Criminal Background Check: Wisconsin Public Records Guide

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Background Checks | May 8, 2024

Criminal background check Wisconsin shaped like a man holding a magnifying glass

Wisconsin criminal background checks eliminate the guesswork when you need information on someone. However, the Great Lakes state has some unique requirements that differentiate it from others.

Doing a background check before deciding on a candidate is a must. Sometimes a perfect appearance or resume is just that; perfectly arranged words on a piece of paper without any real value.

To be clear, a criminal background check for Wisconsin doesn’t just apply to employers and job-seekers; it is useful anytime a sensitive decision needs to be made, like finding nursing home volunteers or making sure a new child sitter is safe.

To avoid any costly mistakes, you should always do a background check. And like any other state, Wisconsin has its own rules.

Wisconsin Criminal Background Check Search
Free search finds criminal records, charges, convictions, pending charges, warrants and other public records for anyone in Wisconsin.

The results of a background investigation in Wisconsin come in many forms:

  • Identity verification
  • Prior employment verification
  • Driving records check
  • Credit report check
  • Educational background check
  • Professional licensing check

But the crucial one is the criminal background check of Wisconsin records.

What shows up on a background check in Wisconsin graphic, detailing Wisconsin Dept of Justice background checks and Wisconsin criminal background check for employment which includes identity and previous employment verification, driving records and credit checks as well as education and professional license checks which show up in Wisconsin crime database and background check in Wisconsin.

The type of background check you perform before hiring a candidate or giving the green light to someone depends on the nature of the position. For some job postings, an education background check or a professional license check isn’t necessary. The same goes for driving records or previous employment verification.

But for a majority of jobs above entry level and those that are more sensitive than others, a criminal background check is a must.

Skipping a criminal background check can be a costly mistake. But what does a criminal record check from Wisconsin even include?

  • Arrest records
  • Warrants
  • Convictions
  • Sex offenses
  • Court records
  • Incarceration records
  • Pending charges

The records can even include dismissed charges.

Because this is not considered a level 1 background check, it will also include federal records and not just those in Wisconsin.

As mentioned above, not every state has the same regulations for accessing criminal records, and Wisconsin is no different.

If you are interested in obtaining criminal records and doing a criminal background check in Wisconsin, this article breaks down the fine details. We will provide you with a thorough breakdown of the Wisconsin criminal background check for employment process as well if you’re in the process of hiring.

Also, we’ll cover the important things to know about criminal background checks in general and provide answers to common questions, saving you time and money that is often wasted on the wrong type of check.

Know the Basics: Criminal Background Checks Explained

Ever wondered what an actual criminal background check means and what it consists of in the end? We are here to help you understand it better, so you implement your new knowledge into your business and avoid any possible threats.

An image showing a person's hands filling out a request for a criminal background check form on a keyboard.

Many things should be left in the past, but a criminal record is not one of those things. When it comes to gaining information about someone’s potential criminal past, the background check may be performed on a national, federal, state, or country level, depending on the type of criminal background check.

For example, if you want to search a specific state’s criminal records database, you will only get the results from that specific state. So, if the candidate has a criminal record in other states, you won’t know it only from one state background check. A helpful piece of advice is always to do a nationwide background check for every state that your candidate has lived in previously.

You always want to search for any misdemeanors or felonies, while infractions or violations that are punishable by fines may not show up when you do the background check.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,1 both infractions and arrests that didn’t lead to convictions can be excluded from the background checks if they are not from the last seven years in some states.

If you question how long it takes for a criminal background check to be done, it depends. If you want to perform a national criminal database background check, it can be done in just a few hours. Background checks that need to be performed in other countries can take up to a few days, which often happens in countries where records are not digitized.

While doing a criminal background check, you need to follow federal, state, and local laws regulating employment screening. There are several requirements that the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act sets that you need to follow.2

For a criminal background check to be successful, you need to have the following information on your candidate: full name, known aliases, date of birth, social security number, current, and past addresses, and driver’s license number.

