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FAQs on Criminal History Records

What is a criminal history record?

A criminal history record is a document containing a list of crimes for which a certain individual has been convicted. The criminal history record contains basic information provided by the individual, information regarding the arrest charges and the individual’s fingerprints.

When a law enforcement agency arrests an individual for a crime, the person is fingerprinted, and the fingerprint is included in the criminal history record. The fingerprints allow the law enforcement agencies to ascertain the identity of the person.

What are the uses of a criminal history record?

A criminal history record can be used for a number of purposes. These include identification, enhancement of sentencing in ongoing trials, and development of suspects in an investigation. In recent years, criminal history records are also increasingly being used for Background Searchs and pre-employment screening.

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How are criminal history records recorded?

Criminal history records are indexed using the name of the individual. Thus, when searching criminal history records, it is of utmost importance that the name is spelled correctly. It is also a good idea to check for nicknames, maiden names or aliases that the individual may have.

How are criminal history records collected?

Criminal history records are compiled by law enforcement agencies in several levels, namely the local, state and national levels of government. The local levels of government collect all the criminal history records in their jurisdiction and submit the compilation to the state databases. These databases are typically available to the public.

 Meanwhile, the national database for criminal history records is a collection of all the records reported by the various law enforcement agencies all throughout the country. In general, national databases of criminal history records are not available to the public.

How can I obtain an individual’s criminal history record?

Since the national database of criminal history records maintained by the FBI is not accessible to the public, it is recommended to conduct a search at the county level when looking for criminal history records. To cover a wider area, it is recommended to conduct a statewide search together with a local investigation.

 Most localities have computerized databases of criminal history records. Some of these may be searched on site; others, however, are only accessible to the clerk of the courthouse. There are several ways to contact the clerk of the courts, including via the phone, in a letter, or in person. The search usually takes 3-5 days to complete. Since people may have the same names, it is a good idea to include other identifiers when requesting for criminal history records, such as the individual’s birthday or social security number.

Are criminal history records available over the Internet?

Yes. Some county and state governments offer public access to their criminal history records databases online.. A number of these databases are available to the public for free; however, some of these require a certain fee. Aside from these, there are also public records vendors who sell access to various databases of criminal history records online.


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