How to find your criminal records
Finding your complete criminal record can take time and work. Each court organizes its information differently. Don’t give up; keep looking for the information you need.
Your complete criminal record includes charges and convictions from the entire U.S. In Ohio, if you want to complete the criminal record sealing process, you will need to understand your complete criminal record.
There are hundreds of courts in Ohio, and each local court only stores its own records.
To research your complete criminal record, you must find every conviction or charge from every place you have lived or visited.
Keep in mind:
- Records from different courts look different.
- Records usually have a lot of information. Some of it may be hard to understand.
- If you have more than one criminal case, you may need to check different places to get all the information you need.
- You may not be able to find all the details you need online.
- You may need to contact the Clerk of Courts or other agencies for more information.
Follow these steps to look up and understand your criminal record:
- Getting Started
- Find your case
- Look for open cases
- Find your case number
- Find the offense name
- Find the offense type and degree
- Find the final status
- Find the date you completed your sentence
- Check for unpaid fines
- Find the final discharge date
- Get more help
- Check your eligibility for sealing
If you don’t know all the courts that have your records, think about all the places you have been charged, or think about all the places you have lived or visited.
Usually you are charged in a court located in the city or county where the crime (or alleged crime) happened.
If you have any court documents related to your criminal cases, get those. They may help you find case numbers and other details you will need.
For a fee, you also may be able to get:
- County sheriff’s records: If you know the county (or counties) where you have criminal convictions, you may be able to get a background check, sometimes called a county conviction record or transcript, for that county by contacting the county sheriff.
- FBI or BCI background check: You can request a copy of your own criminal history records from the FBI or Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). You will need to submit payment, your fingerprints and other personal information to get these records. Contact a WebCheck location and ask if they can process a personal-use background check (rather than an employer background check).
Once you know which courts have your records, find the Clerk of Courts for each court where you have a charge or conviction.
Search the court’s name and “Clerk of Courts.” For example, if you were charged in the Franklin County Municipal Court, search “Franklin County Municipal Court Clerk of Courts.”
Find your case
Once you’re on the clerk of court’s website, look for a place to search for case information.
You may see words like:
- Case information online
- Public records
- Search records
- Case docket
- Search my case
- Records search
- Public access
- Court docket
You also may see an image like a magnifying glass, scale or file folder.
To search the Clerk of Court’s website, you may need to agree to a legal disclaimer or conditions of using the clerk’s online services. You also may need to show that you are not a robot trying to scan the site for information.
A search by your name is probably the easiest way to find your case.
A search by case number also could help you find your case information, but if you don’t enter the case number exactly how the clerk keeps it, your case may not show up.
Keep in mind:
- Other people may have the same name as you, so look carefully to find your case.
- If you can’t find your case, try slight misspellings of your name. (It may have been entered incorrectly with the court.)
- You may be able to limit your search to criminal court cases.
- Sometimes cases move from one court to another. For example, someone may be charged with lower-level crimes in municipal court, and then, once there’s more evidence, they are charged with more serious felony crimes in common pleas court. Or someone may plead guilty in municipal court and have their common pleas court case dismissed or closed. You may need to search several different courts to find the information you need.
Look for open cases
If you have cases that are pending, or still open, you are not eligible for criminal record sealing.
If your case was filed recently, like in the last few months or even years, it might still be open.
If you aren’t sure, look for clues as you review your case information.
For some courts, when you search for your case on the Clerk of Court’s website, there will be information near your name or case number such as:
- Status (open)
- Pending cases (yes)
You also may be able to check a defendant section, which might link to information about your other cases.
Keep in mind:
- If you have been charged in more than one place, check each place for information about open cases against you.
- Your case may have moved from one court to another. For example, if you were charged with less serious misdemeanor crimes before being charged with more serious felony crimes, your case may have started in municipal court and then moved to common pleas court. The municipal case would probably be closed, or dismissed, while the common pleas case may still be open.
- If you have an open case against you, contact a lawyer as soon as possible, especially if there’s a warrant out for your arrest.
Find your case number
Each case filed with the court has its own case number.
It’s usually a combination of letters and numbers looking something like this:
- 1992 CR B 00000
The “CR” is short for “criminal” case. The numbers often include the year the case was filed (like 2002 or 02 for a case filed in the year 2002). Other numbers may show the order your case was filed among other cases filed in the court that year.
If you have been charged with different crimes, especially if you were charged at different times or for different situations, you may have more than one case number. You will need to find the case number for each criminal case you have.
Find the offense name
The offense name is the specific name of the crime you were charged or convicted of.
Look for words like:
- Charge information
- Charge description
- Party charge information
There may be a separate section with offense information, or you may need to look for a list of events and filings in the case, often called the docket.
Look for the legal name of the offense or numbers that show the code or section of the law you were charged with breaking.
For example, if you were charged with drug possession, you may see something like this:
- Possession of Controlled Substances
- 2925.11 (or ORC 2925.11)
ORC (sometimes shortened to RC) stands for Ohio Revised Code, or the laws of the state of Ohio. You might also find words like statute or citation.
Keep in mind:
- The Clerk of Courts may shorten the legal name of a charge (like “Rcvng stolen property” instead of “receiving stolen property”) in information online.
- If you were charged with breaking a local or city law, or ordinance, look for the name of that offense.
- The offenses you were charged with at the beginning of the case might be different than those at the end of your case. For example, sometimes people plead guilty to lower charges than the charges first brought against them. You may see “Amended” (or “Amd” or “Amend”), meaning the charges have changed, or you may need to check the docket for plea or sentencing information. For sealing your record, it’s important to find the final offenses against you.
