Free Tennessee Background Check: See All TN Records, Criminals

A portrait of Background Check Records founder, Jayson Baxter.Written by Jayson Baxter

Background Checks | June 7, 2023

A red haired man on the left is wearing a yellow shirt, blue jeans, and holding a grey magnifying glass since he's inspecting his Tennessee background check report that's behind a computer monitor with the state of Tennessee outlines on it, and there's a woman in a blue shirt and black pants on the left side of the monitor.

Table of Contents

A Tennessee background check helps screen applicants for employers, landlords, and licensing boards; in addition to helping individuals find criminal records on people in their life.

Anyone can see all TN records such as criminal records, marital records, warrant records, parole and probation information, driving records and more by simply filling out the form here.

Yet, curious searchers or businesses running a background check for professional purposes may want to delve into the countless government agencies and associated databases to find TN records. Therefore, we’ll cover:

  • Accessing TN criminal records via local law enforcement agencies, local and federal court records, offender and offender registries.
  • Finding Tennessee state prisoners
  • Obtaining motor vehicle records
  • Everything about getting a firearm background check in Tennessee
  • And more…

By educating the public on how to get background checks done in Tennessee, each citizen can learn how to navigate various government directories, what shows up on screenings, disqualifying offenses, how long it takes, and applicable anti-discriminations laws as well.

Free Tennessee Background Check (Access Free Public Criminal Records in TN)

Most adult criminal records are public, meaning anyone can search for or request criminal history on a person living in Tennessee, sometimes for free. Criminal history searches should be conducted through appropriate government agencies tasked with maintaining these files, or through trusted third-party sites that adhere to state and federal laws.

Free Criminal History Check Through the TN Bureau of Investigation

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) provides searches with two options. Individuals can request a Tennessee only background check (no fingerprints), or an FBI nationwide check (with fingerprints).

The criminal history check form to get criminal records from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Criminal background checks can be requested online, by submitting a paper application or by using IdentoGO. TBI contracts with IdentoGO for nationwide checks; therefore, fingerprint checks must go through IdentoGO.

A background check request form that has fields for the requesters information such as name, address, number, and email.

Companies requesting official background records should only use the state’s contractor to make sure the records are in full compliance with state and federal laws.1

Find Tennessee Criminal Records for Free Using Court Records

Tennessee state courts do allow individuals to do a public case history search online; however, information returned is strictly limited to appeals and only shows the dates the appeals were filed and disposed of, where the case originated, and which judge presided.

An overview of the TN public case history that can be searched to find court records within the state.

More detailed information, such as offense and what was included in the disposition must be obtained from the clerk of court’s office in the county the case was tried.2

Search Criminal History Through Tennessee Police Departments and Sheriff’s Offices

Another possible resource for a free Tennessee background check is the local police department or sheriff’s office. Many sheriff’s offices maintain the county jail and publish updated jail rosters that list the person’s name and the offense for which they are in jail. The roster can also show if the person is awaiting trial or servicing a short sentence that does not necessitate incarceration in prison.

For example, Davidson County Sheriff’s Office maintains an online roster of inmates accessible to the public. This free search can be used as a name-based, level 1 background check for personal use, and reveals if a person is in custody with the sheriff’s office and what the person is charged with. The search also displays if the person is being held pursuant to a sentence or if there is a bond set for pre-trial detainees.

Davidson County's county sheriff's active inmate search tool with first and last name fields and a white magnifying glass on a green background.

While it is possible to look at the most recent bookings at the Davidson County Detention Center, recent bookings do not show pending charges. This search, however, is how to find out if someone is in police custody in Tennessee.3

Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, Central Records Division is responsible for maintaining all police records in the department’s jurisdiction. The Central Records Division maintains a public crash report portal so individuals can request copies of crash reports for insurance purposes or other records.4

A screenshot showing Nashville's Police Records Services Unit's roles in communicating through various LEO agencies in the U.S., processing reports, and serving their citizens.

Criminal case reports can be released to the complainant upon request to:

Central Records Division
811 Anderson Lane, Ste 100
Madison, Tennessee 37115

Free Public Records Search Using the Tennessee County Clerk’s Office

Name and address verification searches (name-based searches) can be conducted through public records searches at the county clerk’s office. Not to be confused with the clerk of court, the county clerk maintains public records such as property ownership, voting records and if someone has tax liens or other actions against their property holdings.

A screenshot showing what type of records the Shelby County Clerks' office can provide such as tax records on properties, appraisal information, and other property related information.

Tennessee has 95 separate counties with a county clerk in each one. Name-based searches or county tax records can show where a person resides or owns property and can help verify the identity of someone when conducting a criminal background check. For example, Shelby County Clerk’s Office has a free online portal to search tax records to find out if someone owns property in Memphis and the surrounding area.5

Free Sex Offender Registry Search Via the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry and the National Sex Offender Registry

Adults convicted of sex offenses are required to register as a sex offender and must update the registry when they move or on a set basis so the local sheriff’s department can keep track of sexual predators in their jurisdiction.