You can quickly do a criminal background check online through government or third-party websites and agencies. For those who prefer face-to-face encounters and hard copies, a criminal background check can be performed by the local state government for a fee. You can also do it by visiting the local sheriff’s office or the local trial court.

To be clear, for governmental and public positions like those in law enforcement or public office, an FBI background check will be required. The time frame for an FBI background screening compared to a typical level 2 check done in Wisconsin? Depending on the applicant it can delay the process for several weeks. Using a fast-track FBI records check provider will speed up the process significantly.

But when you weigh in on the time and money you need to invest when doing a background check in person, it’s always more convenient and faster to do it online.

Criminal Background Check: Wisconsin Database Information

We mentioned that you should always do a separate background check for every state your candidate has previously resided in. If one of those states is Wisconsin, you will learn everything you need to know about a criminal background check in Wisconsin.

The criminal database in Wisconsin consists of full name, birth date, sex, race, address, and information about the offense. This information includes offense description, statute, level, date, case number, case filing date, plea, status, disposition, and sentence. The information provided is public record information of convicted offenders whose sentence was incarceration, supervision, or both.

Criminal Records in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, a felony is considered a severe crime, such as homicide, vehicular manslaughter, reckless endangerment, or possession of cocaine or heroin. Felonies like these almost always result in a prison sentence and heavy fines. Depending on the class of felony, they can stay on the record for 50 or 75 years, and they are not eligible for expungement if a person committed the crime above the age of 25.4 By conducting a criminal background check, you can see precisely what felony a person committed.

A women prisoner handcuffed in the dark prison.

A misdemeanor in the state of Wisconsin is not considered to be a severe offense as a felony.3 In most cases, the sentence for a misdemeanor is a fine and never prison time, but sometimes it can result in local jail time. As with a felony, a misdemeanor can be expunged from a record only if the person did it under the age of 25. But unlike with felony, a misdemeanor can be removed from the record after 20 years in Wisconsin. Some offenses considered a misdemeanor in Wisconsin are prostitution, resisting an officer, assault, and battery.

If you are interested in seeing if your candidate was ever arrested, you can easily do it in the state of Wisconsin because arrest records are public information there. You should know that many agencies that do background checks often hide arrests on criminal background checks because they don’t show if the arrest ended in a conviction or not.

If you need to find out that information, you should know that arrest records can be viewed by anyone in Wisconsin except when they are sealed. Also, some people may file a petition to remove arrest records, so that can also be a reason you can’t find them on a background check.

If the sex offender registry is needed to be found, it could be quickly done by searching online or visiting the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.9 The sex offender registry is also public information and can be viewed by anyone because of Megan’s Law.

After the age of 17 juvenile becomes eligible for removing all convictions and arrests from the records committed before that age. If a person has done this, it means that you will not be able to access the criminal records containing felonies that were committed when they were younger.

When an employer in Wisconsin is reviewing the criminal records of a potential employee, they have the right and ability to access all of the criminal records. The candidate has the right to know what they are viewing and get a copy of all the employer’s information. An essential piece of information is that the employer can’t consider arrests when making an employment decision.

In some states, a criminal background check shows records from only the last seven years. But Wisconsin is not one of those states, so a background check will show everything on the record on the background check. An exception is when a crime is expunged. What’s important to know is that the employer can’t discriminate against candidates if they have a criminal record due to the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act.7 It doesn’t imply if the crime committed is relevant to the job the candidate is applying for at the moment.

If a candidate has a criminal history that’s on record, here are some information that can show up on a criminal history report:

  • Arrest date,
  • Criminal case number,
  • Charge(s),
  • Offense level (was it a misdemeanor or a felony),
  • Disposition and disposition date,
  • Sentence.

