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Run Your Own Criminal Background Investigation

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Read This Blog FIRST To Avoid Pitfalls, Headaches and Frustration

Who should read this article:


1. Parents who need to hire household employees such as nannies, babysitters, gardeners, housekeepers, pool cleaners, drivers or cooks

2. Single moms who want to find deadbeat dads for child support payments

3. Parents who want to run a criminal background check on a childcare agency or company

4. Any parent who wants to know more about their neighbors before they let their children play at their house

5. An adult male, living alone, moves into your neighborhood and you want to make sure he is not on a sex offender list

Small business owners:

1. Landlords who want to investigate prospective new tenants

2. Small business owners who want to hire a new employee

3. Small business owners who want to investigate a new business partner

4. Small business owner whose former partner absconded with partnership money

People who want to reunite with others they have known in the past:

1. People who want to find long lost relatives for any reason

2. Persons who want to know what happened to old high school or college friends

3. Individuals who wonder where their old boyfriends or girlfriends are now

Internet users:

1. Internet dating site users who want to know more about a person before meeting them for the first time off line

2. Internet users who are receiving nasty emails and want it stopped

3. Hopeful Internet entrepreneurs who want to investigate an on line business before sending in money for an "on line success" kit


1. Absentee homeowners who want to run a background check on a house sitting company or a rent collection agency

2. Pet owners who want to investigate pet sitting services.

3. Homeowners who want to investigate contractors before they allow the company to do any work such as plumbing, electrical, window washing, roofing, alarm systems and so on.

4. People who want to protect themselves from identity theft


This article is offered to the person who wants to conduct their own criminal background investigation without using a "bricks and mortar" detective agency. This person should be Internet savvy enough so that he may effectively conduct a simple, straight-forward investigation using on line people search engines and public on line databases.

Caveats And Warnings:

Even the experienced Internet user should heed the following warnings regarding on line people search companies:

1. All on line search agencies will tell you that they cannot absolutely guarantee that you will find the exact information you are looking for. Nor can any on line search firm guarantee that the person you find is the individual you are seeking. The more detail you have to contribute, the more accurate your on line search will be.

2. Most on line search companies will have you pay a certain amount first(usually $15 to $30), which, when approved, is added to your account with that company. Then it is up to you how to use those funds with their various services, which all reputable on line search companies will outline in detail.

3. When you have paid your money and begin your search, you should make sure that the results you get back seem to be the person you are looking for. Be wary if the middle initial is different, the date of birth is wrong, or the location doesn't sound feasible. Remember, if you click on a record, you have paid for it! If it is NOT the person you are looking for, you will NOT get your money back. If you have any doubts at all on any search result, do NOT click the record.

4. Also, it is important for you to know that once you have found a record and paid for it, you must print it out immediately. Most on line search companies will not let you save a record to your computer hard drive. Remember, you are only allowed access to a record ONCE, so print it out immediately. You will NOT get your money back if you turn your computer off, have a sudden power failure, or navigate away from the record page site. The record will be gone and you have already paid for it! Again, print out ANY record you have paid for IMMEDIATELY!

5. Even if you get the right person(you are 100% sure), do NOT harass that person by any means: mail, email, or in person. You may be wrong and that person might sue you for harassment and/or stalking. The best thing you can do is to hire a lawyer to pursue the matter. Do not take the law into your own hands, you will lose almost every time!

6. There are literally thousands of on line search agencies. Some of these are off line licensed search firms who want an on line presence. Others are on line only search engines that depend on public databases. Before you pick any search agent(even if you want to do it yourself), make an attempt to contact the site owner or affiliate and ask them any questions you have in mind. If they don't give you satisfactory answers or if you have doubts about their abilities or their search product, don't use them. Most reputable on line affiliates will offer a blog of some kind where they outline what they can do for you. On their blog, look under the "About Me" section. You should see the blog owner's picture and be able to mouse over "email address" and see their working email address.

