US Criminal Records
What is a Criminal Record?
A criminal record, also known as a “rap sheet,” is a record of a person's criminal history related to both felony and misdemeanor charges or convictions. The information is stored in a physical or digital format and collected from local, county and state government police, courts, and correctional facilities. Depending on the state where the criminal record is stored, the amount of information provided can vary widely according to that state’s laws governing public access to its records. Information provided often includes basic personal identification information, arrests, past and current warrants, current pending charges and dismissed and acquitted charges (expunged records are usually not available). Penalties such as prison time, probation and parole may be available as well. Although the amount of personal identification information may vary greatly from state to state, it usually includes the person’s full name, known aliases, date of birth, address (past and present), photograph, fingerprints, race, tattoos, scars, hair and eye color, height and weight.
When a person is arrested due to a perceived criminal act, an arrest record (aka criminal record) is created. Arrest records are kept by law enforcement agencies and other judicial administrative institutions. They include personal identification information, details about the arrest, charges and convictions, photographs and fingerprints. Arrest records remain throughout that person’s lifetime unless they are expunged or sealed. Having a record expunged or sealed is done by petitioning the court and receiving a court order that removes that arrest record from all public government records including police records.
An arrest warrant is an official document that is signed by a judge and provides the police the ability to arrest a specific person. The arrest warrant often includes such detailed information as the crime the suspect committed and sometimes information stating restrictions on how the arrest may be conducted. Some examples of arrest warrant restrictions include how much the bail will cost or whether the suspect can only be arrested at certain times of the day or other such particulars. When an arrest warrant is created as the result of a suspect failing to appear in court for a previous offense, the arrest warrant is called a bench warrant, and usually does not allow for bail. The process of acquiring an arrest warrant entails the police submitting a written affidavit to a judge or magistrate explaining the crime and the clear specifics on how that particular suspect is implicated in committing that crime.
A misdemeanor is a criminal offense that is considered a minor crime that is usually punishable by a fine or jail sentence of less than 1 year. The specific laws that determine what crimes are listed as a misdemeanor vary according to jurisdiction, yet generally include disturbing the peace, petty theft, driving under the influence, public disturbance, simple assault and battery, and traffic violations. Misdemeanors are administered in the local municipal or justice courts, and if jail time is rendered it is usually served in the county jail instead of a state or federal prison.
The classification of misdemeanors differs by state but usually includes Class 1, 2 and 3 or Class A, B and C. There is often a fourth class as well, which is considered unclassified and includes a sentence that is determined on an individual case-by-case basis. Class A or 1 misdemeanor is the most serious and can result in jail time up to 1 year or a large fine. Class B or 2 are less severe and punishment is usually determined by considering the defendant’s character and criminal history, if any. Class C or 3 misdemeanors are the most minor of offenses and usually do not include jail time. However, repeat offenders may receive longer jail times or larger fines.
A felony conviction is the most serious type of criminal offense and can either include violent or non-violent circumstances. Conviction of a felony results in serving prison time for a minimum of 1 year in a state or federal prison system instead of the county or local jail. Large fines may also be applied to the conviction. Traditional common law categorizes a felony as a “true crime” and usually includes such crimes as homicide, attempted murder, rape, arson, human trafficking, burglary, and robbery, among others. The list of felony crimes can vary according to jurisdiction.
Sex Offender Listing
The national sex offender listing database is coordinated by the Department of Justice and enables the general public and government authorities the ability to obtain the latest information among all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and numerous Native American tribes about the identity and location of known sex offenders. Anyone convicted of a sexual offense is added to the database and remains there for their lifetime, even after they have completed their sentence.
Serious Traffic Violations
A serious traffic violation is usually a traffic crime that can be punishable as a misdemeanor or felony. Often referred to as moving violations, serious traffic violations do not usually include such petty issues as parking tickets, expired tags, or speeding tickets. The listing of what constitutes a serious traffic violation differs from state to state and is specified by a state statute. Some examples of serious traffic violations can include speeding 30 mph or more over the speed limit, reckless driving, driving under the influence, hit and run accidents and fatal car accidents, among others.
A conviction record details the conviction of a crime that a person receives in a court of law. Conviction records are stored both physically and digitally by local, county or state law enforcement or other government agencies. A conviction record can include both misdemeanors and felonies. A conviction record is often termed an “arrest and conviction record” and may include other information such as any arrests that may not have resulted in a conviction and past and present arrest warrants.
