iowa background check laws

Whether it’s for employment or personal reasons, many parts of the Iowa background check can be conducted for free.

In fact, when following this official search guide, anyone can legally comply with 2022 laws, and when searching for personal reasons, do a background check in Iowa for free, even a background check without consent.

Because all states have specific laws concerning public records, running a background check in Iowa is no different. Searchers must comply with both state and federal laws in order to avoid violations and fines.

Professional searchers must obtain written consent from the subject before running history checks.

Personal inquiries can be conducted without permission, (like how to find someone’s employment history) but cannot be used for any tenant background check screening, a nanny background check, or official employment background check purposes.

However, by using the following techniques, anyone can legally conduct free criminal background check tasks in Iowa, and use the other state and federal options available to find all sorts of public and criminal records. It just takes time and effort.

Free Background Check: Iowa Info and Public Records Process

Like most states, Iowa has multiple options to obtain a background check, as long as what information is needed for a background check has been collected, such as full name (including middle name), social security number, and possibly fingerprints.However, if the check is for personal reasons, there are also ways to access public records in order to get that information.

The easiest and cheapest way to get a criminal Iowa background check is to go through a reputable background check service that offers a 7 day free trial.

If this option is unavailable or another type of background check is needed, individuals will need to obtain an official Iowa background check through the Iowa Department of Public Safety (DPS). Detailed steps to obtain a DPS background check are outlined further down.

Obtaining Iowa public records online is fairly easy in the state, thanks to several online databases that are available to the public. Depending on the records needed, individuals can utilize various agencies such as the Iowa Judicial Branch, county recorders, and local police and sheriff departments. Some parts of a background check are completely free to search, including looking up previous convictions and sex offenders.

In addition, the local county clerk can provide a wealth of specific information when official Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are made.

Find Iowa Court Records Lookup Free

Looking up Iowa court records is extremely easy and quick thanks to the Iowa Courts Online Search. Unlike similar databases in other states, the Iowa online court search allows individuals to find court case information for any case heard at the state or local level in Iowa.

When performing a criminal records search in Iowa, the Courts Online Search platform allows users to search for any case that has been heard in the state, including local jurisdictions.

Keep in mind that federal court records are still only held by those specific courts, and must be searched using the PACER system.

Detailed steps to perform a search of the Iowa Courts Online Search system are outlined below.

Step 1:Access the Iowa Courts Online Search

The first step is to access the Iowa Courts Online Search system which can be found through the Iowa Judicial branch website or through the provided link.

Simply click “start a case search here!” to get started.

Step 2: Create an Account

Before performing a search, individuals must register an account with the service and pay a subscription fee.

The fee is $25 per month and allows for unlimited searches during that time. However, there is a limit of 1,000 searches in a calendar year per account.

Step 3: Perform Search

With an account created and subscription purchases, the only thing left to do is perform the search.

Select what kind of search you wish to perform such as an appellate search or trial court search. Then, simply fill as many of the provided fields as possible, being sure to select the county in which the case was held.

Find Iowa Public Records through County Clerks

Individuals who need to obtain public records that are not related to court proceedings should be able to find what they are looking for through the county clerk or county recorder. The local county recorder in each Iowa county should have the following information available:

The exact method to obtain these records will vary slightly from county to county but the below process should be a good starting point for any county.

Step 1: Access the website of the County Recorder

This will allow users to see if there is an online search function for records, or if records need to be requested manually (usually using a form).

Some counties require records requests to be made by phone or mail, or by using a specific form that can be mailed or submitted in person.

For example, the website of the Polk county recorder has information on the steps to obtain different kinds of records.

Step 2: Follow Specific Steps to Search Records or Download Forms

In many counties there will be different steps to obtain different records, this is why it is important to check the recorder website first.

For example in Polk County, things like land records can be found using the online search system. However, marriage and vital records requests need to fill out a Vital Record Application and submit directly to the office.


Step 3: Request Forms

With the proper request method identified, simply follow the county recorder’s specific steps to obtain the documents.

Keep in mind that many documents will require a small fee to obtain.

The following table provides the website links to both Iowa court of clerks and Iowa county clerks:

Free Criminal Background Check: Iowa DCI Background Check and State Police

An official Iowa Criminal Background check can be obtained through the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations.

