Check for Charges Against You (Online) In 3 Steps

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Criminal Records | April 6, 2022

Whether it’s for curiosity’s sake or getting ready for a job interview, it may be worthwhile to check for charges against you. Fortunately, almost anyone can perform this type of criminal history search and find out if criminal charges are filed in just three steps using the internet.

In fact, there are a number of different options available to check for charges against you, such as online databases and local court clerks that have resources that can help individuals who are hoping to find out if any charges have been filed against them.

Check for Charges Against You Online

Various state and police databases can be utilized to find useful information about any charges that were filed, when they were filed, and why. In fact, the process is very similar to how to find someone’s criminal record.

The exception to the rule is when the charges are related to a sealed indictment. In that (rare) case, the indicted suspect will not have any way to find out about the charges until they are arrested.

Also, the level of crime helps dictate how long police have to charge you with a crime, so that should also be taken into consideration.

Using Online Databases

In most cases, using an online database is the quickest and easiest way to check for charges against you. Not only are these databases easy to access, they are also updated frequently, so any charges (even charges that get dismissed and dropped charges) that are filed should be available on the databases as soon as they are processed by the court system.

Generally, criminal charges are held in a state database. Detailed steps for how to navigate state criminal databases and perform a search are outlined below.

So, ‘how do I know if I’ve been charged with a crime?’

Step 1: Identify the State’s Online Criminal Record Keeping System

Unfortunately, there is not one single way to check for charges in the United States. Unless there are federal crimes being charged, the charges will be filed at the state level.

Since every state has different regulations and laws surrounding how this information is kept and how it is released, the exact method to find this information will vary from state to state.

The first step in the process is to visit the state’s Department of Justice website for more information. On this website, there should be information for how records are kept, as well as how and who has access to certain criminal and police records.

State of Connecticutt Judicial Branch website screenshot.

The state maintains records of all criminal and civil charges and anyone can check for charges against you by exploring the state’s judicial case lookup features.

The following list provides links to the justice department website of each state.

StateState Justice Department Website
AlabamaAlabama Law Enforcement Agency
AlaskaAlaska Department of Law
ArizonaArizona Attorney General
ArkansasArkansas Department of Justice
CaliforniaCalifornia Department of Justice
ColoradoColorado Department of Justice
ConnecticutConnecticut Department of Justice
DelawareDelaware Department of Justice
FloridaFlorida Department of Law Enforcement
GeorgiaGeorgia Department of Law
HawaiiHawaii Department of Justice
IdahoIdaho Office of Attorney General
IllinoisIllinois Department of Justice
IndianaIndiana Department of Justice
IowaIowa Department of Justice
KansasKansas Department of Justice
KentuckyKentucky Department of Justice
LouisianaLouisiana Office of Attorney General
MaineMaine Department of Justice
MarylandMaryland Department of Justice
MassachusettsMassachusetts Department of Justice
MichiganMichigan Department of Justice
MinnesotaMinnesota Department of Justice
MississippiMississippi Department of Safety
MissouriMissouri Department of Justice
MontanaMontana Department of Justice
NebraskaNebraska Department of Justice
NevadaNevada Department of Justice
New HampshireNew Hampshire Department of Justice
New JerseyNew Jersey Department of Justice
New MexicoNew Mexico Department of Justice
New YorkNew York Department of Justice
North CarolinaNorth Carolina Department of Justice
North DakotaNorth Dakota Department of Justice
OhioOhio Office of Criminal Justice Services
OklahomaOklahoma Department of Justice
OregonOregon Department of Justice
PennsylvaniaPennsylvania Department of Justice
Rhode IslandRhode Island Department of Justice
South CarolinaSouth Carolina Department of Justice
South DakotaSouth Dakota Department of Justice
TennesseeTennessee Department of Justice
TexasTexas Department of Justice
UtahUtah Department of Justice
VermontVermont Department of Justice
VirginiaVirginia Department of Justice
WashingtonWashington Department of Justice
West VirginiaWest Virginia Department of Justice & Community Services
WisconsinWisconsin Department of Justice
WyomingWyoming Department of Justice
Washington D.C.Washington D.C. Department of Justice

Step 2: Access Court Records

For most states, the information for criminal charges that have been filed in court is available through the state court system.

