Skip to Content

how to do a criminal background check on yourself

Do you need to learn how to get a criminal background check on yourself and find a personal record that shows felony convictions, misdemeanor convictions, criminal cases and arrest records for others (or more)?

Because of public records, anyone has the ability to search their own criminal history, or even find someone else’s criminal background in 2022, and the process is very straightforward once you know where to look.

This guide explaining how to get a copy of your criminal records shows every step required so you can learn the exact process for how to get a criminal background check on yourself as well as how to do a background check on someone without them knowing, legally and safely.

How Can I Check My Criminal Record For Free?

Wondering how to check criminal records for free? Just like getting a free volunteer background check, individuals can also use the same free methods for searching criminal background check records.

For those who are interested in seeing their criminal record without paying, only a few resources are available. However, consider using one of these top three options to find a record, details of the convictions, and what to do next.

Individuals must keep in mind that if they are using federal, state, and local criminal databases, there may be extra fees involved — therefore, this is not a free service.

  • Option 1: Federal, state, and local criminal databases from official government sources (reports generally cost from $5-$25)
  • Option 2: Physical requests
  • Option 3: Reputable background check agency (usually the quickest method and you can even use a 7-day free trial background check to save money)

If the criminal records check is being done for personal reasons (i.e. someone is curious about their boyfriend’s past, or perhaps doesn’t trust their sister’s new fiancée, or wants to know more about their new friend, etc.), consent is NOT required.

However, if they are doing the background check for any type of professional reasons, such as hiring a new employee, approving someone for residency (tenant background check), or checking the background of a volunteer, consent is required and the person in question MUST approve the search.

Search Federal Records and Sex Offender Registrations (National Background Check)

Individuals can find their own criminal record or someone else’s records by looking at the United States Courts’ records and sex offender registries.

These resources are free to use to search criminal background at the federal level. So, when asking “How can I get a copy of my criminal record online?” Start with federal databases.

Step 1: Use the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) System or visit the clerk’s office to find where the case was filed.1

The PACER System allows anyone to search for court case and docket information to find a federal criminal record and it is a completely free criminal background check.

Step 2: If an individual cannot find where the federal case may have been filed, they can use the PACER Case Locator tool and search database.2

Step 3: Individuals can also access the federal case documents after logging into PACER to see the criminal record in question.3

Step 4: In-person – if they do not want to look online or set up a PACER account, someone can access case files in person at the local court clerk’s office.

  • If an individual is looking for a case that is older than 1999 to see if they have a criminal record, they will also have to look in person for the documents at one of the Federal Records Centers to conduct the national background check.

Step 5: Phone call – If a person can’t find the criminal record online via PACER or in-person at the court clerk’s office, calling will provide them with basic information regarding the specific case.

Step 7: Court opinions – If a person does have a PACER account, they can find court opinions for free online.

Although people can find federal records via PACER or in-person services, these services are only free to search. For printed copies of the criminal report, there is a small charge. Although individuals can get a free criminal background check in Georgia, this is not true in every state.

  • Electronic and paper court records have a fee of 10 cents per page to print.
  • PACER charges 10 cents per page with a maximum of $3 per document.
  • Using the Federal Records Center costs $64.
  • Additional PACER free options are outlined on the website.

How to Get a Criminal Background Check Using State Criminal History Record Information

Every state provides access to a state-level background check service, either a name-based check or a fingerprint based check. This can be useful to avoid the steps required for how to get a federal background check on yourself.

The following table lists all states’ background check services:

There are two basic types of searches for how to look up charges on someone or find someone’s criminal record.

Criminal background checks issued through the Department of Justice and criminal background checks accessed through the state police background check.

Plus, states will vary on the proper steps to do online and in-person background checks. For example, the process of how to do the Georgia criminal background check online is different than doing a Louisiana check in person.

The following information provides an example step-by-step process to see the best way to conduct each search thoroughly.

To use the PACER system to find court records, users must sign up for an account and then pay small fees to access cases.

Criminal Background Check via Department of Justice

Learn how to get a criminal background check on yourself through the Department of Justice in Delaware:

Step 1: Obtain fingerprints through approved fingerprinting locations, with fees typically costing between $52 and $65 for vendor or contractor fingerprint services.

Step 2: Provide a photo ID, such as a driver’s license or any state ID.

