Is Searching for Criminal Records Fair and Ethical?

If you’ve ever considered looking into someone’s criminal records, you’ve probably wondered if it’s an ok thing for you to be doing. People have been doing these kinds of searches for years at this point, and it’s quite possible that this thought never crossed some of their minds. If you’ve been wondering if it’s ethical for you to look into someone’s criminal record, that’s a good sign. It means that you have a strong conscience and that you’re probably quite likely to do the right thing in most circumstances, good job. Today we will be looking into this moral quandary and, hopefully, we can help guide you to a satisfactory conclusion. 

To Search or Not to Search, That is the Question

Even the greatest thinkers the world has ever known have scratched their heads trying to figure out a system of ethics that can be used to break down what is and isn’t considered to be moral. Thousands of books have been published on the subject with thousands of authors. Even as far back as Plato and Aristotle, people have been trying to wrap their heads around morals and ethics.

It’s generally agreed upon, but not universally agreed upon, that one of the best moral frameworks that one can work off of is utilitarianism. The shortest explanation of this school of thought is that it asserts that the thing that is best for the largest number of people is the ethical choice, but it does get a lot more complicated than that if you do your research and really learn about the thoughts in this school.

On an individual level, this school of thought is often referred to as hedonism, and some forms of hedonism are as old as the idea of ethics. To answer the question today, we’re going to be looking at the ethical hedonism that was described by Jeremy Bentham. Bentham believed that the morality of any action that is done is determined by the amount of pain or pleasure that any action results in. 

Bentham actually created a formula to help us with this, and that’s why we’re going to be focusing on his works. While there are other moral frameworks that we can use to explore this topic, Bentham’s formula provides us with the most concrete way to test the morality of looking into someone’s criminal record. 

The formula that Bentham came up with is one with many names. Felicific Calculus, Hedonistic Calculus, and Utility Calculus are the three most commonly used names for the method that we will be running our actions through to find out if it’s ethical or not. The equation has seven criteria to test your action against, and at the end of it, you’ll have a good idea of where your action stands morally. 

  • Intensity: How strong is the pleasure or pain that is caused by the action?
  • Duration: How long will the pleasure or pain caused by the action last?
  • Certainty: How certain is there to be pleasure or pain as a result of the action?
  • Remoteness: How far off is the pleasure or pain?
  • Fecundity: What are the odds that the action will be followed by actions of the same kind?
  • Purity: What are the odds that the action will be followed by an action of the opposite kind?
  • Extent: How many people will be affected by your action in either a positive or negative way?

With these seven criteria in place, you may see that not all of them quite apply to the question at hand, and that’s ok. Hedonistic Calculus is designed to be able to handle even the most complex situations, and looking into someone’s criminal record isn’t exactly the most complex issue. 

By looking through these criteria, we can extrapolate that you’d be ethically in the clear to look into someone’s criminal record, although it does depend on your intentions. For instance, if you’re looking into someone’s criminal record to make sure that you’re making a safe choice in allowing them into your home or to drive your kids around, you’re ethically fine. The action that you’re taking is one that will prevent pain from occurring and isn’t one that you’re taking to intentionally cause pain to another person. 

On the other hand, if you’re just looking into someone’s criminal record to have some dirt on them, you wouldn’t be as ethically in the clear. Using someone’s criminal records in such a manner would definitely cause more pain than it would cause pleasure, and it would be intentionally causing pain. If that was your intention, you should probably just avoid making the search if you intend to stay morally in the clear.

In short, if you’re getting the information to make sure that you or a loved one is going to be in safe hands, you’re not being unethical. If you’re trying to get the information to make someone’s life worse, you are being unethical. If you’re worried about being unethical, you should never use this kind of information as a weapon against someone. Causing pain intentionally will never be an ethical act. 

What are Some Examples of Ethical Reasons to Look Into Someone’s Criminal Record?

There are a lot of ethical reasons why someone might want to look into someone else’s criminal record. At the end of the day, if you’re trying to find this information with safety in mind, you probably aren’t doing anything wrong. The information is considered public record, and because of that, it’s your right as an American to access it. Here are a few specific examples of when you would be perfectly ok to find this information:

  • If you want to find someone’s criminal record to make sure that you can leave your children with them, you’re morally in the clear. There are a lot of dangerous people in the world and a lot of people that have less than pure intentions with children.
  • Before a date, if you want to make sure that your potential suitor doesn’t have a history of violence. This is perfectly fine because you’re just ensuring that you aren’t putting yourself in harm’s way, and there are a lot of violent people in the world, so it’s only logical to want to double-check.
  • When a new neighbor moves in and you want to make sure they don’t pose a threat. Again, there are a lot of very dangerous people in the world that have violent streaks. In this situation, you just want to make sure that you don’t have too much to worry about when you’re walking from your car to your house, taking out the trash, or really when you leave your house for any reason. 

Again, if safety is on your mind, you’re totally in the clear. You wouldn’t be finding this information with the intent of causing harm, so you have nothing to worry about from an ethical standpoint, and this kind of information is on the public record, so you also aren’t doing anything wrong from a legal standpoint.

How to Find Someone’s Criminal Record 

Now that we’ve covered the ethical implications of looking into someone’s criminal record, let’s make sure that you know how to find the information that you’re looking for. It’s a lot easier than you may expect, but like most things in life, there is an easy way and a hard way.

The hard way is to use law enforcement databases to find someone’s criminal record. The information provided by these databases is spotty at best, and you need to compile the information yourself, meaning that this could be a painfully arduous process that could potentially take weeks to complete. 

How U.S. Criminal Records Work | HowStuffWorks

The easier way to go about this task is to simply use a personal background check service. Personal background check services exist with the sole intention of making this process a lot easier for its users. With this method, all you need to do is enter the required information in the proper fields and hit enter. Once you’ve done that, most of these services will be able to pull up the person in question’s criminal records from anywhere in the country instantly. This method is so easy and convenient that you could even do it on a short break at work. 

Making Sure You’re Ethically Clear is Important

There’s an old proverb that has survived the test of time for many years at this point, “conscience is the dog that can’t bite but never stops barking.” Making sure that you’re doing the right thing ethically can help you be sure that you’re keeping your conscience at bay, and that can help you sleep better at night. At the end of the day, we can’t tell you what is going to feel right or wrong for you, but we can help you with a little moral framework so you can come to your own conclusions. Whether you decide looking into someone’s criminal record or not is a good thing for you to do is up to you, but we can still give you a road map of how to find the information if you decide that it’s something that you’d be comfortable doing. 

***SpyFly provides consumers affordable, immediate access to public record information. Federal laws prohibit businesses from using SpyFly’s service to make decisions about employment, insurance, consumer credit, tenant screening, or for any other purpose subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 USC 1681 et seq.**

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