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How to Run a Criminal Background Check Online

    • 1). **Try a Free National Search at**

      For starters, head to, where a simple search on a first and last name might turn up revealing information. is the closest thing on the internet to a free, nationwide criminal records search. It does not cover every state, and it is by no means foolproof, but it's far better than any other easy-access tools that I know of. Definitely the first place to start your search.

    • 2
      Check local court and prison records

      **Go Local**

      Many states, or other local jurisdictions such as counties and cities, have online resources for searching an individual's criminal history or prison record (some even have mug shots online... how weird is that?). Use the links in the Resources section to find lists of online criminal record checks and inmate look-ups (including prisoners who have served time, and were then released). There may be services in your state or area that you can use.

    • 3). **Think Commercial**

      There are thousands of commercial services that offer criminal background checks on a state or national basis. Be aware that these are all limited in scope -- I know of no commercial service that has full access to the type of national data available to the FBI and other law enforcement officials.

      Still, there are commercial services that do a pretty thorough job with the information that is publicly available. Intelius is one of the commercial services with a good reputation in this field; their searches include many county and state criminal and civil court records, sex offender registry databases, and other legal sources.

    • 4). **Consider Specialty Lookups**

      There are numerous specialty databases that can reveal criminal background, or otherwise uncover important information. They tend to focus on narrow areas of interest, such as doctors who have been disbarred for malpractice, or contractors who are forbidden to bid on federal contractors because of shady dealings in the past. For a list of such specialty criminal and malfeasance databases, use the links in Resources.

      Be sure to also see the Related Articles and More Articles Like This, elsewhere on this page, for more information on criminal record checks.

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