Free Criminal Records Checks

Considering the number of services that offer online background checks with just a click of a button, though, there's no reason not to utilize this resource. Here are some tips for finding and using a free criminal background check. 

When Is a Background Check Appropriate?

There are a number of occasions when getting a criminal background check free can be very helpful.  If you are hiring someone — whether it's to work for your business or do a more intimate task like preparing your taxes to cleaning your house — you should verify that he or she doesn't have a criminal record.  If you're going to be doing business with anyone, whether it's a joint venture or a simple buy-sell transaction, a background check can also be in order, depending on the level of risk involved.  Finally, anyone that you're entering into a non-working relationship with, from a potential roommate to a new romantic interest, might merit a background check before the relationship gets serious. 

You can also do a free criminal background check on yourself to see how your record appears to prospective employers.  This can be useful for a few reasons.  First, many job applications allow you to omit minor criminal history, such as dropped charges or expunged misdemeanors.  However, it is smart to verify that you can omit something, because hiding a criminal history will usually cause your application to be thrown out immediately.  Lying on an application — even inadvertently — can also be grounds for you to lose your job later, if you do make it past the hiring stage.  So, it is important to be careful.  In 2006, the U.S. Attorney General found that roughly half of the FBI's records listed only an initial charge — failure to convict or a dismissal of charges didn't show up.  Make sure that you find out exactly what your past looks like on your records so that you can present cohesive information and, if necessary, explanations when applying for a job.

If you are certain that you don't even have a parking ticket to your name, you can still benefit from checking your record.  You'll want to make sure that there aren't any errors in your employment and educational history, or any errors that make it appear that you do actually have a criminal record.  If there is anything in your background check that appears to be a discrepancy or misrepresentation, the burden of proving the truth will be on you, so it's advantageous to know in advance just what you'll need to prove. 

Where Are Free Background Checks Available?

Finding a USA criminal background check free is becoming increasingly difficult.  Many well-known, often-used sites like often charge a nominal fee if you aren't a subscriber.  Even websites that have some form of the words "free background check" incorporated into their URLs still rarely offer more than the initial search for free.  Some websites, however, do offer a free trial period for their services.  Just be careful that you don't enter any of your credit card information, or if do, make sure you understand the conditions of service as well as what you will need to do to end your subscription when the trial period is up.  Many "free" services can prove costly and hard to get out of once the free period ends.

However, this isn't reason to be deterred from looking at almost-free criminal background checks online.  The material contained in these background checks is a matter of public record, so it's true that you could find some of this information by visiting the county courthouse — if you knew which one to visit.  For people who are from other states or who have moved around frequently, a background check is your best option.  Besides, you can find more information for free if you are willing to break up the searching into smaller categories of criminal activity.  For instance, you can identify sex offenders by name — the FBI has links to the national sex offender registry as well as state databases at — or by geography at

How Should You Interpret a Background Check?

Interpreting a background check correctly is important, whether it's your own or someone else's.  First, as previously mentioned, it's important to remember that these reports are not infallible.  If you are making hiring decisions based on a background check, you should try to find records that show an actual criminal conviction; if you can only view charges, you should give that person an opportunity to explain what happened.  It's also worth considering that sometimes records for people with the same first name, last name, and middle initial might be mixed up, or even "married" into one record.  The fact that so many background checks are compiled digitally, with minimal human oversight, opens the door for errors that would be obvious to people.  This is why job applicants should conduct their own search and find out what kind of record the world is seeing. 

Even when databases don't miss charges or mix up names, they can present other small issues.  Some databases might not reflect current or recent information — especially events that have occurred in the last few months — and others might simply miss information.  There are different levels of background checks, and depending on what you did or didn't pay for, you might only be seeing a low-level background check that, for instance, searches national but not county criminal record databases. 

Does this mean that finding a background check free isn't worth your time and that paying for one isn't worth the money?  Not at all — it's just important to use a little caution with them.  If you're an employer, consider using more than one database, and give your hires a chance to explain themselves if the records that you find are unclear.  If you are applying for a job, know what your prospective employer is seeing and be ready to explain any discrepancies.  Background checks are one of the best ways to protect yourself, your family, or your business interests — but it's important to make sure that you are using this resource correctly and fairly.