(What I’ve Learned ) by looking up criminal behavior online

Does your state have a way to look up court cases on line? I don’t know how many do, but mine does. It’s not complete, there are mistakes like typos, and cases that are listed sometimes disappear; nonetheless I am so glad it exists. For want of a better word, it’s a very useful tool. These days, in an urban area certainly, people come and go so much, god only knows what kind of background they’ve had before they arrive on your doorstep (so to speak).

Many years ago I was talking (socially) to a man I hadn’t yet met on the phone. It was an okay conversation and at the point we hung up I was considering talking to him again. I only knew his first name but during the call he’d been telling a story and referenced his brother, and in the telling, while repeating what another person had said to his brother, referred to him as Dr [last name]. Now I had a first and last name of the man I’d been talking to which I plugged into the court case search. There, I found cases of not one, but two domestic violence incidents, featuring two different women. Now, one incident with one woman, MAYBE – and that’s a generous MAYBE – there’d be a plausible explanation. But two? Two women? Oh, NO WAY. I never talked to him again. Do you think I’d have ever learned that information from him directly?? EVER?

By looking at court cases, I learned my new neighbor, who I had a bad feeling about (which was why I looked in the first place), had a long, detailed history of criminal behavior, including prison time. Moreover, I could tell by the nature of the criminal activity and the fact it continued, that this individual had certainly not “learned their lesson” or turned their life around (nor did anything I personally witnessed suggest as much). If it’s possible, I want to know if the people in my vicinity, whether I choose them or have them foisted on me, are honest and have integrity. If they use drugs, break the law, carry weapons, or assault other people. What is that, forewarned is forarmed? And again, sometimes I’m just getting confirmation about hunches I already had about somebody.

I’ve looked up doctors and dentists I was considering and found court cases that made me think better of those options. If a doctor gets sued a lot or sues a lot, I want to know. If they have a lot of financial issues, be they personal or business related, that matters too. Someone with money troubles might be more inclined to jack up a bill or treat conditions that don’t exist. [Side Story: this isn’t about looking up cases, but I visited a dentist who wanted to do lots of unnecessary, naturally expensive, work on me. His office comprised of two suites, one of which had been formerly occupied by another dentist. Now they had all this open space, i.e. pricey real estate, sitting there. I thought to myself, SOMEBODY had to pay the rent on that second, dust-gathering suite. It wasn’t going to be me.]

A person running for office locally, someone generally unknown in our immediate community, turned out to have a spotty criminal history, including domestic abuse and mismanaging finances in a campaign elsewhere. Once that information got disseminated, voters were quite put off and did not elect him. Oddly, the candidate did nothing to address these issues and possibly offer their side and/or explanations while voters were still considering options. Not that it would have necessarily changed the outcome, but I just don’t understand why people think anything on record isn’t going to come out and bite them especially if they go into the public arena.

I knew a man casually, someone I liked and talked to when I ran into him out & about. There were things I saw that gave me reason not to pursue a further relationship, but whatever I thought about him, it had never occurred to me to look up his past online. However, he got himself into criminal trouble and once I knew that, I did look up his criminal history. Turns out, the recent crime, although the most serious, wasn’t the only one. I was surprised, disappointed, and upset. This guy was quite smart and had been tailoring what he showed me of himself. In retrospect I think he believed he was sharp enough to keep one step ahead of other people, me included.

My state also has a sexual crimes website which is in addition to the main court case site. You can plug in a zip code and find all the registered sex offenders within it. Given that people who commit sex crimes tend to repeat, that’s information I like to know.

I know there are people who just want to trust fellow humans and who wouldn’t want this type of information. They like to get to know people “naturally” or not have preconceived ideas about somebody. Not me. It’s not the only thing I rely on, but one. Sometimes it fills in a sketchy story. That is, I don’t automatically check to see if someone has a criminal history online. I generally need a reason. Lastly, there’s something else I want to say about this. I don’t think having access to someone’s criminal history is a surefire thing, a way to avoid getting hurt, scammed, etcetera. I believe there are sociopathic people out there with no criminal history. Which is good to keep in mind too.

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8 thoughts on “(What I’ve Learned ) by looking up criminal behavior online

  1. Anxious Mom

    You can look up court cases in my state, too. While the rec department that manages our kid’s teams says they do background checks, I always like to poke around as well, to be safe. So far so good, but I’ll still keep checking.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Good idea. I don’t have kids so I don’t have that particular worry (which would make me very squirrelly). Most people who work with children are not predators but there’s a creepy segment that is drawn to jobs that have access to kids, which I’m sure you know.

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  2. battlewagon13

    Many a day have been spent perusing both the Virginia Court Cases and Virginia Sexual Predators lists looking for past employees, current applicants, and friends. One of the great joys of the world 🙂

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