If you’re involved with a sociopath, the chances are pretty good there’s a history of arrests and possibly convictions. Television crime shows lead us to believe there are computers that contain information about every criminal deed that everyone’s perpetrated. That’s not true.
A word about criminal records
An assistant district attorney in my county told me that sometimes they even have to pay for records from another jurisdiction. She said they might have a wanted criminal in jail for some minor charge and not be aware that he fled another state. She said that sometimes they don’t even know if the person has committed crimes in another county! There’s a terrible lack of sharing of information in this country where criminal records are concerned. This makes it possible for a sociopath to move from state to state, racking up arrests and charges. If he had committed all the crimes in one place, he’d probably be in jail as a habitual offender. In our country, it’s not a big feat to evade prosecution.
One time I called the state police where the sociopath I know has several warrants. I asked what needed to be done for him to be arrested and put in jail. The officer laughed. Yes, he laughed. He said that unless the charges were serious, such as rape or murder, they wouldn’t seek extradition. The only way he was going to be arrested was if he returned to that state and turned himself in or was picked up again for drunk driving or something while in that state and the warrants were discovered. Even so, at a time when he already had two warrants there, he was arrested, spent a night in jail and was released!
What I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t get your hopes up if you do find a slew of arrests, convictions and even warrants. It means nothing in a society with a criminal justice system that’s already over burdened. Unless your sociopath has committed serious crimes, he’s probably going to remain free.
Why do you want to find records?
Why would you want to find criminal records? It does give you some sense of satisfaction to know that the sociopath has been arrested or spent time in jail. These records can also help you if you’ve found yourself in a place where family and friends have believed what the sociopath says and what he’s done to try to discredit you. Chances are pretty good that you don’t have a criminal record. If he does, you may be able to regain the trust of family and friends he’s tried to alienate from you. Be prepared, however, for the possibility that they’ll believe him when he says you forged the records. You can even put them on the phone with someone at the clerk of court’s office and they still might think it’s an elaborate con on your part!
If you’re facing the sociopath in some sort of court situation, child custody, for example, criminal records might help you to show that he or she is unfit to be a parent. In a civil action, it can help to establish that he or she is not credible. He or she might even lie about having priors, and these documents will prove otherwise. Don’t rely on the district attorney to do the legwork. In a criminal case, these priors could mean the difference between jail time and probation.
How to find records
Should you pay for those online criminal records searches that cost about 40 bucks? I say usually not. It depends on how much you know about the person. The one thing those searches can yield is a list of addresses the person has lived over the years, and you need to know that in order to find records. What’s alarming is that the sociopath I know has had more than 20 addresses in the last 20 years. What does that say about him?
Let’s say you do know where the person has been living for the last several years. You start by looking for municipal court records online in those towns. Some cities have wonderful court records online, and they’re free. You’ll be able to use these to find out if the person has been involved in any civil or criminal cases, and there will be brief descriptions of the outcomes. If you need more information, you can call or visit the appropriate court to get copies of the records, if they still have them. In some cases, there’s nothing more than a list of charges and a disposition. Even if the charges were dismissed against an individual, there is still an arrest record.
You may go through the list of cities in which this individual has lived and find some records online for some of the locations. Others may not have online records. If you want to find anything in these places, you will have to go there, call or write to request a records search. Some courts will tell you everything you need to know over the telephone. Some will not, and it might even depend on the clerk you talk to that day. Some will be surly and dismissive. Others will be helpful and sympathetic.
Make sure to check both municipal and county court records. Large cities may span several counties, so you’ll need to call or search court records for each one. What shocks me, is that some states purge records after a period of time. One state even clears out its DUIs, so someone could actually have a DUI arrest every 7 or so years and you wouldn’t be able to find them. Is it ok for a person to potentially have 4 or 5 DUIs by the time he reaches middle age and there not be a lasting record of it? I don’t think so. Data storage is cheap now. Why don’t states hang onto the information?
You may decide to hire a private investigator. If you find the right one, you’ll get lots of help. I have hired a few, and had one that went above and beyond the call of duty. He even spoke to someone at the DA’s office in a major metropolitan area to find out why some felony charges had been “dead docketed.”
Private investigators are expensive. If you can do the work yourself, do it. If the individual you’re researching hasn’t moved around at all, and you’re still both in the same city, it’s just a matter of checking the area courts for records.
This will hopefully get you started. If you encounter any problems or don’t know what to do next, I might be able to answer your questions. You’re a taxpayer who has a right to the information you’re seeking, and the clerks are employed because of taxes we pay. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help. Be friendly and patient so they’ll be more willing to help you.