A $25 fee is absolutely required to access your criminal record no matter what method you go through, so it is not possible to access it for free. Access of criminal records is an extended process that requires work from various government employees who need payment.
Criminal records are maintained by the country of the government where the criminal committed the crime. They are maintained by government employees. In the United States, these records are collected and compiled on all three levels of the government, giving many government organizations access to them. Modern records are kept on secure databases, but security measures still make the process of retrieving and recording them require extra work. This extra work necessitates fees when a copy is requested.