7. There are hundreds of affiliate web sites on line that will use the term "FREE" in their advertising. Be advised and warned: nothing of any worth is free. If you want a complete criminal background history check on someone, you are going to have to pay for it. Remember that complete accuracy is never guaranteed no matter who you use, on line or off line. For complete background investigations, you should expect to pay about $30 if you do it yourself. If you decide to use an off line agency, you should not be surprised if prices start at $1000 or more for ONE report. You are paying retainer fees, footwork expenses and equipment usage costs. Again, remember that nothing worthwhile is truly free, even if all you want to do is search for someone by email address, social security number or name.

8. If you do find that the person has a criminal background(especially a felony conviction), you need to be absolutely certain that this is the same person. You shouldn't rely only on what you see on paper. Remember, your search results may be inaccurate at best and dead wrong at worst! You should call the appropriate court system or city hall to verify a criminal record, conviction, and any prison sentence served and where the sentence was served. Get WRITTEN verification only, don't rely on telephone conversations. If possible, get hold of the prison records or arrest reports. These two will show physical characteristics, such as height, weight, eye color, hair color, body type, and identifying marks. Also see if you can get a good photograph of the person for comparison purposes. Be sure to give yourself enough time(at least two weeks) for this verifying information.

9. Even if you are 100% sure that you have come upon a person with a felony conviction, dig deeper to be sure that the conviction was not later set aside or quashed on appeal. There have been wrongfully convicted people who were set free years later, with no restitution by the state! If you do find out that the conviction was set aside, you may want to find out why this happened. If you feel in your gut that this person was indeed wrongfully convicted(no matter what the court said), then you may want to set aside any prejudice you hold against this person.

Legal Terms You Should Know:

The following legal definitions are terms you will come across while conducting your criminal background searches. I know some of these are obvious, but there is at least one("uttering") that I didn't know. Arm yourself with the correct definitions of terms so you know precisely what you are looking at. I copied these definitions exactly from two on line sources(see Internet references below).


(assault, battery, arson, etc.) Circumstances surrounding the commission of a crime or tort which increase or add to its injurious consequences.


False name used in substitution of a legal name on official documents and for official purposes. Nicknames are not considered aliases. May be noted as AKA (Also Known As) on criminal records.


A claim or statement of what a party intends to prove; the facts as one party claims they are.


A legal judgment, based on the decision of either a jury or a judge, that an accused is not guilty of the crime for which he or she has been charged and tried.

Arrest Record

An official form completed by the police department when a person is arrested. Also, a cumulative record of all instances in which a person has been arrested.

Arrest Warrant

An order made on behalf of the state, based on a complaint, and signed by a judge authorizing police to arrest a person thought to have committed a crime. A person arrested on a warrant stays in jail until bail is posted or until released by order of the court.


Bond money paid to a court, by or on behalf of a criminal defendant, as security that, when released from jail, the defendant will appear at future hearings. If another person posts the bail money, then that third party vouches that the defendant will appear at future court dates. Bail can be forfeited if the defendant fails to appear or violates release conditions.


An intentional, unwanted and forceful/violent touching of another person, or something closely connected with that person.


An illegal demand for money or property under threat of harm or exposure of undesirable acts.


A debt intended to insure the defendant's future appearances in court. The amount of the bond is set by a judge or magistrate. Factors influencing the amount set include the seriousness of the charge, the defendant's criminal history, and the defendant's ties to the community.


Means a person is capable of making informed decisions in specific areas regarding the conduct of one's personal and/or financial affairs. Family - Parent, foster parents, spouses, siblings, and others who perform the roles and functions of family members in the life of an individual, including persons in a relationship of mutual support with an individual that is exclusive and expected to endure over time.


The party who complaints or sues; one who applies to the Court for legal redress, also called the plaintiff.


The document on which criminal misdemeanors are charged in District Court, as well as the initial charging document for felonies.

