What Is a "National" Criminal Records Search?
Unfortunately, in our industry, there is widespread incomplete, inaccurate and downright misleading information about what a “national” criminal record search actually is. First and foremost, with 7000+ courts and 3000+ counties in the U.S., there is no such thing as fully accurate and complete “national” or “nationwide” criminal records search. The closest thing to a true “national” criminal records database is maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice. But, with very few exceptions, this database is available only to law enforcement agencies, and is not available for public access, including by GladiKnow and our competitors.
The “national” criminal records searches which are available to the public are, in fact, compilations of hundreds of millions records nationwide by private companies. These companies have aggregated the records into private, proprietary databases. They have compiled their databases from hundreds of millions of county court records, incarceration records, prison/inmate records, probation/parole/release information, arrest data, and other sources. These companies then sell access to their databases to third parties, like GladiKnow, for resale to the public for specific, permissible purposes. Like any product, there are higher quality (generally more expensive), and lower quality (generally less expensive) solutions.
Fortunately, the Executive Team at GladiKnow has been in the data/information industry for over 20 years, and we know the data aggregators throughout our industry very well – the good and the bad. For your benefit, GladiKnow has partnered with Lexis Nexis and PIPL, two of the very best data providers in the industry, in order to provide to you the highest quality criminal records search available.
It’s unfortunate that some of the other companies may give the impression that a national criminal records search is the end all, be all criminal search product – a one stop shop. It is not. The truth is, a "hit" (record found) on a national criminal records search does not always mean that the subject, in fact, has a criminal history. Even more so, a "clear" (no record found) does not always mean that the subject does not have a criminal record. This is due to several reasons including the sheer volume of the data collected (millions of individual records gathered from thousands of sources), as well as the fact that many counties do not provide access to bulk data at all.
Our Best Practice Recommendation
We strongly believe that a national criminal records search has very high value. Since most crimes are tried (and the records kept) in the county where the crime occurred, our best practice recommendation is to also search the county or counties where the subject has lived, as well as the state where the subject has lived, in those states where the statewide criminal records search is available and presents a good value. (Please see our discussion and recommendations in Criminal Records – Statewide.)
Get the Full Picture
A criminal record, or a lack of a criminal record for that matter, does not alone fully define a person – it does not give you the full picture. That’s why Glad I Know incorporates a criminal record search as just one piece of its comprehensive background check.
Your comprehensive background check on Glad I Know includes over 30 separate search products, and combines data from two of the very best data providers in the industry: Lexis Nexis and PIPL. The following searches are ALL included in your Comprehensive Report:
In addition, for the most complete picture on your subject, Glad I Know also offers the following “add on” search products which may be ordered separately, and directly from your Comprehensive Report.
What Is a Criminal Record?
A criminal record or a “rap sheet” is a person’s criminal history. This may include convictions, as well as charges that did not result in convictions, and arrests. Arrests may or may not result in charges. Typically, only adult records are part of the public domain. Juvenile criminal records are typically sealed by Court order. Some exceptions apply – for example when a person under 18 has been charged as an adult. These are often violent crimes and homicides.
Although criminal history is usually a matter of public record, it may be difficult to find a person’s complete and accurate criminal history, and sometimes it is hard to find any criminal history at all. The National Crime Information Center is a government database that compiles data about the criminal justice system. However, this information is typically not available to the public.
In contrast, for the public, criminal history most commonly involves an investigation of the jurisdictions where a person has lived. However – beware: While a person convicted of a crime in one jurisdiction may have a complete criminal history in that venue, a search in a neighboring jurisdiction (typically a county) may come up with zero records. This is why it is a big benefit to do a national criminal records search, rather than a county specific criminal records search only.
What is the difference between an Infraction, Misdemeanor and Felony?
Most states penal codes allow for three main categories of punishable offenses - infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.
An infraction, sometimes called a petty offense, is the violation of an administrative regulation, an ordinance, a municipal code, and, in some jurisdictions, a state or local traffic rule. An infraction is the least serious of all offenses. An infraction is very rarely punishable by incarceration. Most infractions are punished with a fine only. Infractions do not lead to jail time or probation. However, if a person fails to pay the fine or appear in court, they may be charged with a misdemeanor.
A misdemeanor is more serious than an infraction but less serious than a felony. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, it will create a criminal record. Misdemeanors carry different punishments, depending upon the seriousness of the offense. Because misdemeanors can result in jail time, they include the right to appear before a judge and to have a jury trial. In court, the attorney may try to plea bargain a misdemeanor down to an infraction, helping the defendant avoid jail time, a criminal record, and other negatives that come with having a misdemeanor record.