Screenshot of the TN sex offender registry, their disclaimer and search instructions.

Opening the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry online immediately reveals offenders who are in violation of the registry requirements. This free criminal background check is limited to registered sex offenders only, and can be name-based, or by geographic location using the advanced search option.

Results show the person’s name, description, any identifying marks or tattoos, and what the person was convicted of, type vehicle(s) the person drives, address of the registrant’s employer, home address of the registrant, driver’s license number, and when the registry was last updated.

The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Registry is another way to search for Tennessee sex offenders. Searches can be by name or location, and searches started on the national registry are routed to the Tennessee registry for details.

Locate Criminal Records By Searching the Tennessee Department of Corrections

Tennessee Department of Corrections inmate search shows individuals who are or have been incarcerated in the state prison system or those who are or have been on supervised probation in the state. Search results reveal if the person is active, inactive or deceased, and this free search can be conducted by name, inmate number or state ID number.

Information available in addition to status includes a description of the offender, offense, length of sentence, and, in some cases, a mugshot when available. This is how to find out why someone was arrested and convicted or on probation in Tennessee. The Department of Corrections also has an online searchable field office directory and is how to find someone’s probation officer.

Marriage Background Check TN: How To Check if Someone Is Married or Divorced in Tennessee

Marriage and divorce records can be accessed through the Office of Vital Records, Tennessee Department of Health. Costs for marriage and divorce certificates are $15 per copy. Records can be requested online (using VitalChek), or via mail or in person at Floor 1, Andrew Johnson Tower, 710 James Robertson Pkwy, Nashville, Tennessee 37243.

Individuals must provide identification to verify they have a legal right to the record to do marriage background checks on people in Tennessee, or they can get their signature on the application notarized which will negate the need for a copy of ID.6

There are other ways to check public records in Tennessee including voter registration or motor vehicle records. Many of these are free to the public, and can be used for personal background checks. Official background checks must adhere to all state and federal laws regarding what can be released to the public and how the records can be used.

Reasons Background Checks Are Used in Tennessee

There are a number of reasons a background check would be conducted in Tennessee. Individuals may run a personal background check on someone they are dating or planning to marry.

Employers will run background checks on potential employees, landlords screen tenants to make sure they are going to be responsible tenants, and licensing boards will conduct background checks to make sure individuals meet the necessary requirements for a particular license. Non-profit background checks are also conducted through TBI to make sure volunteers are not a danger to the public or vulnerable populations.

Official background checks are subject to state and federal laws and must go through official channels to be valid and available for use in making decisions. Personal background checks must also follow certain regulations about what can be released and to whom.

Individuals working with vulnerable populations or those seeking licensure in a field that requires specialized training or screening will undergo Tennessee background checks specific to their area of responsibility.

The table below lists the agencies that perform official background checks or require specialized background checks for certain positions or professions.

Agency Performing or Requiring Background Checks Brief explanation of why screening may be conducted.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigations
  • Employment Screening
  • Licensing
  • Health And Safety
  • Working With Vulnerable Populations
Tennessee Department of Human Services
  • Community Care Workers
  • Volunteers
  • Child Care Workers
  • Adult Protective Services Workers
  • Social Workers
Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance
  • Accountants
  • Security System Contractors
  • Athletic Commission
  • Auctioneers
  • Collection Agencies
  • Contractors/Home Improvement
  • Cosmetologists
  • Barbers
  • Court Reporters
  • Credit Service Providers
  • Debt Managers
  • Fire Permits/Licensing
  • Funeral Directors
  • Embalmers
  • Burial Service Providers
  • Geologists
  • Housing Inspectors
  • Insurance Agents
  • Land Surveyors
  • Private Investigators
  • Motor Vehicle Operators
  • Polygraph Technicians
  • Private Probation Service Providers
  • Private Security Providers
  • Real Estate Agents
  • Real Estate Commission Members
  • Scrap Metal Dealers
  • Soil Scientists
Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners
  • Medical And Surgical Personnel
  • Osteopathic Medicine
  • Naturopathic Medicine
  • Nurses
  • Nurse Aides
  • Genetic Counselors
  • Vocational Nurses
  • Pediatricians
  • X-Ray Technicians
  • Surgical Assistants
  • Medical Spa Providers
Board of pharmacy
  • Pharmacists
  • Pharmacy Technicians

In addition to the reasons listed in the table above, these agencies may also provide specialized Tennessee background checks for other areas of life such as purchasing a firearm or starting an in-home daycare.