Detailed steps to obtain a criminal background check through the DCI are outlined below.

Step 1: Access the Criminal History Records Check page of the DCI 

This page will have helpful information about the check and the various ways to submit the proper forms to make a request. There is also an FAQ page for any other questions individuals may have.

Step 2: Decide on Method of Submission

Criminal history record check requests can be made by mail, fax, or in person. There is currently no online option and requests can not be made by phone.

Submitting the form in person is the fastest but obviously not a viable option for individuals who do not live near Des Moines, where the office is located.

Step 3: Complete Forms, Provide Payment and Submit. 

Once the method in which the forms will be submitted is decided, simply fill out the provided forms and submit based on the method chosen.

Some criminal records can also be requested from the local Sheriff’s office. Each office will have a different method to make a request.

Only the Polk County Sheriff’s office has online records requests, every other sheriff’s department will require individuals to call or show up in person to complete a request. In many cases, the Sheriff’s department will have a unique form that must be filled out.

Iowa Pre Employment Background Check

Like all states, certain levels of background checks must be conducted for individuals to work in specific job fields. This mostly applies to jobs that have access to sensitive groups or sensitive information, such as nursing background checks, and daycare or caregiver background checks.

Education Background Check Iowa Teachers

All teachers in the state of Iowa are required to get a background check from the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners. The check is fairly standard for those working in child care and involves checks of sex offender registries, state and national criminal checks, child abuse registries, and more.

Teachers who also earned their degree from an Iowa university will usually have the background check arranged by the university.

Healthcare Background Check Iowa: Background Check System

Background checks for healthcare typically include criminal checks as well as checks of various abuse and neglect registries. These checks are mandated at the state level in order for state hospitals to receive funding.

There are also other more unique checks for hospital employees including registries maintained by agencies such as the FDA. These are often commonly referred to as level 3 background checks or FACIS checks, which make sure that the person isn’t on a debarred list for federal funding or federal work.

Iowa Child Care Background Check

Iowa child care background checks are very similar to those required for teachers. Child care background checks must abide by federal laws as well as any additional laws in the state. Federal laws include:

  • FBI fingerprint check
  • National Crime Information Center’s National Sex Offender Registry check
  • State criminal check
  • State sex offender registry or repository
  • State-based child abuse and neglect registry and database

Iowa has several additional laws besides those mandated at the federal level such as requiring certain checks every 2 years instead of 3.

Get Iowa DOT Record

Certain jobs, such as those that require individuals to operate heavy machinery may require that applicants submit a DOT record. Iowa residents can obtain their DOT records through the Iowa Department of Transportation website.

Useful information and specific steps to obtain copies of your record can be found on the Iowa DOT’s “MyMVD” Website.

Iowa Inmate Lookup and Sex Offender Registry Screening

The Iowa Department of Corrections maintains a frequently updated database for information involving all inmates in Iowa State correctional facilities. Simply access the DOC website and fill in the information on the offender search page. Information for the inmates’ location as well as sentencing information will be available immediately…and free.

The Iowa sex offender registry is another free check that can be done by anyone. Simply access the Iowa Sex Offender Registry website and perform a search using the name of an individual. Searches can also be performed using a geographic area.

Background Check for Gun Purchase in Iowa

Individuals purchasing a gun through a licensed Iowa gun dealer will need to undergo a background check that is conducted by either the FBI, county sheriff, or the Department of Public Safety.

Private sellers are not required to perform background checks before transferring firearms in Iowa.

Iowa Background Check Laws

There are only two main laws regarding background checks that are enforced at the state level.

First, Iowa employers can not ask an employee to pay for their own background check.

Also, there are laws regarding the potential expungement of certain criminal records which would make it illegal for these records to show up on background checks should they have been expunged.

How Long Does a Background Check Take In Iowa?

An Iowa background check should take about a week to complete. In some cases, it can be done in as little as 48 hours.

Background checks can be stressful, what’s worse is not knowing what to expect from a pre-employment background check. Luckily, getting an Iowa background check is fairly easy and most individuals will have nothing to worry about.

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