This information is housed in a number of ways, but each state’s Department of Justice website will have information about whether or not this information is held in an online database. If it is, proceed to the next step.

If court records are not accessible via an online database, contact the county clerk or the clerk of the court where the charges were filed to learn how to access this information. (Usually, it simply requires filling out a form, paying a fee, and waiting for the results.)

Step 3: Perform a Name-based Search

If the state has a searchable online database, such as the remote access offered by the California Courts, the next step is to perform the search itself.

For each search, various information will be needed. This information ranges but the name of the individual being searched is required at the bare minimum. In some cases the court that the charges were filed will also be necessary to perform a search.

An example of how to perform a search in California is outlined below.

Example: To perform a search in California, first navigate to the “Find Your Court,” page of the California Courts website.

California Courts judicial branch of California case search to check for charges filed against you.

When checking for charges filed against someone, the state court system catalogs all cases, according to jurisdiction.

Next, select the superior court for the county where the charges were filed, such as Amador County.

From here, select “Case Search,” from the Amador county superior court website’s homepage.

Amador website screenshot

Accessing public records can be different for various jurisdictions, however, most sites clearly outline the search methods that individuals can use.

Finally, enter in the applicable information and perform the search.

There are a number of different ways to perform the search such as; case number, name, as well as case type and case status to help narrow down the process.

How To Check if Charges Have Been Filed By Police

Besides searching court records, there is also the option to check for charges against you that have been filed by the police. Since the police department is often the one who files reports that ultimately lead to a prosecutor filing criminal charges, much of the important information regarding how to look up charges on someone can be found through the police department.

As with searching court records for criminal charges, state and local laws will play a major role in what information is available to the public and how this information is accessible. Although the process is generally the same across most states, some jurisdictions have laws that will interfere with an individual’s ability to perform a search on someone else.

For more information on how to access police records for each state, use the list below to find information for a specific state.

StateState Police Department Website
Check for Charges in AlabamaAlabama State Police Department
Check for Charges in AlaskaAlaska State Police Department
Check for Charges in ArizonaArizona State Police Department
Check for Charges in ArkansasArkansas State Police Department
Check for Charges in CaliforniaCalifornia State Police Department
Check for Charges in ColoradoColorado State Police Department
Check for Charges in ConnecticutConnecticut State Police Department
Check for Charges in DelawareDelaware State Police Department
Check for Charges in FloridaFlorida State Police Department
Check for Charges in GeorgiaGeorgia State Police Department
Check for Charges in HawaiiHawaii State Police Department
Check for Charges in IdahoIdaho State Police Department
Check for Charges in IllinoisIllinois State Police Department
Check for Charges in IndianaIndiana State Police Department
Check for Charges in IowaIowa State Police Department
Check for Charges in KansasKansas State Police Department
Check for Charges in KentuckyKentucky State Police Department
Check for Charges in LouisianaLouisiana State Police Department
Check for Charges in MaineMaine State Police Department
Check for Charges in MarylandMaryland State Police Department
Check for Charges in MassachusettsMassachusetts State Police Department
Check for Charges in MichiganMichigan State Police Department
Check for Charges in MinnesotaMinnesota State Police Department
Check for Charges in MississippiMississippi State Police Department
Check for Charges in MissouriMissouri State Police Department
Check for Charges in MontanaMontana State Police Department
Check for Charges in NebraskaNebraska State Police Department
Check for Charges in NevadaNevada State Police Department
Check for Charges in New HampshireNew Hampshire State Police Department
Check for Charges in New JerseyNew Jersey State Police Department
Check for Charges in New MexicoNew Mexico State Police Department
Check for Charges in New YorkNew York State Police Department
Check for Charges in North CarolinaNorth Carolina State Police Department
Check for Charges in North DakotaNorth Dakota State Police Department
Check for Charges in OhioOhio State Police Department
Check for Charges in OklahomaOklahoma State Police Department
Check for Charges in OregonOregon State Police Department
Check for Charges in PennsylvaniaPennsylvania State Police Department
Check for Charges in Rhode IslandRhode Island State Police Department
Check for Charges in South CarolinaSouth Carolina State Police Department
Check for Charges in South DakotaSouth Dakota State Police Department
Check for Charges in TennesseeTennessee State Police Department
Check for Charges in TexasTexas State Police Department
Check for Charges in UtahUtah State Police Department
Check for Charges in VermontVermont State Police Department
Check for Charges in VirginiaVirginia State Police Department
Check for Charges in WashingtonWashington State Police Department
Check for Charges in West VirginiaWest Virginia State Police Department
Check for Charges in WisconsinWisconsin State Police Department
Check for Charges in WyomingWyoming State Police Department
Check for Charges in Washington D.C.Washington D.C. State Police Department

