A criminal record refers to the accounts of any previous convictions and charges that a person might have. If a person has had a prior conviction, it is often said that they "have a criminal record". This can have various effects in many areas of the person’s life. Even if a person has only one prior conviction on their record, it can still have affects on them in the future.

Alternatively, criminal records can also refer to the database of criminal cases that are maintained by through local and county court systems. These records are generally public and can be accessed by anyone, regardless of their connection with the person being searched. Some criminal records may be sealed or expunged over time.

What Are Some Effects of Having a Criminal Record?

Having a criminal record can often have some negative effects on the person. Some of these include:

  • Subsequent criminal case: Additional criminal charges can result in more severe penalties and sentencing if a person already has a criminal record on file.
  • Child custody: Having a criminal record may limit child custody rights, especially if the charges involve violent acts or instances of domestic abuse.
  • Immigration: Criminal records can prevent a foreign national from obtaining a green card, becoming a naturalized citizen, or obtaining change in immigration status.
  • Employment: Criminal convictions can often make it more difficult for a person to find employment. Most employers require criminal background checks.
  • Driving and other privileges: Having criminal records can result in a person losing driving privileges, rights to owning a firearm, and other rights

There may be other effects of having a criminal record. In some cases, these can depend on the state or local criminal laws, as sentencing and other legal options may differ by region.

Can I Have My Criminal Record Sealed or Erased?

It is often possible to have previous criminal charges erased from one’s record. This must usually occur several years after the person’s sentences are completed (anywhere from 5-10 years, depending on the seriousness of the charges). The person must formally apply for and request for their record to be sealed or erased. After the erasing or expungement process is completed, the person’s criminal records may no longer be accessed by the public.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help Addressing a Criminal Record?

Having a criminal record can present many obstacles and can further complicate existing legal issues. You may wish to hire a qualified criminal lawyer in your area if you need assistance with a criminal record or with past criminal charges. Your attorney can explain your rights and how your criminal record might be affecting your present options. Also, if you need help getting your record cleared, your attorney may be able to help with that process as well.