When someone has been arrested, the people in that person’s community may want to know what charges that person is facing. Far from idle gossip, finding out why someone got arrested may be a cause for concern, particularly if that person has been accused of acts of violence or sexual misconduct. Family and friends especially may want to know what crimes that person is under suspicion for having committed. Fortunately, arrest and conviction documents are a matter of public record.
Can I Check Someone’s Charges?
Most often, the first time that we hear of someone from our neighborhood is facing criminal charges is when we see their mugshot in the newspaper. By that time, the individual has already been through inmate booking and is sitting in county jail, where he or she is awaiting arraignment. Finding out what instigated this chain of events may cause a great deal of stress for the defendant’s loved ones, but finding out what charges he or she is facing may help to understand the situation.
Much like criminal records, arrest records are available to the public. In the past, it was possible to visit the county clerk’s office and request the arrest record for the individual in question, but that has changed with the digital revolution. It’s now possible to search arrest records for individuals at the state, local, and county level from the comfort of your own home and office.
In most areas, the different levels of government operate their own websites:
1. Federal websites (FBI, DEA, Homeland Security)
2. State websites
3. County websites
4. City and town websites
Among a host of services, the official municipal websites allow users to search arrest records, including outstanding warrants. There is a lag, however. Most sites will post a notice, notifying the user how often the records are updated and may list the approximate times at which the updates will be available.
Smaller counties may not have updated to a digital search, operating a minimal website that just contains a small sampling of relevant information. In those cases, it may still be necessary to visit the courthouse in person. As with digital searches, an in-person search is usually free, though you may have to present some form of ID to the county clerk.
Finding Out If Someone Has Ever Been Convicted
Taking it one step further, you may want to find out if someone has ever been convicted of a crime. This is certainly something employers and property owners are interested in learning, but private citizens also have access to this information. Again, the first step is to search the official websites at the state, county, and city levels. If online searches are impossible or fail to return the requested information, it may be necessary to make your request in person. At the very least, the individual websites will have street addresses for their area offices.
Since convictions are a matter of public record, you should be able to find the information you’re looking for, though, in some jurisdictions, a minimal processing fee may be required. You should be aware that you will not have access to records that have been sealed by the court, however. In cases where an arrest was sealed or expunged, the individual does not have to disclose that he or she was convicted of that crime. Additionally, an expunged crime is usually a minor conviction, such as possession of a small quantity of drugs. A judge may seal the record in cases where the individual has shown that he or she has not repeated the offense within a specified time frame.
Examples of reasons to have a criminal record expunged include:
- Drug crimes
- Theft crimes
- Juvenile convictions
While there are a number of commercial, for-profit services that make arrest and conviction records available for a fee, the results are quicker and easier than what you could find on your own, which will save you time and give you some peace of mind. Conduct a background check on someone now.