There are a variety of ways to search for free public arrest records, and there are many reasons why you should. To the genealogist, this record can provide helpful information such as the county in which the ancestor was living, details of age, race, address, descriptions or photos, even the names of family members. There are essentially three main information pools to draw from: online resources, local resources and offical repositories.
- Google search engine crawls through millions of online records to bring you all sorts of information, from A to Z. This invaluable tool can link you to every available database for free public records searches. Simply input as much specific, but concise information you can into the search box and hit "search". For example for a free public record search in the state of Florida, just enter the words "free Florida public records search." It will bring you up page after page of the most appropriate results for that search term.
- My Florida County.com is a service of the Florida clerks of court. It is a county-by-county database of public records in that state.
- Enjoy access to over 45,000 links to free online databases of public records at Search Systems.net. From deaths, divorces, marriage records, to births, business filings, property, unclaimed property, voters, government employees and missing persons, the list of public information databases is very long.
- Ancestry.com features a variety of databases to obtain state marriage, death and vital records. Unfortunately, this is a paid service but you may find that is well worth the investment. Ancestry.com provides individual links to each of the databases in this vast compilation. You'll find death, birth and marriage indexes, federal censuses, US Veterans' gravesites, passport records, WWII records, Social Security Death Index, California Court, Land and Wills Records, city directories, newspaper records, American wills and administrations, a cemetery record compendium, public and private member stories and Daughters of the American Revolution Lineage Books, among others.
- Criminal Pages.com is a free online criminal records check service. The website offers a search through state and county criminal records, nationwide criminal records, state inmate records, federal inmate database, misdemeanor files, arrest records, convictions and incarcerations.
Local Free Public Arrest Records
As a practical matter, you can always go to your local county courthouse or sheriff's office and ask to view free public arrest records.
Additionally, you may view the microfiche in your local library of past issues of leading county, city or regional newspapers. Usually, these carry a blotter section detailing arrests within the area. Most main branches of libraries carry these historical newspaper archives on microfiche. You may also find books with entries for historic newspaper records in the genealogy room of your local library.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, you have the right to view public arrest records. The main government offices dealing with this issue are the US Department of Corrections Administration and the Department of Public Safety.
Each state has its own rules and regulations governing official vital records. Be aware that states will charge an administration fee for a certified copy of the official record. So while you may search records for free in an Internet database, usually you will be required to pay some type of fee to get an actual copy of the original record.
The USA.gov official federal website link takes you to a page with direct links to each of the states' official websites. You may click on the state link to obtain more information, including contact information for public record repositories. Usually, vital records are centralized in an office within the state's Department of Health and Human Services.
Some of the public records you can expect to be able to search include birth, death, divorce, arrest, criminal records, marriage and various other recorded documents.