Are Criminal Records Public In The US? How Can You Find Them?

Many people would want to know your criminal background for reasons of employment or for allowing you as a tenant. Obtaining a person’s criminal background in a place like the US is quite easy. The government in most states in the US makes criminal records open to the public at large because they believe in the right of the public to access information freely.

So if you want to know how many times a particular person in the US has breached the law, you can go to a website like Such websites list all the key details of a person, like his criminal record, the court verdicts, etc.

Criminal Record-Related Information That You Can Access In The US

Most Of The Criminal Records Are Available To The Public


In most US states, the criminal records of a person are available for all. A landlord may want your criminal history to know if you have been convicted of sexual offenses or homicide before he rents out his house to you. Likewise, an employer might want to know your criminal history, like whether you have been accused of rash driving or whether you were charged with corruption and other crimes before he hires you in his company.

Thus, most criminal records are available in the public interest. However, there are situations where some information about a convicted criminal can be hidden by a court of law. In many cases, the information is hidden in order to protect the privacy of the convict. So the social security number, or the income tax account number can be hidden. Likewise, if a minor child is in conflict with the law, some of his details can be hidden to protect the child.

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Courts also hide data about sensitive information and something which, if revealed to the public at large, can have an impact on the national security of the country. Most details related to economic crimes are available freely, but if anything can cause defamation, then that material can be hidden.

Additionally, the person who is in conflict with the law can request the court to hide some key details and not make them available to the public. However, only in some special cases are such requests accepted.

So if you want a court of record or a public authority to hide a part of your criminal history, then you have to fulfill certain conditions like those stated below

A criminal history can be hidden only for certain offenses like a misdemeanor, but it is not allowed for serious crimes that have huge ramifications for public safety and well-being. So if someone has been convicted of crimes like murder, sexual offenses, fraud, etc., then such details cannot be hidden from the public.

Again the details about the conviction can be hidden if the punishment for the conviction has been served or the fine amount has been paid. So if someone is serving a six month jail term for misbehavior, then he cannot request that information to be hidden before they have completed six months in jail.

Also, they will not be allowed to hide the details of a criminal conviction immediately after they have served the jail term or paid the fine. Although the waiting time varies from one state to another, most states will require an ex-convict to wait for five to ten years before he can ask the custodian of the record to hide details about his criminal history.

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The idea behind having a gap of five to ten years before expunging data is to see if the person is a repeat offender. And if the same person is again convicted of the same crime, his details may not be allowed to be hidden.

How Can You Get Access To A Person’s Criminal Record In The US

Take Help From Private Companies


Many private companies provide easy access to criminal records at a nominal cost. In most cases, the information is available online, and you have to type the name of the person and the state in which you want to search for his criminal history to get all the information.

These organizations collect information by accessing and collecting publicly available databases; they also contact custodians of information to get hold of old records that are not available in electronic format.

When taking the help of a private company, you must make sure that the data is accurate and up to date because if you proceed with inaccurate data, then the entire exercise might be counterproductive.

Seek Information From The Original Custodians Of The Information


At times it is best to seek information from those who hold it. So you can send a request for the necessary records to a local police station or a court of law. In most cases, an email can get a quicker reply than a handwritten letter. However, if you want old data, that is, data related to those crimes that were committed before the nineties, then you might have to contact the national archives where all the old data is kept.

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Search Government Records


A lot of information is put out for the public by the government agencies themselves. In such cases, it is best to search for the information from government records itself. Many states make such data available free of cost, but in some cases, you might have to pay a nominal fee. Most of these records will hide sensitive data like a person’s medical history, social security number, etc.


A person’s criminal history can be accessed quite easily in the US. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. The exceptions are made to protect the honor of an individual and respect his right to privacy. Again, some exceptions are made to protect the security and national interest of the nation. Apart from these general exceptions, most of the data regarding a person’s criminal history are available on the websites of courts, federal agencies, and private companies.