A felony is the most serious charge and, as such, carries the heaviest punishment. Generally, felonies can carry a year or longer jail sentence, as well as becoming a permanent part of the defendant’s criminal record. More serious felonies carry very heavy penalties.
What are the different categories of crimes?
A felony is a crime defined as "serious" and typically incurs a more severe punishment than a misdemeanor. Felony convictions typically result in imprisonment, or even the death penalty. The actual sentence imposed depends on the circumstances surrounding the crime, if there were any injuries or deaths as a result of the crime, and perhaps even the defendant’s behavior during and even after the crime (i.e., remorse or lack of remorse). These factors may encourage the judge to lessen or increase the severity of the sentence.
Categories of Felonies
Felonies are broken down into subcategories that reflect the level of severity of the crime.
Class "E" felonies are the least serious and carry penalties of up to three (3) years in prison.
Class "D" through "B" felonies are more serious and carry maximum prison sentences of six (6) years to twenty-five (25) years.
Class "A" felonies are the most serious of all and can result in a life sentence without parole or the death penalty.
Felonies include homicide, kidnapping, rape, and grand larceny.
How are felony records located?
Felony records are public records. With some exceptions, all felony convictions are part of the public record and can be searched and viewed by anyone. Several companies have invested resources to digitize these records, allowing for nearly instant access, unlike years past where pulling criminal records was a long and time-consuming process. Each jurisdiction has their own public records laws, so how much information about a person or case you can view depends on where the crime was committed.
Online/Digital public access to felony records is a fairly recent development, as the internet and online background check services have made it easier to obtain information. Until recently, if you wanted to find out if someone had a criminal record or was convicted of a felony, you likely would have had to visit the courthouses and the clerks’ offices in multiple counties, in every state. Online databases with information on convicted individuals are kept by the FBI and record offices, but access to those databases is typically restricted to government personnel, such as prosecutors and police.
You should also know that while you may be able to access felony records, they may not provide all the information you are seeking, as this depends on the state in which the felon was convicted.
Example of Criminal Record Information
The following is a sample of some of the information you may be able to locate by searching for a felon’s records:
- Age and state of residence
- Offense committed and the date
- Court location, name, and jurisdiction
- Plea entered by the defendant and the disposition of the case/charges
Typically, to discourage identity theft, some data may be excluded, such as a person’s social security number and their birthday.
Information obtained through a criminal records search may help you decide whether you feel comfortable with this person spending time around you and your loved ones.
The Impact and Consequences of a Felony Record
The consequences of having a criminal record in general and a felony record in particular may include:
- Difficulty being hired.
- Exclusion from obtaining certain licenses and permits, including a visa or a firearm. In addition, convictions may impact professional licenses required to legally operate or manage certain businesses.
- Difficulty finding a lease or an apartment.
- Ineligibility to serve on a jury.
- Ineligibility for government assistance or welfare.
What are Arrest Records?
An arrest occurs when someone is seized and taken into custody. Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies all maintain arrest records.
Arrest records can contain a significant amount of information which may include why someone was arrested and when the arrest occurred. When searching for arrest records, most people are looking for evidence of violent crime, theft or fraud, and drug or alcohol violations. However, arrest records may reflect a number of different crimes, and, depending on jurisdiction, may even reflect business related or traffic offenses.
When searching for arrest records or criminal records, you might also uncover other information about the person, including their age, address, court records and other important details.
DUI records may be part of an individual's criminal record history. “DUI” means “driving under the influence.” A related term is “DWI” which means “driving while intoxicated.” Different jurisdictions use different terms. Both terms describe impaired driving (due to illegal drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol, or any substance that may cause impairment).
More often than not, DUI's are classified as misdemeanors. This conviction may entail a punishment, such as a fine, and jail time. Some jurisdictions may require those convicted of a DUI to attend DUI classes. A DUI may be classified as a felony in some cases, such as when the subject has had more than one DUI in a given amount of time, if someone was injured or killed in an accident, or if the subject was driving while impaired without a valid license.
Many DUI charges arise from DUI checkpoints which are set up by local police. If an officer suspects DUI or DWI, he or she may employ a number of sobriety tests, like asking a person to walk in a straight line.
Legal BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) limits vary by state. One common BAC is .08, but this varies by jurisdiction.
DUI records are public records and can therefore be accessed by the public, but their online availability depends on whether the jurisdiction has digitized the records.
The length of time that a DUI stays on your driving record depends on the state. A DUI may stay on a driver's record for ten (10) years.
“Jail” vs. “Prison”
Typically, jails are for shorter-term incarceration, including the period following an arrest. Prisons, by contrast, are typically for long-term criminal inmate housing after judicial sentencing.
