- Visit your state government's website. They are listed under many different titles, and are sometimes served by the state government, and sometimes by the state police. An effective Google search phrase is "obtain a criminal history in [your state]." Look for the URLs that end with ".gov" for the most relevant results.
- Some states will have online searches available, while some will require you to fill out and mail in a form. There is generally a fee attached for these services.
- Use a commercial people-search service. Many of the "people finder" services will include a public-records criminal background check, as well as a lot of other relevant information. While their prices can be higher, you may end up with a more complete picture than a criminal background check alone.
- Use Google. Searching for a person on Google can have mixed results, especially if the person you're searching for is named "John Smith." In that case you would want to narrow it down by city, and any other unique identifier you might have—driver's license, social security number, etc. If the person has a more unique name, such as Melvyn Snipburger, you're pretty much guaranteed unique results. Most people will lie between the two extremes.
- You may find newspaper or recorded clips about the person if a crime was recorded at some point.
- This is a very good tool for carrying out a nationwide criminal background check, as it is quite possible for the subject to have committed a crime elsewhere.
- Use a criminal background check service. Like the more generic people-search services, they do a search online for a small fee. However, they focus specifically on criminal background checks from a variety of official sources. These can especially be useful to get correct information such as current and prior addresses, phone numbers, names changes or aliases, civil records like divorce, marriage, foreclosure, private party lawsuits and a host of other identifying information.
Free criminal background checks can be used for yourself or potential employees. Criminal background checks are especially important for screening people who will be working with public records or high security information. Find information on free criminal background checks here.