In today’s technological age, a quick online search can give you access to a variety of records, but arrest records may be more difficult to access. These records contain all of an individual’s personal information and details about his or her arrests and convictions. They are typically recorded by state, local and federal authorities.

Criminal records are most commonly checked by law enforcement, the court system or potential employers to review an individual’s background with crimes. A criminal history can follow an individual for his or her entire life and can prevent him or her from receiving some of the benefits of a clean record.

What are criminal records and arrest records?

In short, public arrest records are a form of government document created when an individual is first arrested by law enforcement. If they are convicted by a court, the record is moved to their public criminal records. Anyone who is arrested, but found not guilty, might not have that particular charge listed on their criminal history. In other cases, if a person is found not guilty, that will be specified on their criminal record. Typically, a criminal record contains the following information:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Known aliases or nicknames
  • Physical description
  • Current address
  • Type of crime
  • Any outstanding arrest warrants
  • Dates of any arrests or convictions
  • Fingerprint information
  • Mug shot taken at the time of arrest

What information is excluded from an arrest record?

Traffic convictions, such as speeding or parking violations will not show up on a criminal record check. Only certain driving crimes, such as hit-and-run or DUI/DWI convictions, will appear on an individual’s record. Furthermore, it is possible to get certain minor offenses expunged or sealed off someone’s criminal history. In these cases, the record will be removed or will be considered inactive. Law enforcement and government officials will still be able to access this information, but someone can legally claim that you have no criminal record if it is expunged or sealed.

Adult criminal records will never be automatically expunged, and some states do not even offer expungement as an option. When requesting for a record to be sealed, the judge will consider the following when deciding on the case:

  • The type of crime committed
  • Whether there was a conviction or just an arrest
  • The amount of time since the arrest or conviction
  • If there are any other crimes on a record
  • Whether the sentences for crimes have been successfully served
  • Whether there have been other arrests or convictions since

Special Types of Criminal Records

In addition to the standard adult records, there are special types of criminal records that are maintained for certain circumstances. For example, the criminal history for someone younger than 18 is considered a juvenile criminal record. In the United States, juveniles who are not serious or repeat offenders are given the opportunity to receive a fresh start when they turn 18. Juvenile records are usually automatically sealed when individuals turn 18 so that they are not excessively punished for mistakes they made as children.

These is also the sex offender registry, which preserves criminal records of individuals who have been convicted of sexual crimes, such as rape. In addition to going on a criminal record, sex offenders must register with their state sex offender registry. Each state manages its own sex offender registry and provides free arrest records of anyone who commits a sex crime. Since sex criminals tend to have the highest rates of recurrent offenses, the sex offender registry was created so communities can be aware of any registered offenders nearby.

When would a criminal record check be used?

There are numerous agencies and organizations that can request your criminal or arrest records for an assortment of reasons. You may be required to undergo a background check when you apply for employment at places such as government agencies, as a medical professional or at a job where you are required to handle large amounts of money. Privately owned businesses have the opportunity to choose whether or not potential employees need to complete a criminal record check.

Note: Most government agencies can access an individual’s criminal record, but non-government entities typically require consent before they are granted access to those records.

Non-Government Entities

Additionally, criminal records can be requested from colleges and universities, landlords, adoption agencies and other organizations with strict application processes. In most of these cases, criminal history is checked for safety reasons. Colleges, especially for law and medical professions, want to ensure that their applicants will not threaten the safety or integrity of the program or its students. Landlords want to be sure that other tenants will not be disturbed or harmed by someone with a criminal history. Adoption agencies are likely to have the strictest policies regarding criminal records in order to protect vulnerable children from potential harm.

Individuals will also have their criminal records checked when purchasing guns, and felons are legally prohibited from purchasing any firearms. While certain states allow gun rights to be restored for legitimate reasons, such as hunting to provide food. Nonetheless, the process is difficult and persons interested must secure permission from both state and federal governments before they can get back their gun rights.

Government Agencies

Finally, government agencies will check criminal and arrest records for countless reasons. The most common cases occur when an individual is dealing with visas, immigration, naturalization and international travel. U.S. citizens may be asked to show a “certificate of good conduct” if they try to find employment or enroll in a school while they are abroad. Law enforcement agents, including travel officers, can look up a person’s criminal history for use in an investigation or to complete an arrest warrant search for active warrants.

In the United States, a person with a felony is not considered a protected class, and he or she can be discriminated against in some cases. For example, felons lose their voting rights, so criminal records are checked when registering to vote. Some states allow people with felonies to restore their voting privileges if they have successfully served the sentence for their crime. However, most of the time a felony will cause an individual to lose their voting rights.

Last updated on Thursday, October 15 2020.