How can I obtain a Criminal History Report and National Criminal History Search Free?

Looking for a source for free criminal background checks? The only way to get a free criminal report is to go to a county courthouse and pull a criminal record yourself.  If this requires too much an effort on your end, you can pay to get those results using an online criminal data provider.  Some online websites claim to offer free criminal records, but these free records are either a simple name/address search or are from an archaic non-formatted/unsubstantiated criminal data source or some obsolete non-current database.

Criminal History Checks are available online as either a county, statewide, regional, or national criminal search.  Some search types are instant or near instant and others could take days to complete.  Prices range from $15 to over $100 and average out around $30 per criminal search, (having the national criminal checks on the higher side, while instant statewide searches are towards the lower price point).  However, be careful when shopping online for criminal records, as some lower priced providers may just be giving you a name and address history trace for their fee and not an actual criminal history search.  Always be careful to read the description of the search you are looking to perform before you pay for it.  If the search results are not going to give you specific information like offense type and conviction date then you may need to keep browsing.

Breakdown of criminal search types available online today & our recommendations:

County Criminal Check – Search is performed by a professional court researcher, and covers any county in the USA.  Turnaround time varies by county, but usually takes 1-5 business days to complete.  Search always goes back 7 years and returns felony & some misdemeanor records.  For this Search, We recommend

Statewide Criminal Search – Search is performed by online criminal gateways accessing state criminal repositories and can be instant, near instant, or take 1-3 business days to complete.  Search history can vary depending on the state being searched, but go back at least 7 years and return felony, misdemeanor and some infractions.  For this Search, We recommend the following sites: Statewide Criminal Background Check Tenant Screening Criminal Report

Regional Criminal Check – Search is performed by online criminal gateways accessing multiple state criminal repositories simultaneously and can be instant or near instant.  Some states are not instant and require 1-3 business days to complete.  Search history can vary depending on the states being searched, but go back at least 7 years and return felony, misdemeanor and some infraction records.  For this Search, We recommend the following sites: Multi-State Criminal Background Check Tenant Screening

National Criminal Check – Search is performed by online criminal gateways accessing a national criminal database, or accessing multiple state repositories simultaneously, and can include up to 46 states and is an instant search.  Search history can vary, but typically goes back 7 years and returns felony, misdemeanor and some infraction information.  For this Search, We recommend: National Criminal Background Check National Tenant Screening

More detailed definitions of available criminal searches are below:

County Level Criminal History Check:
A county search is the most current, accurate and complete search available in the US today with the exception of the NCIC files, which are not currently available to the general public.  Of course, you need to know the state and county you want to perform a search in, in order for the search to be effective.  Once you place a county criminal search online (with a legitimate public records company), they will have a professional court researcher go to the courthouse (or other place where records are stored), and manually pull the complete record in question for you, and then usually email those search results directly to you shortly after.  It typically takes 1-5 business days after placing your search for your order results to come in, depending on what county in the US the records are being retrieved from.  More remote counties in the US take longer to get records from than larger counties like California’s Los Angeles County.  Court researchers pull records practically every day from larger counties, but only rarely pull records from remote counties like Phillips County in Montana.  So if you are performing a search in a large county you can expect your search results to come in quickly, but if you are searching a smaller more remote county than it could take some time before you get your results back.  County criminal searches usually include felony and misdemeanor records and date back 7 years.

Statewide Criminal Background Search:
The statewide criminal record search is the most commonly used criminal background check in the USA today.  You can conduct a statewide criminal history check in every state except for Massachusetts and Delaware (only county level searches are available in these two states).  Most of the statewide criminal history reports available online today include corrections data, court records, felony convictions, misdemeanor offenses and some traffic offenses.  For specific search information for any given state, please take the time to read the sites description of the search you are looking to place, before submitting your order.  In most cases you will find that public record websites list descriptions of their available searches on their respective web pages.  If you find that the search description does not include the information you are looking for, than save your money and find another site that does say what they are searching for and the type of information you can expect in your search results.  Typically they will return offense type; bodily characteristics, sentence info, corrections data, court records like case number and other relevant information.

Most online statewide criminal searches include a free national sex offender report, free terrorist database background check, and a free US most wanted criminal database search.  With the exception of a couple of states, all of these statewide criminal record searches are available for near instant searching online.  This means that seconds after you place your search, you will be able to lookup and view your criminal history report online.  However some sites do not have instant criminal history checks available, in which case the results from those sites would be emailed to you.

Multi-State Criminal Background Check:
If you know the basic area you want to do a criminal background check in, or if you know a couple of the states the person you are investigating has lived, then a multi-state or national background check is probably the right choice for you.  Multi-State criminal searches usually cover two to four full states (if you want more than three or four states searched then it is probably more feasible to just run a national criminal search.  Take the time to read up on what is covered in a multi-state search before ordering.  We recommend that you make sure the multi-state criminal search includes additional free searches like a sex offender registry check, the terrorist database search (which is maintained by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and lists such international terrorists sometimes called Specially Designated Nationals or SDNs), and a free criminal check of the US Most Wanted list including FBI, Secret Service and Americas most wanted criminals.

National Criminal History Search:
Performing a national criminal background check is the best way to search almost the entire country in one criminal search.  Some public records sites only offer twenty or so states in their national background history check; however there are currently 46 US states that have their public records data available through instant online statewide criminal gateways.  This means that when looking to perform a national background history check, you need to take a few moments to read the sites national search descriptions. And remember…  If the national search has less than 46 states being searched, you are not getting the best national search available online, and of course not getting the most value for your dollar.