Jail or inmate records are maintained by a particular state’s Department of Corrections in a database that is often searchable online. Inmate records provide information on a previous or current inmate and include such information as name, date incarcerated, expected release date, convicted offense and mugshots of the inmate. If the information is not available online, it is often also available by contacting the sheriff’s office or that particular state’s Department of Corrections.
Parole information is usually stored by a state’s board of pardons and paroles and may be available for online search. The parole conditions are determined by a state’s board of pardons and paroles, which decides whether a convicted offender should be eligible to be released on parole or discretionary mandatory supervision and then outlines the conditions of that release if granted. The boards often have specific guidelines used to determine whether an offender is capable of release or still remains a risk to society and also has the power to revoke parole if the outlined parole conditions are violated by the offender. When parole is violated, the board decides whether to continue parole, impose additional conditions, place the offender in what is known as a “sanctions facility” or provide alternatives that may keep the person from being returned to prison. A parole board also recommends clemency matters, including pardons, to the governor.
Probation records pertain to the conditions of an offender’s probation. Probation is often given to convicted offenders by a judge instead of or along with incarceration, allowing the offender to be released back into the community under certain restrictions. Like parole, probation is an alternative to incarceration but is different than parole because it involves conditions placed on an offender prior to or in lieu of serving jail time. If the conditions of probation are not met, then the offender may likely be incarcerated or provided with tougher conditions and fines. Offenders placed on probation are usually of minimal risk to society, unlike a person who served time in prison and is on parole. The conditions of parole vary widely and are sometimes outlined in statues or under the discretion of the judge. The length of time an offender is placed on parole widely varies as well, anywhere from just the time it takes to pay off a large fine, to a few months or possibly several years. Some examples of probation conditions include fines, community service, education classes and having to report to a parole officer regularly.
Juvenile Criminal Records
Juvenile criminal records are sealed criminal records not available to the public. They are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. Juvenile criminal records include information regarding a juvenile or minor (person under 18 years) who were detained or found guilty of a crime as a juvenile. Juvenile cases are treated differently than adult cases. When arrested, a juvenile is considered detained rather than arrested. Once detained, a petition is then drawn and serves as the official charging document advising the juvenile court authorities over the offense, giving notice for the reason for the court appearance, and serving as notice to the minor’s family. When the juvenile goes to court, the case is adjudicated and a disposition is declared. The reason juvenile records are sealed is to protect the juvenile so that one mistake does not follow them for life. Juvenile records may be expunged on the offender’s 18th birthday if certain conditions have been met, such as good behavior.
Criminal Records Dictionary
About Criminal Records: Refers to understanding the basics of criminal records and the criminal records search industry. The most central topics that must be researched prior to beginning a successful search include access and availability of these records, how they are organized according to jurisdiction, as well as what kinds of criminal records exist.
Acquittal: When the court hearing a case, formally absolves the defendant from blame in regards to the charges brought against them. The defendant is found not guilty.
Arraignment: The first formal court appearance in a criminal case, in which the defendant is formally required to plead either guilty or not guilty, and future plans for trial and/or sentencing is set by the court.
Arrest Records: This is a record of all arrests-or stop and detainments-made by law enforcement of a criminal for committing a specific offense. This record typically offers the criminal charges owned by the arrest, the law enforcement arresting the individual, and the jurisdiction in which the arrest was made.
Arrest Report: When a person is put under arrest for suspicion of a crime, a report is filed. This is sometimes called a police report or an “arrest report”. It details all the pertinent data related to this apprehension-to include the on-scene police officer’s thoughts, impressions, and speculations regarding the criminal and crime scene.
Arrest Warrant: When a court formally orders for the immediate arrest of an individual pertaining to a criminal case.
Bail: Bail is the monetary collateral requirement put forth by a court in return for the arrested individual’s ability to leave jail prior to their hearing or trial in exchange for a promise that the arrested individual show up to all future mandatory court appearances.
Bail Bond: When an arrested individual cannot afford to pay their bail amount to get out of jail, they often contact third parties that loan them the bail money-with interest-and this is what is called: a bail bond.
Burden of proof: The duty of a court of law and it’s jury is to prove without a doubt that an alleged criminal is guilty. Otherwise the alleged criminal is considered innocent. This means the burden of proof falls to the prosecution. They must prove that a person is guilty.
Bench Warrant: When a court orders for the immediate arrest and retrieval of a particular entity for appearance before a court for a case which is either directly or indirectly related to them.