Arrest Records

When it comes to arrest records, if they come up during a criminal background check, it only means that a person was arrested, and they can contain details about a specific arrest. Arrest records don’t contain details about the crime or if the person was convicted of it.

An image of a men's hands with handcuffs over a fingerprint record sheet.

You should take arrest records with a grain of salt because they don’t show if a person was guiltless of the crime they were arrested for or if they committed it. For that reason, many agencies that perform background checks decide to omit arrest records from their findings if there isn’t further information about the crime or conviction.

Inmate Records

If the candidate applying for a job opening was ever convicted, the employer could also view inmate records.

Inmate records are specific criminal records that contain information regarding the person’s time spent in jail, prison, or a correctional facility. These records contain essential information about the inmate, its location, the status of moving to a different facility, parole statutes, the probation one, and of course, the sentencing status.

A screenshot of the "Find an inmate" section of the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.

(Image: Federal Bureau of Prisons10)

It is vital to check inmate records if an employer decides to hire someone convicted of a crime before. It will help them better understand the nature of the crime and the current status of the future employee.

Sometimes retrieving inmate records can be straightforward, while sometimes, it requires a little bit of effort. One way of finding it is through the court agency holding the inmate records for a particular prison, jail, or correctional facility. In most states, you can find these kinds of records online on specific websites. At the same time, other states can provide contact information where you can find inmate records.

Wisconsin Criminal Background Check Process

The criminal background check process varies from state to state. In some, it can be pretty tricky, while in others, it can be effortless. Wisconsin is one of the states where doing a criminal background check is not difficult at all.

Every criminal record in Wisconsin is open to the public and can be viewed by anyone who wants to do it. To ensure the safety of the people, Wisconsin has an “Open Records” law that allows anyone to view anyone’s criminal records.5

Because of this, it’s easy to do it by visiting the Wisconsin Court System’s website. It’s fast and easy to use, and it provides relevant information about criminal records from citizens of Wisconsin.

Workers use this system from Wisconsin’s Law Enforcement and Justice Department daily to search for criminal records.

Wisconsin Criminal Background Check for Employment

You should always do this kind of background check before hiring a new employee, but you should also do it every four years for employees already hired.

The one thing that you should always consider when beginning the criminal background check process is the current laws and regulations that are imposed. The regulations apply to all background checks that you want to perform, not only criminal background ones.

An image of a job application form previous experience section with a red pen placed on the form.

As an employer, you have a right to know about a candidate’s potential criminal background, but you also have some obligations. You always need to notify the candidate that you are going to perform a background check. It needs to be done in writing, and before doing anything, you need to have written permission from the candidate to do the background check for employment.

Finally, when you gather the information you want, you need to inform the candidate about everything you found out and hand them a copy of the information.

You should always obey two specific federal laws when trying to gather information about a possible future employee. Those are the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The FCRA and Title VII

The FCRA or the Fair Credit Reporting Act is an act that was passed in 1970 to ensure citizens’ privacy rights regarding the information gathered, held, reported, and used by employers. This act limits specific categories of negative information to appear in a background check if they are older than seven years, and if they are regarding civil lawsuits, liens, collection accounts, bankruptcies, civil judgments, and arrests that didn’t end up as convictions.

It doesn’t apply to positions that should pay more than $75,000 a year. And in the state of Wisconsin, this seven-year period doesn’t apply to criminal convictions.

The part of this act that applies in Wisconsin is that employers are restricted in some ways when it comes to using the information they gathered through a background check.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is one of the essential federal anti-discrimination laws in the U.S.8 It is there to protect the citizens and prohibits possible discrimination based on their characteristics.

Title VII which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces regarding criminal records states that employers have to assess individually every criminal conviction if they are related to the specific job position. An employer should do it before deciding against a candidate based on the information gathered through a criminal background check. Simply put, if a candidate has a criminal record and the past conviction is not related to the job posting, the employer can’t discriminate against the candidate based on that information.

