County, city and state courthouses and enforcement agencies offer free criminal background information. Criminal records can be obtained free of charge, or for a fee from online agencies.
The clerk of court discloses criminal background information free of charge. Knowing the person's first and last name and birth date helps to speed up the search. Having a case number is also helpful. Even if a person has not been imprisoned, their criminal history is still public knowledge. A criminal check is relied upon someone having a criminal history. However, to find out the extent of a person's criminal history, one should consider a "nationwide" criminal search, conducted through the National Crime Information Center.
A statewide criminal background search is available in 29 states. A criminal background check is conducted in the state in which the crime or sentencing took place. Another type of criminal search is a citywide search. This search reveals any criminal charges that were imposed within a certain city. A city and county criminal background check is usually completed within the same day. The search can be performed during business hours by simply walking into one of the local law enforcement agencies, or at the clerk of courts.