We Explain How Criminal Records Work!
As of today, one in every three Americans has a criminal record, and the judicial system in the country is one of the most complex in the world. When a person has a criminal record, it usually affects them for life, so it is important to know what exactly are criminal records, how criminal records work, and how you can find criminal records online.
What are Criminal Records?
Criminal records are records that contain information about an individual's arrests and convictions. The information is kept by the state, local, and federal agencies that maintain them for different purposes. Criminal records are also used by courts who need to determine a sentence for the person who has been accused of a crime.
How Criminal Records Work?
For a person to have a criminal record, they must commit a crime at first. After an individual is arrested for a crime, he/she will be fingerprinted and photographed for a mugshot. Then, the arresting authority will fill out a report that includes the arrested individual's personal information.
Aside from the current arrest, information about prior arrests is also recorded in a criminal record. In case the arrested individual is convicted of a crime, the information will be stored for future use.
In the past, criminal records were hand-written by the arresting officer and stored in paper files. Nowadays, criminal records are recorded and stored on computers. Thanks to computerized criminal records, authorities, and individuals are able to access criminal data in no time at all.
What Information is Found in Criminal Records?
Criminal records contain valuable information about people who were arrested and the crimes they committed:
- Known aliases
- Physical description
- Fingerprint data
- Current address
- Date of birth
- Type of crime
- Dates of arrests or convictions
- Outstanding arrest warrants
Criminal records do not include information about traffic convictions; they hold data about crimes people committed and all the related information about those crimes.
Are Criminal Records Permanent?
In most cases, criminal records are permanent, and they will appear on an individual's record for the duration of their life. However, there are cases where criminal records can be expunged, and will no longer appear on a person's record. So, if a person wants their criminal records to be deleted, it is possible to ask for an expungement.
When a criminal record is expunged, the information in it becomes inactive. However, the data in expunged records will still be accessible to government officials and law enforcement agencies.
When a person's criminal record is expunged, they are allowed to refer to it as non-existent. So, if someone asks such an individual if they have a criminal record, they are legally allowed to say they do not have such a record.
Certain states refer to expunged records as 'sealed' criminal records, but the meaning is the same in every case and in every state.
How to Expunge Criminal Records?
Each state in the country has different rules for expunging criminal records. In many cases, juvenile records are automatically expunged/sealed after a period, but the same doesn't apply for adult criminal records. Criminal records that are registered for adults are automatically expunged.
If adults want their criminal record to be expunged, they need to follow the expungement rules in their state. When a judge tries to decide whether to expunge a criminal record, he/she will consider several factors:
- Whether the criminal charges ended in an arrest or a conviction
- The type of crime the individual committed
- Additional records in the person's history
- The time that passed from the arrest or conviction
- Whether the person has been convicted or arrested after the criminal record was formed
In certain cases where a person has committed a minor offense for the first time, judges will be more willing to expunge their criminal record.
How are Criminal Records Kept?
As mentioned before, criminal records are maintained in computerized databases. Criminal records are kept in two types of databases – a local one and a state database. On the local level, criminal records are recorded and kept the arresting authority and the court that handled each case.
Aside from local criminal databases, there are also state respiratories that maintain and distribute criminal records' data.
The National Driver Register, which is managed by the Department of Transportation, maintains information about traffic convictions that are separate from 'regular' criminal records. Traffic conviction records include date about fatal accidents, DUIs, perjury about the operation of a motor vehicle, and other criminal offenses related to motor-vehicles.
How to Find Criminal Records?
Under the Freedom of Information Act in the United States, individuals are allowed to view a criminal record. To search for criminal records, you need to contact the law enforcement agencies and courts in the county where the case was handled. Then, you will need to pay the fees for the search, as well as fees for each copy of the criminal records you requested. Depending on the state and the county where the criminal records were recorded, you will need to wait to get copies of the files you requested.
You can request copies of criminal records in person, on the phone, via email, or through the U.S. postal office. Each respiratory has its methods for processing criminal records' search requests, so you need to find out which methods are available to you.
How to Find Criminal Records Online?
Aside from local and state respiratories, you can also perform an online criminal record search via online public records search directories. To find criminal data about people, you need to provide the directory that you choose with an individual's name or another identifying detail.
Then, the directory will scan public records (including criminal records), and provide you with information about the said person's criminal history. With the help of an online directory, you will be able to quickly and easily find criminal records and learn more about people's criminal past.