|Worried your daughter's new boyfriend might have a nefarious past? Want to know whether the job applicant in front of you has a rap sheet?
Finding out can be a mouse click away, thanks to the growing crop of searchable online databases run directly by states. Vermont launched its service Monday, and now about 20 states have some form of them.
The Web sites provide a valuable and timesaving service to would-be employers and businesses by allowing them to look up criminal convictions without having to submit written requests and wait for the responses. And they're popular: Last month alone, Florida's site performed 38,755 record checks.
But the Internet debut of information historically kept in courthouses in paper files can magnify the harm of clerical errors, expose states to liability for mistakes and spell new headaches for people who've long since done their time, only to have information about their crime bared anew.