How Do Police Records Work?
Police records, also known as Criminal Records or rap sheets are records of a specific person's criminal history. The contents of police records vary from country to country and in the US from state to state. In the United States, police records are collected and kept on local, state, and federal levels by the various law enforcement agencies such as the sheriff’s department, police department, FBI and other government agencies.
On a state level, state police, troopers, highway patrol, correctional agencies, and other law enforcement agencies maintain separate databases. However, law enforcement agencies traditionally share this information with other agencies and this information is also usually made available to the public.
All states have official databases of criminal history that include information aggregated by all the different law enforcement agencies within the state. You can always request your own records from the state, but to request the criminal records of another person through the state, you will need that person's permission.
The federal government also has its own criminal database called The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) which is maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Uses of Police Records
Police records have a number of different uses. They are traditionally used by law enforcement to identify and locate suspects in ongoing and unsolved cases. When there is a case of a wanted fugitive, the police will release a mugshot and physical description as well as what the suspect is wanted for to the public. Courts can also use criminal records to determine sentences for crimes that are committed by that same person, if someone is a repeat offender, the sentence will likely be different than that of a first time offender. Another use for criminal records is for a background check, which is often used by an employer or landlord in order to check if a person applying for a job or rental unit has ever been convicted of a crime.
Police records may be also be used for security clearance, adoption, immigration/international travel/visa, licensing, assistance in developing suspects in an ongoing criminal investigation, and for enhanced sentencing in criminal prosecutions.
Process of Getting a Police Record
A criminal record starts when someone is arrested on suspicion of committing a crime. The person is taken to the police station and is fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed for all of their personal information which is recorded along with the reason for the arrest. If the suspect is convicted of the crime, that record is kept as well.
What is in a Police Record
A police record generally has the following information regarding the person who was arrested or convicted of a crime:
- Date of birth
- Known aliases (other names used by that person)
- Physical description
- Current address
- Type of crime
- Outstanding arrest warrants
- Dates of arrests or convictions
- Mug shot
Are Police Records Public?
In 1966 The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was passed, and government offices are now required to provide access to anything that is considered public record. In the United States, things related to criminal activity have been very transparent in order to protect law-abiding citizens.
In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, if someone is convicted in a US court of law, the records of that court case are public record. Anyone who knows where the court case took place can go to that court’s clerk and ask for the police records of an individual tried there. The only exception to this is if a file was expunged.
Expungement refers to the process of sealing arrest and conviction records. Almost every state has laws in place that allow people to expunge arrests and convictions from their criminal records. Most states' laws state that once an arrest or conviction has been expunged, you do not need to report it to anyone, even employers or landlords. The requirements for expunging a record are usually that the crime was a minor offense, and it was the defendant's first-time offense. The FBI also keeps criminal records, but they are not public information and are only accessible to certain government employees.
For many years the only way to find out if someone had a police record was to visit the clerks’ office in the county in which the person was arrested/convicted. Nowadays there are many background check services that have gathered billions of records from different sources and databases and put them into one searchable database, so if you want to see if someone has a police record all you need to do is search their name and state, and the website will do the rest for you.
Best Websites to Search for Public Police Records
GoLookUp is a well-trusted background check that specializes in finding criminal records and searching deep web data. The site uses hundreds of millions of public records and allows its users to perform an unlimited number of searches for mugshots, criminal records, arrest records, and any other public records you may need. The search runs using the name and state of the person who you believe may have a police record and will provide you with a complete report that you can download and view at anytime.
TurthFinder is a San Diego-based background search company that provides professional background check services for its users. Truth Finder offers public records search of all kinds, including police, criminal and arrest records amongst others. You need to just search a name and see if almost anyone in the United States has a criminal record.
InstantCheckMate is a people search and background check directory that helps you search personal public records. To use the service, you need to enter the first name of the person you are searching for, the last name and their state of residence. InstantCheckmate will then perform a statewide search to find records about the person you are searching for including criminal records, police records, mug shots, and other information.