Find the offense type and degree
Criminal offenses are categorized by how serious they are. Each offense is either a felony or misdemeanor and each has a degree (like first, second, third, fourth or fifth).
You will need to find the type and degree for each offense you were charged or convicted of.
Usually this will be in the same section where you found the offense name.
For type (felony or misdemeanor), look for the letters “F” or “M” near the offense name:
- F means a felony, or the most serious level of crime.
- M means a misdemeanor, or a lower-level crime.
For degree, look for the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 next to the F or M, or look for “MM”:
- 1 – First degree (most serious)
- 2 – Second degree
- 3 – Third degree
- 4 – Fourth degree
- 5 – Fifth degree (less serious)
- MM – Minor misdemeanor (least serious)
- F3 is a felony of the third degree.
- M1 is a misdemeanor of the first degree.
If you have trouble finding the charge’s degree, search the offense name and its ORC number (like “Trafficking in Counterfeit Controlled Substances 2925-37B ORC”).
Keep in mind:
- The type and degree of charges at the start of your case may be different from those at the end of your case. For sealing your record, it’s important to find the type and degree of the final offenses against you.
- If you were charged with more than one offense, each charge could have a different type and degree.
Find the final status of the charge (or disposition)
The disposition is the final status or result of a charge. You will need to find the disposition for each of your charges.
Examples of dispositions are:
- Conviction. This happens when there is a guilty plea, no contest plea or a guilty verdict. You may see words like:
- No contest (or “n/c”)
- Pleaded guilty (or “pld glty”)
- Guilty entered
- Community control
- Not guilty or acquitted. This means you have been found not guilty of the offense.
- Dismissal. A dismissal means the case will no longer go forward. It may be called “nolle prosequi.” You may see words like:
- Case dismissed
- Case dismissed without prejudice
- Charge dismissed
- No bill. This type of dismissal happens when the grand jury decides the case should not go forward to trial.
You may find the disposition where you found the charge information, or you may need to check the docket for this information.
For many courts, the docket lists the most recent information at the top. In other courts, newer information is located at the end of the docket. Carefully check the dates in the docket to know when each piece of information was entered.
Keep in mind:
- Dockets usually have a lot of information and details. It may take time to find what you need.
- It’s not always easy or possible to find the disposition on the clerk of court’s website. If you need help, contact the clerk of courts directly. Have your case number ready.
- The clerk of courts may abbreviate or shorten information. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t understand what everything means. Try to Google search words or letters that don’t make sense to you.
Find the date you completed your sentence
You will need to find the date when you completed your sentence.
Look for words like:
- Community control terminated
- Probation terminated
- Defendant released
- Incarcerated for the following dates
If you don’t find a separate section with sentence information, you may find this in the docket.
Keep in mind:
- It’s not always easy or possible to find the date you finished your sentence on the clerk of courts’ website.
- For more information about your sentence, contact the Clerk of Courts. If your court has a self-help center, you also may be able to get help there. (To find out if your court has a self-help center, go to Government and Community Resources.)
Check for any unpaid fines
As a defendant in a court case, you may have to pay fines.
If you want to seal your records, you need to pay all fines (including traffic fines) for all your records.
To see if you owe fines in a case, look for a section with words like:
- Fees and fines
- Cost information
- Amount due
- Financial summary
- Amount outstanding
- Party billed
- Total costs and fines now due
If you don’t see a separate section with this information, check the docket. Sometimes you may need to open a document or image to get information.
If you don’t owe any payments, you should see $0 for the balance or amount due.
If you can’t find a list of unpaid fines (or to find out how to pay fines you owe), contact the clerk of courts’ office.
Keep in mind:
- Check payment information for each of your criminal cases.
- Court costs are not part of your fines, so you still may be able to have your criminal record sealed even if you have unpaid court costs.
Find the final discharge date
The final discharge date is when you finished any jail or prison sentence, probation, post-release control or parole and paid your fines.
You will need to find the final discharge date for each of your criminal cases.
Check for this information in a case disposition section or the docket. You may need to open a document to find details.
Keep in mind:
- It’s not always easy or possible to find the final discharge date on the Clerk of Courts’ website.
- For more information, contact the Clerk of Courts or, if available in your area, the court’s self-help center.
Where to get more help
You may not be able to find all the information you need online.
You may need to contact the Clerk of Courts to:
- Request a “judge’s sheet,” or a document with the judge’s final decision.
- Request paper copies of documents.
- Ask other questions about your case.
For background check information, you may want to contact:
- The county sheriff for any county where you have criminal convictions. For a fee, you may be able to get a county criminal record check, sometimes called a county conviction record or transcript, by contacting the county sheriff.
- A WebCheck location for your FBI or BCI background check. Ask if they can process a "personal-use" background check (rather than an employer background check). The fee may be about $40 or more.
You also may want to contact:
- Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (614-387-0588) for information about prison time, parole, post-release control or probation.
- Ohio Department of Youth Services (614-466-4314) for information about youth records.
- Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles for information about driver’s license suspensions, warrant blocks or insurance suspensions.
Different organizations may have different information about your criminal cases, and criminal history records are not always complete or accurate.
If you think something in your record is wrong, you should:
- Gather evidence to prove your claim. Get information to show the information is wrong.
- Contact the agency that made the error. Contact the agency responsible for providing the information you think is wrong. This might be the county sheriff’s office, local police department or municipal or common pleas court.
Check your eligibility for record sealing
You can use our Criminal Sealing Eligibility Screening Interview to find out if you're eligible to have your Ohio records sealed.