Charges Dismissed: A court or the prosecutor can suggest that the criminal charges brought against a specific individual be dismissed-or dropped-according to a variety of criminal court reasons, such as there not being enough evidence to continue or because the criminal’s due process rights were violated.
Charges Filed: Criminal charges are filed against a particular individual either at the time of or soon after arrest.
City Check: This is a kind of online search offered at an online criminal records search site which offers valuable information on particular city areas for those seeking it. Common areas of detailed information offered the seeker are the city: populations, race, education levels, employment/occupations, incomes, and crime.
Conviction: A criminal conviction occurs when the defendant in a criminal case is found guilty by the court overseeing the case after reviewing the pertinent probable cause and applicable evidence.
Crime: An act which is in direct violation of the city, county, state, or federal laws available.
Crime Classifications: According to the criminal justice system, there are felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions-of which there are further classifications of crime-determined by the serious nature of the crime and the amount of harm incurred as a result.
Criminal Background Check/Search: A search for the criminal records of crime and arrest that a person may have according to various jurisdictions and nature of a crime.
Criminal Charges: Charges are brought against an individual for the commission of a crime at the time of, or shortly after the arrest of the said individual.
Criminal Justice: This term refers to the topic of criminal law, meaning how crime is processed, sentenced, and penalized; according to the jurisdictional laws in place to acquit the innocent and punish the guilty.
Criminal Law: The practice and regulation of formally evaluating those accused of criminal offenses for the purposes of acquittal from blame or applicable punishment.
Criminal Public Records: Every crime and arrest has a particular criminal record assigned to it at all jurisdictions of the criminal justice system. These are called: criminal public records.
Criminal Records Classification: Criminal records-during the processing of crimes and incidents through the criminal court and law enforcement system-are necessarily subject to a classification system. This system organizes criminal records according to the nature of the crime and the jurisdiction in which the criminal is processed. It is the whole foundation for knowing where to search for a particular individual’s criminal record.
Criminal Records Check A type of search that is conducted through an online check service that resources databases of the criminal records-at various jurisdictional levels-to check if there is a match in the databases they have, and if more criminal background information can be available to the person running the search.
Criminal Records Search: When a person seeks to uncover the potential criminal history of a particular individual and the nature of this history in the criminal justice system.
Defense: The side in a criminal court case that is defending the charges against them to include the defendant and their particular means of legal counsel.
Defendant: The person who is accused by the plaintiff is the defendant. In civil cases, this is the person against whom the plaintiff brings suit. In a criminal case, it is the alleged criminal.
Due Process of Law: The due process of the law affords every individual the right to be treated with certain rights as evidenced in the reading of Miranda Rights-as dictated by the federal government in order for the processing of an offender to be fair.
Employment Check: Someone may undertake a search for a person’s criminal records prior to hiring them for employment; this is an employment check.
Evidence: The data and witness accounts to be used as proof that a particular person committed the offense in question.
Expungement: Expungement occurs when data contained in a criminal record is deleted, sealed, or held from all future public view-according to certain jurisdictional law and/or case specifics.
FCRA Compliance: The Federal Credit Reporting Act was designed to protect consumers from predatory business tactics. Originally enacted in 1970 to help consumers fix errors in their credit reports, the law now also applies to the act of seeking a background check, particularly when the check is performed by an employer. To this end, employers must notify potential employees of any background check performed on the employee before the process begins.
Felony: Within the three basic classifications of crime, a felony refers to a crime that is the most serious of the three-allowing for the punishment of at least one year in prison and/or fines, probation, and any restitution required. Within the felony classification, crimes are ordered in classes of severity in the following graduation from most severe to less: Felony Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D, Class E, Class F, Class G, Class H, and Class I.
Infraction: Within the three basic classifications of crime, an infraction refers to the least serious of law violations-typically punishable by minor fines, etc.
Inmate Search: An inmate search is a specialized type of criminal background search, that checks for information related to a person’s potential incarceration terms. Searches for this kind of information will offer details on the person’s time spent in jail/prison, what crime they were incarcerated for, as well as other pertinent details.
Jail Sentence: The term as set forth by a criminal court with regards to a criminal found guilty of a specific crime-to-be served in a county jail or state/federal prison, respectively.
Juvenile Criminal Records: Criminal records of persons who have committed crimes or been arrested by law enforcement, prior to being a certain age. These records are often expunged as a juvenile is not often deemed worthy of being old enough to make an informed decision.
