background check is, who can do background check, what is the process of background checking, how the background check result can be used etc. I believe, there are a lot of information on the web in every niche. Apart from that, those who are interested in doing background check should devote sufficient amount of time in understanding it first. It differs from job position to position, employer requirement to requirement and many other cases taken into account. Blindly conducting background check is not going to help anyone.

  2. Dawn says:

    Just letting you know that I have not been able to access records in Oregon that I know are in their system. All links are broken (have been for months) I’ve tried on a tablet and a PC and feedback results in an error also. If you know of a way to search that actually produces results please tell me.

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