How can a person's criminal record be accessed for free?


Quick Answer

Limited court case information is generally freely available online at the state level, but full criminal records usually require the payment of a fee. Access to these records is also usually limited to only the individual in question.

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Full Answer

Rules of access and amount of available information vary by state, but some states have websites that allow anyone to look up court case information for no charge.

Federal court case files can be accessed through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER, website. A fee of 10 cents per page is charged to access the system, and a credit card must be put on file for payment.

Criminal information from certain federal agencies can be obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. However, information about another living person cannot be disclosed without that person's written authorization or other legal authorization.

The rules about access to state criminal records vary by state, and there is usually a fee to access these records. States with variants of Megan's Law may allow the general public to access information about sex offenders through a website or printed materials. Most other criminal information cannot be released without the consent of the individual in the question. Although, searching newspaper archives can provide information on charges and convictions that is unavailable otherwise.

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