How do I Search Probation Records?

Stacy Ruble

There are a variety of reasons for wanting to search probation records. The availability of probation records online or in electronic format varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Certain aspects of probation records are part of the public record and may be easier to find than others. To find the correct person’s probation record, the researcher will need detailed information.

The Freedom of Information Act is intended to make government agency information available to all.
The Freedom of Information Act is intended to make government agency information available to all.

The first step to searching probation records is collecting information on the person whose records are being searched. Databases and court documents list people in different ways, for example, John Smith could also be listed under John Q. Smith or Jonathon Smith. The more details the searcher has, the more likely the information received will be for the right person. A social security number and case number can be very useful in tracking down probation records.

The researcher will want to make sure the information that is found is the most accurate and up-to-date. To promote accuracy, researchers should look at records in multiple locations, including the jurisdiction where the crime was committed, and the locality where the alleged perpetrator resides. Usually the records of the court system which heard the case will be more detailed and contain more current information.

To determine the state and federal laws covering accessing probation records, the researcher can simply call the local courthouse. The National Institute of Corrections and the American Probation and Parole Association have resources detailing laws and regulations for probation record access. These resources may be available online, at the local library or at a university library.

A number of agencies offer probation records and criminal background checks for a fee. As with any situation where money is exchanged, agencies charging for records search need to be researched through the Better Business Bureau and business scam services available online. Some agencies will offer to do the search for free or at a low cost, but then withhold information until they are paid more. Those desiring probation record searches will also want to make sure that the information they receive is accurate.

Depending on the locality and the purpose for the probation records search, the researcher may need to file a Freedom of Information Act request to gain the desired data. Some courthouses charge for records searches, or charge for printing the search. For a small fee, state or local police may provide criminal records searches, including probation information, for employers, school systems, or for people who will have contact with children or other vulnerable populations.

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