Recently, I was asked to run a criminal records check on two Penn State athletes. I used the Public Records Criminal History database on LexisNexis. But even after I had completed the research, was it definitive?
Then, today I discovered an interesting article by Jackie Walters, a Washington, D.C. law librarian, entitled “National Background Checks: Myths, Realities, Resources”.
There is no central repository for federal, state or local criminal records, and the record gathering in each state varies.
But this article gives some sensible steps for beginning such a search and then lists some free public records sites to use.
The Criminal History Records search under Public Records on LexisNexis is a good source for us, but I want you to realize that because of the way each state reports criminal records, it’s not a complete search.
When using the LexisNexis Criminal History search, look for the word ‘Source’ and click on the small i beside it. This will give you detailed information about what is included under each state. It might surprise you.