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Frequently-Used Terms & Definitions

When using CheckPeople to perform online background checks, many terms will be used frequently without definition. Below you will find a list we have compiled of the most frequently used terms on our website. is a background check website that specializes in criminal background checks. It shows information from public reports and records. Our service does not provide personal information such as social security numbers, credit scores, or employment history.

Criminal records are available as public information. Depending by county, a criminal record will show arrests and charges, including pending, dismissed, and acquitted.

A method of looking for an individual by entering in his or her phone number, as opposed to a first or last name (as is standard in telephone directories). Often used to track down an individual/organization on caller ID systems if just a number is present.

Since Megan's Law (also called the Sexual Offender Jacob Wetterling Act of 1994) was passed, states and the federal government are required to maintain a database of people who have been convicted of sex crimes against children. Sex offenders are required to be registered in the public data access system so that government officials can keep track of where sex offenders reside -- even after the individual has completed his or her sentence. The sex offender database is public record.

Arrest records provide information on when a person was arrested and the crime he or she was arrested for. They come from the state and federal court systems, depending on the type of crime committed. Please keep in mind that arrest records do not necessarily indicate guilt for the crime charged; arrest records show what an individual was arrested for.

Public records are available to the public and are not considered confidential by law.

A decision by a judge or jury at the end of a criminal trial that finds the accused defendant not guilty.

An initial appearance of a criminal defendant (unless continued from an early time) in which preliminary actions are handled.

Money or a bond that must be deposited to secure the release of an individual who has been charged with a minor or serious crime. Bail for minor crimes is often set by a schedule that must be paid before a court appearance. For serious crimes, a judge may set the bail amount at the suspect's first court appearance. Bail may be denied in instances such as murder or treason or if there is a danger that the suspect may flee or commit further crimes. For traffic matters, the bail amount may be equivalent to the fine, so if the defendant does not appear, he or she automatically forfeits bail.

Civil records are available as public information and vary by county and jurisdiction. Civil records show things such as bankruptcies, liens and judgments, child custody, civil rights violations, and lawsuits.

A defendant is the person being sued in a civil lawsuit or who is charged with a crime in criminal cases. In divorce cases, defendants are sometimes called respondents.

Divorce records are pulled from local and state civil actions databases and provide a history of any recorded divorces.

Federal crimes include such things as financial fraud, immigration violations, kidnapping, terrorism, or drug trafficking. Federal Criminal Records are separate from civil and local criminal records, so it is a good idea to also do a federal criminal record search on someone, in addition to a local criminal record search.

A felony is defined as a crime that carries a minimum of one year or more in a state prison and/or is sufficiently serious enough to be punishable by death.

A plea given by a defendant who admits committing a crime. Guilty may also be the judgment given by a judge or jury if they find a defendant responsible as-charged after the evidence has been weighed, either in criminal matters, or in lawsuits for civil matters such as negligence or fraud.

When two or more persons are found to be both responsible for a debt, claim, or judgment. A person making the claim or who is being sued can demand that anyone with joint liability for an alleged debt or crime be included in the lawsuit.

Also synonymous with the word 'decree', a judgment is the final decision by a court in a lawsuit, criminal prosecution, or an appeal from a lower court's judgment.

All actions by a judge before a court. Includes trials, petitions, hearings, or formal matters before a court.

A lawsuit is a legal action by a person or entity against another person or entity and is judged in a civil court of law, either at the local, state, or federal level.

Marriage records are public records for all legal marriages performed in the U.S.

A misdemeanor is a crime that is punishable by crime and/or a sentence to a local or county jail. A misdemeanor crime in a county jail cannot exceed a sentence of over a year.

When people are arrested, police take a photograph of them, called a mugshot. They may also be referred to as booking photographs.

1. A plea of a person in court who states to have not committed a crime of which he or she is accused. 2. A verdict after a trial by a judge or jury stating that the prosecution has not found enough evidence to find the defendant guilty of a crime, or if the accused was found to be insane at the time of the crime (not guilty by reason of insanity).

A plaintiff is the party who brings forth a lawsuit by filing a complaint in a civil or criminal court against a defendant.

Speeding tickets are a type of moving violation issued by law enforcement when a driver exceeds the posted speed limit in a vehicle (speeding tickets can also apply to non-motorized vehicles, such as bicycles). Speed limits and traffic violations vary by municipalities and states.

Sexual offenses, which appear in criminal records, are forms of a crime dealing with human sexual behavior, typically when one person violates the sexual rights of another. Sexual offense crimes are punishable based on their classification and vary from state-to-state.