Conditional Discharge

A conviction. Court issues the discharge from the jail and requires defendant to comply with some conditions. Regardless whether defendant complies with rules or not, he/she is still convicted (GUILTY) and case can never be expunged.

Consent Decree

A court judgment in which both parties agree to work out the terms of the settlement subject to court approval.

Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA)

A bureau that gathers and provides information about individuals - such as if they pay their bills on time or have filed bankruptcy - to creditors, employers, and landlords. Companies that perform pre-employment screening services are also considered CRAs and are governed by the FCRA, as are the employers that use background screening services.


The formal decision of a criminal matter which finds the accused guilty. It is the finding of a judge or jury, on behalf of the state, that a person has, beyond a reasonable doubt, committed the crime that they were accused of.

Criminal Nonsupport

Failure to pay child support in violation of court order.


The final decision which ends a criminal proceeding by judgment of acquittal or dismissal or which sets the sentence if the defendant has previously been convicted.


The taking of another's money or property by one entrusted with its possession, usually through employment.


To seal or purge records of arrest, criminal, or juvenile record information. When a record of an offense is expunged it will not appear on a released criminal history. The record may be destroyed or sealed after a certain period of time. Records may be expunged in juvenile cases, or upon satisfactory completion of a court-ordered probation and/or class(es).


A serious crime punishable by more than one year in prison.


The commission of an act with the goal to benefit or gain advantage at another's expense. A purposeful misrepresentation with the intent to deceive.

Grand Larceny

The theft of property over a specified value. Dollar amounts vary by state.


The investigation of all forms of aggravation, e.g. sexual, embarrassing, discrediting or troubling practices that worry or frighten individuals in the workplace or in their personal lives.


Formal charging document presented by the prosecuting attorney to a grand jury. The grand jury may then issue the indictment if it believes that the accusation, if proved, would lead to a conviction.


The unlawful taking of another person's property. Larceny is commonly classified as "petty" or "grand" depending on the value of the property. Dollar values to establish classifications of "petty" and "grand" may vary from state to state.


Defamation of another person through print, pictures, or signs.


A crime that is less serious than a felony and for which the punishment is usually imprisonment for one year or less, usually in a jail or other local facility, and/or a fine.

Nolle Prosequi

Voluntary dismissal of criminal charges by the state.


Release of a prisoner from imprisonment, but not from legal custody.


Conditional freedom granted to an offender by the court after conviction or a guilty plea with requirements for the offender's behavior, and which any violation of such requirements may result in revocation of the probation. Supervision is usually by a probation officer.


May be forcible or by intoxication, with a person who is underage and unable to give consent, or with a person with diminished mental and/or physical capabilities.

Restraining Order

An order prohibiting a specified action until such time that a hearing on an application for an injunction can be held.


Defamation verbal communication. Making false and malicious statements about another.


To forge another's name.

On line reference for above definitions:

Legal Terms I

Legal Terms II

In Conclusion:

Performing on line criminal background investigations yourself can be a very tricky business. You must be very wary of any information you get from public databases. Make sure that all information is accurate before you confront the individual you are investigating. Be sure to hire a competent attorney instead of taking the law into your own hands. Verify all information you receive on line with the proper authorities. It may cost you a bit more money and time, but it will save you a lot of headaches(and a possible lawsuit) later on.

I am assuming that if you wish to perform your own on line investigations, you must be Internet savvy. You must know how to effectively use search engines. You must also have the ability to carefully read and understand any written reports you receive. You must be willing to verify ALL information!

Don't be fooled by on line search companies(especially affiliates) who use the word "FREE" in their advertising. Remember, if you are performing a serious criminal history investigation yourself, you will pay a minimum of $15. A much more realistic estimate is $30 or even a little more. You will get what you pay for. So what can you get for free? Not much that will help you.

Good luck with your on line background investigation. Use common sense and good judgment. If you have any questions or comments on this article, just write to my email address. You can find it at the upper right hand corner of this page or under the "About Me" section to the right.

John J. Soares
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