are online background checks any good?

I have reason to do a background check on someone, primarily for his criminal record and his military records. I know a good deal about this person, including his social security number, date of birth, Army service number, some states he has lived in, etc.
Are any of the many sites that do this really effective? How do I choose which ones? Or am I better off hiring a private investigator? I’m willing to spend whatever it takes (he is a close friend of mine and its for his own good, to help defend him), but I don’t want to waste money either.

You can pull criminal records off State websites for free. At least in Illinois. It was fun. We used to go thru people we know and if they are presently incarserated you get their pictures too.

You may be able to save some bucks by asking the appropriate state or federal agencies. DL abstracts are avaiable in most states (some require permission for famous people or all people, some don’t) for nominal fees ($2.00-$10.00)

Maybe a lawyer would be a better idea if you really want to help your friend.

A lawyer? Whoa, why didn’t we think of that? :smack:

OF COURSE he has a lawyer. That doesn’t mean the lawyer is going to tell me everything he finds out. It doesn’t even mean that my friend is telling the lawyer everything. He is mentally ill and incarcerated.

Also the lawyer, while helpful and intelligent, is inexperienced and overworked. I am trying to do whatever legwork I can.