“Jail” inmates may be awaiting sentencing, or they may be individuals who are serving shorter sentences for misdemeanor crimes, and/or convicts who are waiting to be transferred to a larger prison.
Prisons house those typically convicted of felonies, whose sentence is one year or longer.
Jails are most often operated by local governments and the county sheriff's office, whereas prisons typically are run by the states or the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Searching jail records may provide details about a person's identity and the reason they were jailed including: first and last name, case number, facility of incarceration, discharge date, next court date, the charge, incarceration date, disposition, projected release date, warrants, year of birth, sex, race, height, weight, hair and eye color, and place of birth.
Why Check for a Criminal Record?
At GladIKnow.com our message is simple: Trust? Of course. But verify too. When it comes to the safety of you and your loved ones, it is just the smart thing to do.
There are many great uses of a criminal background check. Here are two great videos which highlight the value and the many uses of a background check:
You may want to perform a person search before meeting someone you met online, for your own safety. Perhaps a loved one’s new acquaintance has a criminal history and you want to find out more about this person. Maybe you have a new neighbor you have been hearing some rumors about.
There’s a long list of reasons why checking up on the details about a person’s record is a smart idea. Here is a good recap of what you can and cannot use Glad I Know for:
What can I use Glad I Know for? What are the Dos and Don’ts?
The following are common, PERMITTED uses of Glad I Know (the Dos).
- Neighbors. Curious?
New neighbor? Odd, strange or downright creepy behavior? Concerned? Are your children at risk? Find out who is living in your neighborhood. Trust, of course. But verify too. It’s just a smart thing to do.
- Those interacting with your children and loved ones
Parents of your child’s new friend? Sleepovers/slumber parties? Afterschool and weekend events? Trips? Carpool? If you have kids, chances are they spend a lot of time around adults you may not know very well. Help to ensure your children and loved ones are in a safe environment.
- Friends, family, classmates, co-workers: Lost touch?
Locate childhood friends, former classmates, co-workers, and extended members of your family you have lost touch with.
- A new friend or romantic interest?
Meeting new people through friends, in person or online is great. Are they safe and trustworthy? Get peace of mind and rest assured with Glad I Know.
- Online marketplaces and social networks
Online marketplaces and social networks bring value and enjoyment, but before you agree to meet or do business with someone you connected with online, learn more about them and help make sure you will be in a safe environment.
- Roommates or travelling companions
Thinking about moving into a house or apartment, or going on a trip with people you don’t know very well? Strange or odd behavior by a roommate? We can help give you the full picture.
What will someone see? What is your online reputation? Learn what your background check contains. We even make it easy to share with someone if you chose to!
The following uses of Glad I Know are NOT PERMITTED (the Don’ts)
Glad I Know is not a “consumer reporting agency,” and our products and the information we provide are not “consumer reports” as defined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq.) (the “FCRA”). Accordingly, our products, and the information we provide, may NOT be used in any way, in whole or in part, as a factor in determining eligibility for employment, tenancy, credit, insurance, or any other purpose under the FCRA.
- No employment screening
You cannot use Glad I Know for employment related background checks of any kind, including pre-employment background checks, hiring, promotion, reassignment, demotion, or termination of an employee. These restrictions apply to domestic work, including a nanny or gardener.
- No tenant screening
You cannot use Glad I Know in connection with a decision to rent, lease or sell a residential or commercial space or unit.
- No decisions about credit, loans or insurance
You cannot use Glad I Know to assess the risk of someone’s existing credit obligations or to determine someone’s eligibility for issuing or extending credit, insurance, or loans.
- No professional service provider screening
You cannot use Glad I Know to screen a professional service provider such as a tutor, doctor, coach or personal trainer.
- No education or scholarship qualification screening
You cannot use Glad I Know to screen someone in order to determine if they are eligible for an educational program, financial aid, grant, or scholarship.
- No business transactions initiated by an individual consumer
You cannot use Glad I Know in connection with a business transaction initiated by an individual consumer, including screening an individual to determine whether they continue to meet the terms of a personal customer account.
- No “adverse action” and no other purpose specified in the FCRA
How can I remove a felony from my record?
Depending on the jurisdiction, a convicted felon may be able to remove a felony from their record, or prevent another party from viewing court files by asking a judge to seal or expunge their conviction.
Where expungement is not possible, sealing a record is a good alternative. As a practical matter, the record becomes not viewable to most members of the public. This may have several consequences: records of mugshots, palm prints, and fingerprints may be eliminated and the crime and conviction may be removed from viewing by the public. However, the sealed record may still be available to law enforcement, the military, and prosecutors and parole officers.
Typically, sealing a record starts with a motion to the court where the charge was filed and prosecuted and is usually supported by “good cause.”