Firearms Background Checks by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and The FBI

Purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer in Tennessee requires an individual to undergo a Tennessee Instant Check System (TICS) screening. This screening makes sure firearms transactions meet the requirements of both Tennessee state laws and the Brady Bill which requires an FBI background check for firearms purchases. A TICS background check includes the NICS screening by the FBI.7

Individuals must fill out Tennessee firearms background check form with the dealer who inputs the information into the TICS for an instant background check. Individuals can have a denied firearms purchase if they have not had both the NICS check and TICS background screening.

Licensed Childcare Provider Background Checks by Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Tennessee Department of Human Services (Out Of State Registry)

All workers in licensed childcare facilities in Tennessee must undergo a fingerprint background check through the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The TBI conducts the nationwide criminal history screening for convictions that would prevent someone from safely working with children.

The Department of Human Services conducts a search of the out of state child abuse registries for workers in licensed childcare facilities when the worker has not lived in Tennessee the five years prior to the report.

Prospective employees must be fingerprinted and these, along with the application for the background screening, are forwarded to the TBI for processing. For out of state registry checks, the Department of Health submits an application and fingerprint card to the out of state agency, if required, or checks the online portal where available.

Education Verification Background Checks by Local Institutions

Verifying education must be done by reaching out to the actual institution where the individual earned a diploma, certificate or degree. Tennessee is home to over 186 public and private community colleges and universities, and with more positions requiring certain levels of education, it is important to know how to verify someone’s education credentials.

For example, to get an official copy of a person’s transcript from Tennessee State University, the person would go through the Registrar’s office and submit a request in writing for an official transcript.8

Records from Chattanooga State Community College, however, must be requested through the National Student Clearinghouse in Virginia as the only authorized contractor to provide the transcript or record of attendance at the community college.9

Nursing License Background Check By The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI)

What shows up on a TBI background check for a nursing license? This is a fingerprint-based, national check which shows criminal convictions in and out of state. Licensure screenings are conducted to make sure nursing candidates do not have convictions for violent crimes or offenses that would make them a danger to vulnerable populations such as drug charges or larceny offenses.

What Is on a Background Check in Tennessee? What Shows Up?

Felony and misdemeanor convictions appear on a  criminal background check TN regardless of how old the record is unless they have been sealed or expunged pursuant to a court order

Non-convictions that are the result of dismissal will also appear unless expunged following a petition to the court by the defendant. When cases result in an acquittal, an order of expungement is automatically entered by the court clearing the person’s record per statute 40-32-101.

Motor vehicle records do not show up on a routine criminal background check. TN records do include felony or misdemeanor motor vehicle charges. Individuals would have to specifically request a motor vehicle record to view infractions. Driving records can be obtained online through the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

Do Warrants Show Up on Tennessee Background Checks?

Warrants typically do not show up on a Tennessee background check; however, the underlying charge that resulted in a warrant may show up as a pending court matter. Warrants can show up on official police or sheriff websites. Warrants are considered public record, so they can be made available to the public.

Does Probation Show Up on Background Check in TN?

Does probation show up on a background check in Tennessee? Probation is part of the sentencing phase following a conviction for a criminal offense, so probation can show up on a criminal background check in Tennessee. This includes both supervised and unsupervised probation.

Supervision pursuant to a diversion program will also show up on a background check until the diversion is successfully completed. At that time, the charges will be dismissed and expunged from the record if the defendant petitions the court.

Tennessee: Background Check Disqualifying Offenses

Disqualifying offenses are those that would automatically remove someone from consideration for a position. The following are disqualifying offenses in Tennessee:

  • Aggravated arson
  • Aggravated assault
  • Aggravated child abuse
  • Aggravated child neglect
  • Aggravated cruelty to animals
  • Aggravated kidnapping
  • Aggravated rape
  • Aggravated rape of a child
  • Aggravated robbery
  • Aggravated sexual battery
  • Aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor
  • Aggravated vehicular homicide
  • Arson
  • Assault
  • Carjacking
  • Child abuse, child neglect or endangerment
  • Criminal attempt
  • Criminal exposure to HIV
  • Criminal homicide
  • Criminally negligent homicide
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Custodial interference
  • Domestic abuse in violation of an order of protection or in violation of a restraining order
  • Domestic assault
  • Drug offenses (felony or misdemeanor, possession, manufacturing, sale, distribution, etc.
  • Especially aggravated burglary
  • Exploitation of a minor by electronic means
  • False imprisonment
  • First degree murder
  • Incest
  • Indecent exposure
  • Involuntary labor servitude
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape
  • Rape of a child
  • Reckless endangerment
  • Reckless homicide
  • Robbery
  • Second degree murder
  • Sexual battery
  • Sexual battery by an authority figure
  • Sexual exploitation of a minor
  • Solicitation of a minor
  • Stalking
  • Statutory rape
  • Statutory rape by an authority figure
  • Trafficking a person for sexual servitude
  • Vehicular assault
  • Vehicular assault while intoxicated
  • Vehicular homicide
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Weapons offenses (unlawful possession, carrying, use, etc.)10

How Far Back Do Background Checks Go in Tennessee? How Many Years?

