When an individual is taken into police custody as a result of a criminal act, they are considered to be under arrest. An arrest can occur directly after an alleged crime or following an investigation.
An individual’s arrest record, also called a criminal record, details an individual’s criminal history. Law enforcement agencies typically store an individual’s arrest record in addition to being stored in other judicial and administrative institutions.
Does Police Custody Mean I Am Arrested?
Law enforcement can have an individual in their custody without actually arresting them. Law enforcement custody is usually defined as any time in which law enforcement deprives an individual of their freedom or an action where an individual knows they cannot get up and leave the presence of law enforcement of their free will.
An arrest occurs when an individual is:
- Detained by physical restraint;
- Booked at the police station;
- Placed in handcuffs,
- Placed in the back of a locked police car.
If law enforcement has an individual in their custody or has arrested them, they must inform the individual of their Miranda rights and allow the individual in custody to exercise them.
What Are Criminal Records?
An individual’s criminal record includes the history of their background of criminal charges and convictions. Any time an individual is convicted of a crime, the court records it in the individual’s file, which has a record of all of their previous convictions.
A criminal record is typically a public record and can be accessed through the court’s criminal law system or a county recorder’s office.
What Is a Public Arrest Record?
When an individual is taken into custody and arrested, their arrest is recorded into a public record, known as a public arrest record. These records are kept and maintained by the law enforcement agency regarding the individual’s arrest, detention, or confinement.
The details of an individual’s arrest are listed in their record, including:
- Identifying information, including:
- birth date;
- hair color;
- Criminal charge(s) that the individual was arrested on.
An arrest may progress through the criminal justice system, or the charges against the individual may be dropped. If the charges against an individual are dropped, or their arrest does not progress any further, the case will be closed.
When Are Criminal Records Checked?
A criminal record is usually checked whenever information is needed regarding an individual’s background. An individual’s criminal record may be checked for several reasons, including:
- Job applications;
- Housing applications;
- Immigration purposes;
- For the purpose of an upcoming or pending trial;
- Applying for certain forms of aid;
- Other objectives, such as purchasing a firearm or applying for a loan.
If an individual has a criminal record that involves violent crimes or crimes that involve minors, it may disqualify the individual from certain activities and privileges.
Can Anyone Obtain Information About My Arrest?
Because an individual’s arrest record is public, any individual can access the information on their record by going to their jurisdiction’s government website. In addition, any individual can obtain the arrest record by going to the county clerk’s office and requesting the information.
What Are Arrest Records Used For?
Arrest records are used to keep track of an individual’s criminal history. They may also be used by individuals who are:
- Renting property;
- Employing people;
- Performing background checks;
- Various other uses.
What Information Is on an Arrest Record?
Arrest records include personal information, for example, an individual’s last known address and age. In addition, an individual’s arrest record may include facts regarding their arrest and personal information, for example:
- Criminal charges;
- Identifying marks;
- Different names used;
- Social security number;
An individual’s arrest record will typically also include information regarding the crime classification. For example, the arrest record may note whether the crime was a felony or a misdemeanor.
Is It the Same as a Criminal Record?
A public arrest record is not the same as a criminal record. A criminal record is more extensive than an individual’s arrest record because, in addition to containing an individual’s history of arrests, it also contains information about all criminal charges and convictions that the individual has faced.
A criminal record is also accessible to the public. It may be used to determine whether an individual:
- Is hired for a job;
- Receives housing;
- Obtains U.S. citizenship;
- Receives federal aid; or
- Can buy a firearm.
An individual’s criminal record may detail their contact with law enforcement agencies and the courts, including:
Can an Arrest Be Cleared From a Public Record?
In many jurisdictions, an arrest may be cleared or deleted from the public record and the individual’s criminal record. This is called an expungement or a record sealing.
Once the court has granted an expungement or record sealing, their arrest record is sealed or destroyed. When an individual’s arrest is deleted from public records, it means that individuals cannot access the information.
In certain situations, a law enforcement agency may be able to access an individual’s arrest record if it has only been sealed and has not been expunged. Whether an individual’s arrest or conviction can be expunged or sealed will depend on the jurisdiction.
In some jurisdictions, only an arrest can be sealed or expunged. How long an individual must wait for the expungement or record sealing will also depend on the jurisdiction.
How Is Record Sealing Different From Expungement?
The main difference between record sealing and record expungement is that a criminal record will still exist if it is sealed. The files and records will still exist, they just cannot be accessed by employers or other individuals.
It is typically standard that an individual’s juvenile criminal files be sealed once they turn 18 years of age. It is important to note, however, that they may still be accessed via court order.
In contrast, an expungement will result in the actual deletion or erasing of criminal charges and arrest files as though they never occurred. There are certain charges that may be more difficult to have expunged than other charges. For example, misdemeanor charges are typically more easily expunged than felony charges.
The laws governing criminal record sealing and expungement may vary widely by state. Eligibility for these types of procedures often depend on the type of crime involved.
What Is the Eligibility for Record Sealing or Expungement?
Eligibility for record sealing will vary by state. In general, however the record sealing or expungement procedures include the following:
- Applying for record sealing in writing with the court where the conviction occurred;
- The individual’s original sentence must have been served;
- The individual is not facing any new charges; and
- The burden is on the applicant to prove that they have fulfilled their probation requirements.
When an individual files for an expungement, they will typically file in the same court where the prosecution occurred. The petition for expungement will typically only be good for one case. If an individual wants to expunge multiple records, typically, they are required to file separate petitions.
The court will then review the petition and determine the individual’s eligibility. It is important to note that individual courts may also have their own procedures governing expungement or record sealing.
Should I Talk to a Lawyer About My Public Arrest Record?
If you have an arrest record, it is important to consult with an expungement lawyer about having your record sealed or expunged. Your lawyer can also help you correct any errors on your record, if there are any.