How To Run a Free Criminal Background Check in Wisconsin

As mentioned before, it’s not that difficult to perform a criminal background check in the state of Wisconsin. Everyone has the right to do it, and everyone has an opportunity to do it, unlike other states in the U.S., where every citizen can perform a free criminal background check efficiently. Wisconsin is, in fact, one of the handful of states that have fully available free public records online.

Whatever you need to find and are interested in, you can find it online, not just criminal records, but any public records.

In most cases, when you need to gather some vital information about a person, like criminal records, you need to hire a private organization that provides this kind of information. But for the state of Wisconsin, you don’t need to do it, nor do you have to download any tools that are meant to help you search the public records.

When you want to run through a criminal background check for employment purposes, you can do it online by submitting a request to the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Wisconsin Online Record Check System.6

For that, you will need to have the full name of your candidate, date of birth, and Social Security number.


Employers have a great deal of responsibility on their shoulders when hiring a new employee. Finding the perfect candidate for the job can be time-consuming, stressful, and involve many resources. And the moment when you find the perfect candidate for the job is not the end of the process. Employers need to do a thorough background check on the candidates to ensure the best for their company and business.

Sometimes it may seem like something entirely unnecessary, but it never is. A good background check is the most crucial part of the whole recruiting process that has to be done—by doing so, the employer is ensuring the future of its company and protecting it.

If a background check isn’t done correctly, it can cost a business a lot of money and time if lawsuits are involved.

Depending on the job posting, not every background check is the same, and not all background checks are necessary. But there is one thing that you shouldn’t skip, a criminal background check. With it, you can learn if a possible future employee has had severe problems with the law and if it ended up as a conviction.

For criminal background check Wisconsin, it’s relatively easy to perform one. Wisconsin is one of the rare states with all of its public records available for everyone to view. It is also one of the states that don’t apply the seven-year policy for criminal records, meaning that you will be able to access all of the past criminal records of the candidate, even if they are older than seven years. Of course, when doing so, you will need to comply with the FCRA and Title VII policies to ensure fair employment chances to everyone.

Those who need to do a criminal background check in other states besides Wisconsin should always research the current state and local laws that apply. It should be done to avoid future misunderstandings, problems, and possible lawsuits.

The most helpful advice that someone can give to an employer wanting to hire a new employee is not to only look for an appropriate skill set or a specific personality, but to do an in-depth background check on the candidate, especially the criminal background one.

Forget about laziness when it comes to background checks, especially the ones containing criminal records. A criminal background check is an excellent addition to the hiring process because it can save the company money, time, and other resources. By doing so, you are reinvesting in the future of your company and assuring a problem-free future. It would be best if you didn’t think twice before performing a criminal background check.


1Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2012, April 25). Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Retrieved May 1, 2024, from <>

2Federal Trade Commission. (2024). Fair Credit Reporting Act. Retrieved May 1, 2024, from <>

3Gradian, E., & Johns, M. (2019, February). Statutory Misdemeanors in Wisconsin. Wisconsin State Legislature. Retrieved May 1, 2024, from <>

4Hurley, P. (2021, January). Expungement of a Criminal Conviction Record. Wisconsin State Legislature. Retrieved May 1, 2024, from <>

5Schmidt, D. (2018, November). Open Records Law. Wisconsin State Legislature. Retrieved May 1, 2024, from <>

6State of Wisconsin. (2024). Wisconsin Online Record Check System. Wisconsin Department of Justice. Retrieved May 1, 2024, from <>

7State of Wisconsin. (2024). Wisconsin Fair Employment Law. Department of Workforce Development. Retrieved May 1, 2024, from <>

8U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2024). Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Retrieved May 1, 2024, from <> (2024). Homepage. State of Wisconsin, Department of Corrections. Retrieved May 1, 2024, from <>

10United States Government. (2024). Find an inmate. Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved May 7, 2024, from <>

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it