Step 1: Identify the State Police Online Record Keeping System

The Freedom of Information Act makes all police records in the county public information. Although anyone can request this information at any time, the jurisdiction will determine how these requests are made.

In most cases, there will be a section of the state police website that mentions making a “freedom of information act request,” a warrant search option, or a “search for charges” option.

Related reading: Do warrants show up on a background check?

Step 2: Make a Freedom of Information Act Request or Search for Charges

Once the particular police department’s method for obtaining the police report is discovered, the next step is usually as simple as following the guidelines set by that particular department. In most cases this will be an online system where individuals enter information about the person the charges refer to, as well as their own information and any required payments to perform the search.

Keep in mind that there are various reasons which can lead to requests not being completed, usually because of laws surrounding what information is public information. For example in many situations, if the case is still active, only those involved in the case may request information.

In most situations, an information act request for a case that has already been closed can be made by anyone, even if they were not involved.

An example of how to submit a freedom of information act request in New York is outlined below.

New York Charges Request Example: Navigate to the New York State Police website. 

New York State police webiste screenshot FOIL requests page.

The Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) makes it possible to search police departments for both pending warrants and charges that have been filed.

Next, scroll down to the section titled “request records” and select ‘Learn More’

Select FOIL request on the records request page. 

FOIL request options page New Your State police.

Follow the steps outlined for how to submit a Freedom of Information act request online, in-person, or by mail.

What Happens When Charges are Filed?

In order to understand why charges may have been filed against an individual, it’s important to understand why charges are filed at all. First, only criminal charges are filed through a prosecutor. This means that misdemeanors, such as jaywalking or speeding tickets, will not result in criminal charges.

Generally, criminal charges are brought against an individual following the review of information from a police report, or following a complaint from a private citizen that will lead to an investigation before charges are filed by the prosecutor.

Although private citizens can make a complaint that may eventually lead to criminal charges, a private citizen is not able to file charges themselves, as this is a power reserved by law for the prosecutor.

Once charges have been filed, they are entered into a state database and the pre-trial phase begins. In New York, the state makes it easy to check if someone is in Central Booking, while other states generally start the process with the sheriff’s office.

It is during this phase that both the defendant and prosecuting lawyers will begin deliberations that will ultimately be settled between them or by a judge. Criminal trials can be a confusing and drawn out process. Individuals who have had criminal charges filed against them should contact a criminal attorney, who will be able to guide them through the complicated legal process.

Stop Criminal Conviction Records: Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney

In some cases, charges that have been filed against an individual can be sealed or expunged. Laws for how and what records can be sealed will depend on the jurisdiction where the crime took place, however many jurisdictions do not allow records to be sealed under any circumstances.

However, there are a number of situations where a jurisdiction may consider sealing records, such as:

Using a Criminal Defense Lawyer to Expunge Records

If the check for charges against you yields results that may be in error, there are a number of options are available. Likewise, the process for sealing juvenile records is typically outlined by state law, as well, providing an effective solution for expunging records. However, in either case, contacting a criminal defense lawyer is the first step in the process.

A criminal defense lawyer will examine the circumstances and facts of the case and determine if sealing or expunging records is possible, given the crime and jurisdiction where it took place. Although some jurisdictions allow individuals to file petitions to seal records, it is always a good idea to talk to a lawyer first, as they have a better understanding of the complicated legal process.

With online databases becoming more and more common, searching criminal history information on an individual is faster and easier than ever. By understanding the local laws surrounding public records, the process to check for charges against you can be completed almost instantaneously.