When looking for arrest records, it is important to note that official arrest reports are requested from police departments and arrest records can be found from a variety of public sources. For official arrest reports, police departments provide the public a webpage where they can be requested, similar to incident reports, or accident reports. However, arrest reports tend to have restrictions imposed by individual departments. Policies from individual law enforcement departments can restrict access to persons not connected to the case or while the case is still under investigation. There are records of arrests, which means "any information about arrests", that can be found in court records, local in custody lists from police and sheriffs webpages, local publications, crime mapping and more.
Where the arrest occurred can make a difference in the ease of access. Larger cities with greater populations will have greater online public services. The next important fact to consider is when the arrest occurred. How recent was the arrest? The inmate lists, sometimes named "in custody, prison, detention and jail rosters" are mostly of recent arrests and open to public view freely. You can find these lists of recent arrests on police and sheriffs webpages directly. Local publications will provide a list of persons recently arrested in a variety of neighborhoods. A majority of state prisons provide inmate searches where you can instantly view lists of convicts in custody as well as some which are post release.
Arrest records alone are not convictions, which is why your basic background check may not include them. Criminal records don't necessarily mean arrest records since not all of them result in convictions. Many arrests do not end up in court, therefore a court search will not be sufficiently thorough if you're looking for just arrests, but as a rule of thumb, it helps to check all possible sources. A great often used free source is crime mapping. Crime mapping show incidents, which includes arrests as well as other police responses to calls block by block. There are several crime mapping sites and they are not all the same. Some cover areas while others do not, you will be able to see mug shots on the right one. With crime mapping, you can choose the type of incident, location/city and time span, some can go back as far as a year or more.
On a final note, sources to locate arrest records throughout the net do not always pop up on the first page of your SERPS or with the first few keywords searched. Similar to an investigator, you will need to search out leads to sources which can be just as useful. An example is when you're looking for arrests, however, none of the crime mapping or periodicals show up in search results and therefore the need to dig them up individually on your own. Even with department of corrections inmate lists, which are free and open to the public, it is worth checking since some also show past released inmates, which would uncover previous arrests.