Misdemeanor: Within the three main classifications of crime, misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, and are punishable with fines and/or jail/prison time up to one year. Misdemeanors, like felonies, are further categorized according to the severity of the crime committed into Classes A, B, and C-with Class A being the most serious and Class C misdemeanors being the least serious.
Online Criminal Background Check: A common way that people go about seeking criminal records is by using an online background check. These online services check thousands of database records for criminal records listed at various criminal justice and law enforcement resources.
Parole: A term which refers to a criminal being released from their jail/prison sentence, and offered supervised reintroduction to society.
Petit Jury: Also known as a trial jury, this group, usually made up of 12 people, is responsible for hearing presented facts and forming a unanimous judgement against an alleged criminal. In federal variants the number of jurors can be as little as 6.
Plea Bargain: In a criminal case, the defense may take a lesser charge and/or punishment as related to the charge in question, in exchange for a guilty plea.
Police Interrogation: A person suspected of being involved in a crime may be questioned by law enforcement prior to/after being arrested-with certain stipulations apparent.
Police Records: A popular form of record that people seek, which discusses various steps in the arresting, questioning, and surveying of the respective jurisdictional law enforcement in relation to a specific crime and/or potential criminal.
Preliminary Hearing: An appearance in front of a court which determines initially, if there is enough evidence for a trial if the defendant has already pleaded not guilty.
Prison Records: These records report details of a criminal’s term in jail and/or prison, to include: length of term, name, and location of the prison/jail, and any other supporting details.
Prison Term: The amount of time set forth by a criminal court that a convicted criminal must be detained in prison/jail for a crime committed.
Probation: Probation is typical, a part of every convicted criminal’s punishment; and is a means of supervising and rehabilitating the criminal, as they conduct life outside of prison. It can be a punishment in exchange for prison or for a lesser term.
Probation Community Service: A form of being rehabilitated back into society as well as serving a punishment term-that allows the convicted criminal to live on his/her own terms, and serve his/her community simultaneously.
Probation Court: A type of court which deals exclusively with dealings of probation, to include both terms of probation as well as probation violations.
Probation Officer: The jurisdictional employee that mediates between the court’s probation terms for a criminal and the criminal him/herself, to ensure the obligations set forth by court probation is served.
Probation Violation: When a convicted criminal ordered to certain terms of probation, fails to serve the probation obligations correctly.
Prosecution: The act of a person being formally charged and processed for a specific crime.
Restitution: As a part of sentencing, many courts will require that a convicted criminal pay the victim of the crime a certain amount of money or value to apologize for the damages incurred. This is called restitution.
Search Criminal Records: The search for criminal records information is one that a person undertakes through an online and physical search at various information repositories-within the law enforcement and criminal justice system-which hold the criminal records for the individual in question. The person can approach a search for this information with or without the help of a third party service.
Sentencing: The court overseeing a particular criminal case will-after hearing both the prosecution and defendant’s side-rule that the criminal is guilty. The guilty party will then be subject to punishment in the form of fines, jail time, and/or restitution.
Sex Offender Check: This is a type of online search run through an online check service, which has access to database information on registered sex offenders. Since all sex offenders are required to register with their community and state-once released from jail/prison or once moved to a new community to work or live-these registries are public information. Online check services run checks to locate sex offenders in a given area-as supplied by the seeker.
Sex Offender Records: Popular means of criminal records, in which sexual crimes of particular individuals are listed with details to include: full name, address, a seriousness of the crime, etc-as stipulated by jurisdiction.
Sex Offender Registry: Under Federal Law, every sex offender is required to register in a publically accessible database, every few years as well as every time they move or change jobs.
Statute of limitations: This refers to the time in which a lawsuit is able to be filed. The deadline can change depending on the jurisdiction, and the type of civil or criminal case.
Traffic Violation: Traffic violations can be both breaches of the law, when a person is driving or not, and are subject to fines, license suspension/revocation, and possible jail time.
Trial: The court setting in which the defense and the prosecution present their sides of a criminal case for the review of a judge and/or jury, to determine innocence or guilt.
Verdict: This term represents the decision of a trial jury or petit jury that determines the guilt or innocence of a defendant. It almost always determines the final outcome of the case.
Warrant: A warrant is a court order that relates to a possible criminal and/or their belongings.
Witness: Someone who has seen or had access to evidence that supports a particular criminal case.