Criminal Records – The Beast with 12 Heads

The most common misconception about public records is that “Nationwide” criminal record services (even ours) provide access to ALL records in the United States.

The truth is, each jurisdiction, county, and state has different rules and opinions about what records should be accessible, who may access criminal records, and if they will provide the public access at all. In fact, NO ONE has access to all of the criminal records nationwide, aside from the FBI. So unless you have a friend at the Bureau, you must face the beast with 12 heads. One head is the states like Massachusetts, California, and Louisiana that don’t allow the general public to have access to statewide criminal records. Another head is states like New York that do allow statewide access, but only through an expensive New York State service; no one else may provide access to their records. A third head is jurisdictions like Washoe and Clark Counties in Nevada who provide access to their records online for free—but like New York make sure that they’re the only online providers. The list goes on and on. Get the picture?

We helped a customer who was frustrated after paying to access a few reputable online criminal background databases, only to wind up empty handed. He knew the subject of his search had convictions in the state of Michigan, yet his Nationwide search at one service turned up nothing.

It is easy to understand why the customer was frustrated. We had to reveal the truth about the beast with 12 heads. You cannot enter the Gorgon’s lair with eyes averted and slay the beast with one swing of your sword. You have to go after each head until you know you have dispatched them all.

We put on our research helmets and asked the customer for details on his subject. The man with the criminal record – we’ll call him EDDIE SMITH – was born on January 1, 1970. The customer was certain that Eddie served some time in jail, and was convicted of a felony in Genessee County, MI. The customer needed proof, which is why he paid good money for online background searches.

The first thing we did was bring up the Michigan coverage page for our Premium Criminal Record database. Michigan provides us with data from their OTIS system, which is a tracking database of prisoners, parolees, and probationers who have spent time in the Michigan State prison system. We noted that the OTIS system does not include records for persons who spent time in county jail. That is a different system. The Michigan State Department of Corrections runs the state prisons. Each county runs their own jail. This is true for most U.S. States. If Eddie Smith was sentenced to county jail time only, then OTIS would not have records for him.

That was the situation with state prison records. What about county records and county court records?

Genessee County’s 67th District Court does provide records to outside agencies, but only the misdemeanors. Felonies are not included. This explains why Eddie’s Genessee County felony did not show up.

We assured the customer that paying for a statewide criminal search in Michigan was not a complete waste of time… if Eddie Smith had other types of convictions in Genessee County or other counties in Michigan, the statewide search might have brought those to his attention.

We pointed out to the customer that he could complete his search of Genessee County by using our free criminal records directory, which provides links to databases maintained by the county courts. Using the directory links, he could find other records not included in the statewide databases, like arrest records, jail records, inmate records, etc.

We walked the customer through the steps needed to find those web links on our directory. Starting with our FREE PUBLIC RECORDS LOCATOR tool box on our home page, we asked the customer to use the drop-down menu of the “By Type of Record” tool, where he then selected “Criminal Records.” At the following page, he selected “Michigan Criminal Records” from the list of states. On the Michigan Criminal Records page, we pointed out the link to the Michigan State Police service, where he could pay $10 for an “Official” Michigan criminal history.

Scrolling down further on the page, we found the link to the Genessee County 67th District Court site, where we ran a free search for Eddie Smith. This court site includes both felonies and misdemeanors… and there we found the record for Smith’s felony conviction, which indicated that state prison time was not required. The customer printed out the details for free.

Feeling empowered now with his free SearchSystems.net membership and newfound knowledge, the customer thanked us and went on to research criminal records for other subjects in his file. There may be 12 heads to this beast, but we provide the weapons to find and strike them down.