Tennessee does not limit the lookback period for criminal convictions; therefore, criminal history will include all felony and misdemeanor adult convictions and non-convictions that have not been sealed or expunged by the state.

When looking at the TN background check law, 7 years doesn’t apply to criminal history; however, credit history checks in Tennessee are subject to the FCRA seven-year lookback rule that says credit history older than seven years (10 years for certain bankruptcies) cannot be considered in making hiring decisions.

Tennessee Background Check Laws

When conducting a background check, Tennessee does not limit the lookback period for criminal records, meaning convictions from 30 years ago can still be considered when evaluating a person’s criminal history for a particular position.

Tennessee did pass its own Ban the Box bill, SB 2440, which prevents employers from asking about criminal history on applications except for positions that require a background check per federal law (typically law enforcement/corrections and positions that involve public health and safety).

Federal laws that limit what employers and prospective landlords can view include the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) which limits credit history checks to seven years (10 for certain bankruptcy cases), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits using criminal history in a discriminatory manner to deny a postion to someone.

Background Check Cost in Tennessee: How Much Is it?

In-state TBI background checks cost $29 per individual searched, and national, fingerprint-based checks are $50. Marriage and divorce records through the Office of Vital Records are $15 per copy.11

Sex offender registry searches are free to the public, and local clerk of court’s offices provide free search terminals where individuals can search court records. Hardcopies of records can carry a small fee to cover printing.

Inmate rosters for local jails are how to find recent arrests, and department of corrections records show who is serving a sentence. Both are also free to the public and can be searched online in most cases.

How Long Does a Background Check Take in Tennessee?

A Tennessee background check can take anywhere from 1-2 days for most pre-employment background screenings; however, records checks that include education and employment verification can take several days to complete. Additionally, fingerprint-based checks through the FBI can take up to 7 days to return results.

Knowing where and how to search for records can help someone decide if the person they are hiring or leasing to is the right fit. The information provided throughout this article outlines how to obtain a Tennessee background check for free or a nominal cost.

Frequently Asked Questions

When Do Driving Tickets or Moving Violations Go on Background Checks in Tennessee?

Driving offenses that are misdemeanor or felony charges, such as reckless driving or driving while impaired, will show up on a criminal history. Additionally, criminal history can include driving record when conducted for positions that require use of a motor vehicle or a CDL license.

Do Speeding Tickets Show Up on Tennessee Background Checks?

Unless the speed is in excess of 30 miles per hour over the posted speed limit, it should not show up on a Tennessee background check. Speeds more than 30 miles per hour over the limit are considered reckless driving which is a misdemeanor offense and will show up.

Are Misdemeanors Revealed on Background Checks in Tennessee?

Misdemeanor convictions and misdemeanor dismissals will show up on a background check unless they are expunged or sealed. Cases that result in acquittal are automatically expunged from the person’s record without requiring the defendant to petition for expungement.

Do Felonies Go on Tennessee Background Checks?

Felony convictions and felony dismissals will show up on a background check unless they are expunged or sealed. Cases that result in acquittal are automatically expunged from the person’s record without requiring the defendant to petition for expungement.

Is Tennessee A Ban The Box State?

Yes, Tennessee has passed legislation prohibiting employers from asking about criminal history on applications.12

Are Tennessee Criminal Records Subject to a TN Background Check Law 7 Years Lookback?

Seven years only applies to credit history not criminal history. TN law does not limit criminal history, but TN credit reports are subject to FCRA guidelines.

What Shows Up on a TBI Background Check?

A name-based search shows misdemeanor and felony charges committed within the state, dispositions, and dates of offense and disposition along with sentencing information for matters that have not been sealed or expunged by the court.

Who Can Request a TN Background Check?

Tennessee background checks can be requested by the public for general inquiries. Qualified individuals and organizations can also request an official, fingerprint-based nationwide background check by registering with the TBI.

What Is Part of the Background Check Tennessee Employers Look For in Addition to Criminal History?

A TN background check can also include education and employment verification in addition to criminal history. Certain positions may also include a credit check that spans the previous seven years.


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Brady Law | Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. (n.d.). ATF. Retrieved November 4, 2022, from <>

TSU Directory. (n.d.). Tennessee State University. Retrieved November 4, 2022, from <>

Enrollment Verification & Transcript Request. (n.d.). Chattanooga State. Retrieved November 4, 2022, from <>

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