If you’re interested in knowing what your criminal record says, ordering one on yourself is quite simple. Potential employers, landlords, and sometimes even educational institutions to screen renters, employers and volunteers use criminal background checks. Ordering a background check can be done in person or online, and will not require a lot of time or effort to obtain the record.
The State Department of Justice, local sheriff’s office, or police station is the easiest contacts to communicate with in regards to ordering a record. All states store their criminal records in both a hard copy format and in a computer-based database. You’ll have to figure out if your state requires you to visit the:
- Police Station
- The courthouse
- The Department of Justice building
If you believe that you have a record, or know that you committed a crime in another state you will need to contact that state as well. Some states offer online ordering, which negates a visit to any law enforcement agency.
Request and Complete an Application
Once you have figured out where the records are kept in your state, you will need to request an application for a criminal history report. The application will ask your name, address, and other identifying information like your Social Security Number or driver’s license number. There will be a fee to request the report, and you may have to show identification to prove that you are the person on the report. Some states require fingerprints as well. Once submitted to the state, a criminal background check will take a few weeks, and will be sent to the address you listed on the application.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has an application called “Applicant Information Form”, which is used when people are requesting federal criminal information about themselves or others. The application will ask for name, address, social security number, birth dates, and current contact information. The FBI application requires fingerprints, which can be completed at your local law enforcement agency. The FBI request will cost $18 and will take approximately four to six weeks to be sent to you.
If you don’t have the time to do a search on yourself, hire a private investigator or company that deals in background checks. This method will cost more, but you will not have to go to courthouses or put the time in to do it yourself.
Review Your Record
Finally, no matter how you get your record, you should review it for accuracy. If it is accurate, and you have criminal activity on your record it may be advisable to seek an attorney to discuss expungement or sealing of your record. This may make your criminal record look less risky for potential employers, landlords, and others needing this information.