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Under The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Title 5 of the United States Code, section 552, any person has the right to request access to public records: criminal records, arrests & warrants, inmate records, vital records & more.

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Information Contained in Background Records

Searching for background records on an individual may become necessary for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you are screening someone whom you are considering for a tenant or spouse, or even an employee. Background information may also be requested about a business or individual you plan on doing business or investing with. These records contain several different types of information depending upon where they are found and their nature. Following is a discussion of the types of background records you may want to access, and the type of background information contained in them.


Public vs. Confidential Records

Public records may include a wide variety of sub-types that are easily found and accessed in local and state government records offices. State background records may include birth, death, marriage, divorce and even court records. These can help you determine where a person has been and where he or she is going, and even if they have been truthful about their origins and marital status.

Confidential records include military, education and medical records, and may only be accessed with special permission and proper release forms from the subject party, unless you are a direct relative of him or her. Military records can include information about where someone was stationed and special training they received; medical records may include past tests, prescriptions and surgeries; education records will often include past schools or institutions attended, as well as classes taken and grades earned. These confidential records are protected from public view by several federal statutes.


Criminal Background Report

Another common type of background check will offer a complete criminal history and report about an individual. This type of report will contain information about any past criminal offenses, time served in state or federal prison, and other penalty and sentence details. These types of criminal records are available through the FBI, state Departments of Corrections, state and local courts and law enforcement agencies, and even state and federal sex offender registries.


Checking a Person's Background Information

Another source of information provides you with several details about a person's background and history. Using a credit or consumer report offers information about past addresses, employment, names and even creditworthiness. You do need an individual's Social Security Number in order to obtain complete consumer information, and this is normally done prior to extending credit, offering employment in financial or otherwise sensitive fields, and allowing them to rent your personal property. These types of reports will also provide information about any collection accounts, foreclosures, tax liens and even some types of court proceedings.

In addition to simply ordering a person's consumer report, you may want an investigative consumer report. This type of background report includes live interviews with former neighbors, creditors, friends and employers to learn even more about a person's character and habits.

Depending upon your reasons for needing a background check on someone, you may need to pursue one or several avenues to retrieve the proper information. Many times, the accuracy and amount of information you will be able to access is directly affected by the basic information you already know about the person and can use as tools in your search.

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