What is a background check?
A background check is an investigation into an individual’s criminal record, employment history, driving record, education, finances, or other aspects of their personal history.
Background checks are often performed by an organization or company in order to screen a subject before a significant financial or legal agreement. However, individuals regularly perform background checks on themselves to make sure that the public information on them matches their personal records.
For more general information on background checks, consult our Background Checks FAQS page.
How do I run a criminal background check in Illinois?
Individuals can perform a criminal background check with the Illinois State Police database of criminal history information using the Criminal History Information Response Process (CHIRP). In order to use the service, users must enroll to receive a Digital Certificate, as federal law mandates that all criminal history responses sent with the service be encrypted.
Both Illinois and non-Illinois residents are able to register and use CHIRP, although the registration process for out-of-state users is a bit longer and more complicated.
A Digital Certificate guarantees that the user will be able to view the encrypted information sent to them. The registration process is as follows:
- Visit www.illinois.gov/pki/ and click the green box that says “Get a Digital ID”
- Read through the State of Illinois Digital ID Subscriber Agreement and click one of the “Accept” boxes at the bottom of the page (there’s one for both Illinois and out-of-state residents)
- Fill in your personal information on the registration page. You will need a Driver’s license or ID card number.
- Upon completion of the registration process, you will select a username and password.
- Enter your username and password at the CHIRP Enhanced Authentication page to begin searching for Illinois arrest records and criminal history information.
What can I do if my Illinois criminal history record has incomplete or inaccurate information?
Illinois residents may legally challenge inaccurate or incomplete information on their criminal record, but the Record Challenge process is a bit complicated and requires a trip to a local law enforcement agency. The Record Challenge process is free, although the fingerprint service may require a fee, depending on where you get it done.
Here’s how to complete the challenge process:
- Visit the office of an Illinois law enforcement agency, correctional facility, or licensed fingerprint vendor agency (here’s a list of licensed vendors) and request a criminal history transcript.
- The agency or facility will take your fingerprints and personal information and forward them to the Illinois State Police for verification.
- After the verification process, the Illinois State Police will send you a criminal history transcript (if one exists) along with a Record Challenge form.
- Complete the Record Challenge form and mail or deliver it to the Illinois State Police. You may list your local law enforcement agency or correctional facility as the address for which you’d prefer the ISP response to be sent.
- After receiving the Record Challenge form, the Illinois State Police will respond in detail about which steps have been taken to correct the arrest record or other criminal history information, or whether they have not taken any such action.
How do I search Illinois court records?
The majority of Illinois court records are open to the public. However, most court records are held by individual circuit and district courts across the state. In order to access court records from specific cases, you’ll have to contact the specific court in possession of the record.
The best place to start searching for court records in Illinois is the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County Online Case Search. As home to Chicago and many of its suburbs, Cook County is by far the most populous county in the state, with a population of over 5.2 million. The Online Case Search allows individuals to search the following types of court records:
- Probate court case records
- Probate wills
- Traffic tickets
- Civil, law, chancery, and domestic relations/child support case records
- County division court records (name changes, real estate matters, election matters)
- Mortgage foreclosures
- Upcoming court dates
While the Cook County court record database is huge, it’s still just one county. Four any court records held by courts in other counties, you’ll have to contact a different court.
Click here for the full contact information of court clerks in every Illinois county.
Where can I find Illinois driving records online?
Illinois driving records can be viewed and printed online using the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State Driving Record Abstract system.
Here’s some key information about the system:
- Purchasing and printing an Illinois driving record costs $12, which can be paid with a major debit or credit card.
- All driving records are Illinois Secretary of State-certified.
- You can only purchase your own driving record and not the records of others.
- Completing a request requires your Driver’s License information.
- The driving record is a PDF file, so you must have a PDF viewer program on your computer and a printer with the ability to print PDF files.
Can I obtain my Illinois driving record in-person or by mail?
The Illinois SOS also allows individuals to request a copy of their Illinois driving record by mail or in-person. Follow the steps below to complete the process.
- Visit a nearby Driver Services facility.
- Fill out and submit an Abstract Request Form.
- Pay a $12 fee (paying with card requires an additional $1 processing fee)
1. Fill out and submit an Abstract Request Form.
2. Prepare a $12 payment by check or money order made payable to “Secretary of State”
3. Mail the form and payment to:
Secretary of State
Driver Analysis Section
2701 S. Dirksen Pkwy., Springfield, IL 62723
4. Allow 10 days for the request to be processed.
How can I obtain another person’s driving record?
Although the driving record of another person is not accessible online, you can obtain them in-person or by mail through following the same steps outlined above, except by filling in the person’s personal information on the Abstract Request Form, rather than your own. The fee and payment options are identical.
How do I look up Illinois vital records such as birth certificates and marriage licenses?
Vital records are records of important life events such as births, deaths, marriages, and divorces that are kept by government agencies and accessible upon request.
Vital records are not public records that can be viewed by anyone, but the subject(s) of the record and authorized family members can view them in-person or order copies through a number of means. Additionally, one or more vital records may be required to complete a background check.
The Illinois Department of Public Health enlists the services of the private company Vital Chek to enable individuals to order copies of vital records online. The government-endorsed service offers vital records from 50 U.S. states and territories. Purchasers will need to know specific information about the date and location of the event in order to proceed with the order.
Available vital records include:
- birth certificates
- death certificates
- marriage records
- divorce records
Click here to place an order with Vital Chek.
However, the following types of vital records are not available through Vital Chek and require individuals to go through other sources:
- Civil union records – Can be obtained from the county clerk in the county where the civil union occurred.
- Adoption records – As Illinois is a ‘closed state” for adoptions, adoption records are sealed records.
For more information on Illinois vital records, visit the Illinois Department of Health website.
How do I search for a person’s sex offender status in Illinois?
According to Illinois Statutes, persons must register as sex offenders if convicted of sex-related crimes or certain crimes involving minors. In some cases, even if the person was found not guilty for the reason of insanity, or acquitted on a technicality, they still must register.
In the interest of public safety, the Illinois State Police has made the Illinois Sex Offender Registry available to the public online. Two types of searches are available:
What are the Illinois background check laws for buying a gun?
Compared to other states, Illinois has strict laws regarding background checks when purchasing firearms. Here are some of the key laws:
- Federal law states that licensed firearms dealers in all 50 states, including Illinois, must perform a background check prior to the transfer of a firearm.
- Illinois is a point of contact state for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database. This means that licensed firearms dealers in Illinois must contact the Illinois Department of State Police, which will perform a background check using its own criminal information database, as well as the NICS and FBI databases.
- The waiting period for buying any gun in Illinois is 72 hours.
- Unlicensed gun sellers are not required to perform a background check, however, the purchaser must present a Firearm Owner’s ID card to complete the purchase.
Source: Giffords Law Center
How do I perform a credit history background check in Illinois?
Performing a credit check in Illinois follows the same process as in other states. A federal law known as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) grants every American one free annual credit report each from the three main U.S. credit bureaus:
In order to obtain your free credit report from one of these three bureaus, you must provide the following information:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Social security number