Step 3: Juveniles must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Step 4: Individuals must pay a state and FBI criminal background check fee of $65 or a state background check fee of $25.

Step 5: Wait — the background check will be given to the point of contact.

Criminal Background Check via State Police

How can I get a local criminal background check? Use the local state police office to learn how to get a criminal background check.

Delaware Applicants:

  • Step 1: Complete the Authorization for Release of Information form.4
  • Step 2: Take the completed form to one of the state offices.
    • Kent County – Primary Facility
    • New Castle County – Satellite Facility
    • Sussex County – Satellite Facility
  • Step 3: Use a money order or credit card to pay the $65 processing fee.

Non-Delaware Applicants: 

  • Step 1: Visit the local fingerprint agency
  • Step 2: Print an FD-fingerprint form on the FBI website or bring a fingerprint card.
    • If a person uses the FBI website, go to the ‘Services’ and ‘Identity History Summary Checks’ section to find the ‘standard fingerprinting form (FD-258)’
  • Step 3: Complete the Authorization of Release Information form
  • Step 4: Mail the Authorization form, fingerprint card, and certified check or money order for $65 payable to the ‘Delaware State Police’ to the State Bureau of Identification in Dover, DE.

Use the following table to run a background check in any state. The rules for how to do a background check on yourself will still apply, except each state website and jurisdiction is slightly different and will have different processing fees.

For example, a California background check requires a $25 fee and must include fingerprints.

How to Check Someone’s Criminal Record from Local County Court Clerks

The following information provides steps for two different counties for how to get a criminal background check through local county court clerks. 

Example: County of Berks, Pennsylvania

The Clerk of Courts contains the records for the Criminal Division within the county. The Clerk is in charge of the seal and records of the Court, administering oaths, and affixing Seals the processes.

Although there is a loophole for a criminal background check PA, the public can learn how to get a criminal background check through the following:

Step 1: Visit the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania Web Portal to view court information.

This website shows appellate docket sheets, district court docket sheets, pleas, court calendars, and PayPal.

Step 2: Click on ‘Case Information’ to view ‘Court case’ and ‘Calendars.’

Step 3: Click on the ‘Public Records’ page under the Court Case section.

Step 4: Click on ‘Court Case Information’ under the UJS Web Portal.

The UJS web portal provides appellate court case information, criminal court case information, civil cases, traffic cases, and criminal cases.

Step 5: The other option is to visit the Criminal Courts of Common Pleas to see when a case event will be heard.

Example: Clark County, Washington

If an individual lives in Clark County, they can learn how to get a criminal background check through various methods.

Obtaining a criminal history in-person

Step 1: Individuals can visit the Clerk’s office on the First Floor of the Clark County Courthouse.

Step 2: Individuals can use the public computer terminal to carry out record checks and research case numbers.

  • The public space is open between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday.
  • Individuals can view the online list of available files before going to the Clerk’s office.5

Obtaining a criminal history through the mail

Step 1: Individuals can request a certified copy of criminal records through the mail.

Step 2: Individuals need to pay $5.00 for the first page and $1.00 for every page afterward.

  • Non-certified documents are .50 cents per page mailed.
  • Copies of archived records dated before 1996 may have a $30 fee.

Step 3: Individuals must use a copy request form to mail to the Clark County Clerk’s office at 1200 Franklin St, Vancouver, WA 98660.

Washington state’s criminal records information page is labeled WATCH, and explains how to get a copy of your criminal history, and how much it costs.

Obtaining a criminal history online:

Step 1: Individuals can obtain a criminal history in Clark County by using a copy request form 6.

Step 2: Individuals can fill the document, download it, and submit it to their email.

Getting Criminal History through Odyssey Portal

How can I get a copy of my criminal record online? Obtaining court records is essential to find out information about another person or yourself 7.

In Clark County, it is easy.

Step 1: Visit the Odyssey Portal website.

Step 2: Individuals must pay $5.00 for a request to search Clark County criminal convictions.

Step 3: Individuals must submit a request to the Clark County clerk through regular mail:

  • Attn. Criminal Department, PO Box 5000, Vancouver, WA 98666-5000

Step 4: The other option is to perform a statewide criminal search through the Washington State Patrol Criminal History.

Many individuals wonder how to check someone’s criminal record for a colleague, friend, family member, or new acquaintance.9 Whether it is for professional or personal reasons, it can be helpful to know how to get a criminal background check with online and in-person resources.10