What Is a Criminal Record Search?

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It may be necessary to search criminal records in a variety of situations. For instance, a criminal record check may be needed when checking a person’s background for employment or housing purposes. In addition, they may be required when applying for certain positions or roles in the community. People may also want to search their records to learn more about their own criminal history.

Criminal records can usually be accessed through the local or county criminal record system. Generally, these are maintained by the local court system. Criminal records may be restricted, especially if they have been sealed or made inaccessible to the general public.

What Is a Criminal Record Search?

A criminal record search involves researching another person’s history of criminal offenses and convictions. Usually, they are maintained by local or national record-keeping departments. The court keeps official records whenever a person is convicted of a crime.

The information is generally considered a public record, which means anyone can access it. Records may include information such as the nature of the charges, the date, location, and time period of the crime, docket numbers, and sentencing information.

What Information Can Be Searched in a Criminal Record?

Information such as the following can be obtained from records that can be accessed:

  • Information regarding previous charges
  • Dates, names of parties involved, and locations of charges
  • Sentencing information
  • Whether there are any pending charges
  • In some cases, information regarding outstanding arrest warrants

When Are Criminal Record Searches Performed?

A criminal record search may be conducted for a variety of reasons.

The following are some reasons why someone might conduct a criminal record search on someone:

  • Employment background checks: Employers often research a person’s criminal background before they hire them, especially for jobs involving security.
  • Criminal cases: Judges and juries will have access to the person’s criminal records during a subsequent trial or criminal hearing. Prior criminal records may often lead to increased sentencing.
  • Immigration: Immigration rights may be negatively affected by a criminal record (i.e., visa applications, naturalization rights, etc.).
  • Business purposes: Some business ventures may require a background check.
  • Personal information: Some people may wish to research the criminal background of someone they know.

It is important to follow several procedures and guidelines when conducting a criminal background check on someone, especially in an employment setting. Illegal criminal background checks can lead to legal consequences.

How Can I Get a Criminal Record Cleared?

In some cases, getting a criminal record sealed or cleared may be possible. Criminal records are not usually sealed automatically, so the person must specifically request them. There may be many requirements for this process, such as the person having no subsequent criminal charges and completing the sentence(s) for past crimes. It may also be necessary to wait several years after the last conviction.

It is often more difficult to clear a felony conviction than a misdemeanor charge.

If a Felony is Expunged, Does that Mean it is Erased?

An expunged felony is no longer public record in most states. Individuals are not required to disclose the charge or conviction on employment, housing, public benefits, or education applications. When a potential employer performs a background check, the expunged felony will not appear.

Expunctions, however, have limitations. Expunged records can still be viewed by law enforcement agencies, for example. Law enforcement and courts may consider expunged charges when sentencing a later criminal case.

Moreover, many states require potential employees to disclose expunged offenses if they apply for law enforcement, financial services, or childcare jobs. Professional, legal, medical, and pharmacy license applications may also require disclosure of expunged charges.

Is Expungement the Same as Record Sealing?

There is a difference between expungement and record sealing. Even if a criminal record is sealed, it still exists. Employers and others cannot access it. Once an individual turns 18, their juvenile criminal records are usually sealed. A court order may still allow access to them.

By contrast, expungement results in the actual criminal charges and arrest files being erased.

It is essential to note the following about expungement and record sealing:

  • Many felonies cannot be expunged;
  • The majority of sex offenses are not qualified for record sealing;
  • Expungement usually ensues with juvenile offenses or misdemeanors; and
  • In some jurisdictions, although records are sealed, the original sealed conviction may still be used to increase the severity of a future sentence.

What Shows Up on a Criminal Background Check?

Some items that may appear when conducting a criminal background check of a person include:

  • Both felony and misdemeanor criminal convictions;
  • Whether the person has served any time in prison as an adult;
  • If a person has any criminal charges or cases pending against them;
  • Arrests for crimes under certain circumstances (even if the person was acquitted);
  • Citations or infractions received within the last seven years;
  • Whether a person is registered as a sex offender; and
  • Various sorts of personal information (e.g., Social Security number, date of birth, alias names, birth names, address, etc.).

Additionally, the information may also depend on the authority performing the criminal background check (e.g., the government vs. a standard employer).

What Are Arrest Records Used For?

People use them to keep track of their criminal history.

They are also used by individuals who are:

  • Renting property
  • Employing people
  • Performing background checks
  • Various other uses

What Information Is on an Arrest Record?

An arrest record contains personal information, such as the person’s last known address and age.

An arrest record may also contain facts about the arrest and personal information, such as:

  • Fingerprints
  • Photographs
  • Criminal charges
  • Identifying marks
  • Different names used
  • Social security number
  • Race
  • Height
  • Weight

An arrest record will usually include information about the crime classification as well. For instance, a criminal record may indicate whether the crime was a felony or a misdemeanor. A statute of limitations may be associated with felonies but not misdemeanors.

Will My Arrest Record Include Convictions?

Criminal convictions are generally included in arrest records in most cases. Additionally, they may contain procedural information such as:

  • Whether the individual owes any criminal restitution or fines
  • Prior incarcerations, including the amount of time spent incarcerated, as well as the type of facility the person was placed in
  • Any instances of pending or upcoming hearings or litigation
  • Military service, if applicable – this may relate to other issues such as dishonorable discharge

An arrest record’s exact details and information will vary from person to person. They may also differ by jurisdiction.

Who Is Qualified For Expungements?

An expungement depends on the type of crime committed, as previously discussed. It also depends on the expungement regulations enacted in a specific jurisdiction.

In general, some persons who may qualify for expungement include:

  • Juvenile offenders or minors;
  • Those who are first-time offenders of non-violent offenses;
  • Those who have been acquitted or have had the charges against them dropped;
  • Persons who have completed their sentence and have waited the specified amount of time required by the expungement laws in their state;
  • Persons who have committed misdemeanor offenses (with some exceptions); and
  • Persons who have committed certain non-violent felonies.

Anyone wishing to have a record cleared or expunged must not have any new charges pending against them before filing a request. Any prior sentences they received for previous crimes must also be completed.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Criminal Record Issues?

Criminal records are an important part of the criminal justice system. You may need to hire a qualified expungement lawyer if you have any legal questions or inquiries regarding a criminal record.

A lawyer can assist you with various tasks, including searching records, reviewing documents, and filling out forms. Your lawyer can also represent you in court if you need to appear.

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