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What is Considered a Criminal Record?

A criminal record, also known as a rap sheet, is the collection of documents that show all the times a person has interacted with the Criminal Justice System. The content of a criminal record is chronological and includes descriptions of the individual's earliest offense to the latest offense. Criminal records will include information on the arrest of the individual, the circumstances leading to the arrest, information on the individual arrested, their trial, the outcome of the trial should it result in a guilty verdict, incarceration, probation, parole information, and more.

Information on criminal records through each of the 50 states and Washington DC can be found here:

The content of a criminal record differs according to the jurisdiction. Each state and municipality adopts its policy for creating and storing criminal records per its criminal justice system. The following reports and information can typically be found in a criminal record that has not been expunged or sealed or has not been pardoned by a government official.

  • Personal information like name, aliases, and birthdate
  • Address and contact information
  • Mugshot & fingerprint
  • Physical description, including height, weight, eye and hair color, and race
  • Physical identifiers like tattoos, body marks, and piercings
  • Arrest records, arrest warrants, and other information on the arrest
  • Background information on the alleged or convicted crime
  • Trial information, including conviction, sentencing, and parole/probation information
  • Inmate information, including the location and security of the detention facility, entry date, bail/bond information, and expected release date

Are Criminal Records Public?

Yes. Criminal records are presumed open to the public under the Freedom Of Information Act and State Public Record Laws. Members of the public may get the documents in this record from the record custodian without prior authorization. However, note that the record custodian varies with the jurisdiction. Many states designate the state primary law enforcement agency as the record custodian. Others integrate criminal record search with court case search and assign the clerk of courts as the record custodian for criminal records.

How to Obtain Criminal Records

Interested persons who wish to look up criminal records have two options. The first is submitting an official request to the record custodian. Most record custodians have record request protocols that allow public requesters to make in-person visits, send mail requests, or conduct an online search for the criminal records of interest. Of these three means, online search is the fastest. However, in-person and mail requests for criminal records are characteristically slow. The other alternative is to use independent, third-party search services for on-demand access to criminal records. Free public criminal record checks are possible too. However, the information obtained is typically limited or incomplete.

What Information is Provided in an Arrest Record

An arrest record, or arrest report, is the document generated when law enforcement officers take an individual into custody. Generally, law enforcement will take a person into custody when the individual has an arrest warrant for a suspected crime. Law enforcement officers can make arrests without warrants if there is probable cause to take the individual into custody. In any case, the arresting officer must create an arrest report describing the circumstances surrounding the arrest. The arrest report will also contain information on the outcome of the arrest, such as court arraignment. An arrest record can be a stand-alone document or part of a person's criminal record.

Arrest records are one piece of the police records that are compiled by law enforcement. Although arrest records include police records, police records are not included in arrest records. Police records include police reports, police logs, and incident reports.

An arrest record alone cannot be used as a criminal record. This is because people arrested are not necessarily found guilty of their alleged crimes. Despite this, they may be arrested and imprisoned, meaning that both arrest records and inmate records can exist for a person eventually found not guilty. Generally, the arresting agency is the primary custodian for arrest records. In most cases, this is the police department or the sheriff's office. Either way, arrest records are considered public records and are available upon request.

How to Find Free Arrest Records

Truly free arrest records do not typically exist, though many arrest records are inexpensive. Costs such as copying fees, certification fees, and authentication fees may apply to an arrest search. While some public records are free, such as census data, property information, and judgments, many can be difficult to find without the aid of government services or third-party public record search websites.

Are Arrest Records Public?

Yes. Public access to arrest records is a right in most states. However, the information could be limited based on court rules. For example, arrest records that are part of an ongoing investigation may be kept private if the court decides that the record could compromise individual privacy. While the record may not be available for viewing, members of the public maintain the right to request arrest information.

How Do I Obtain Public Arrest Records?

The Freedom of Information Act and State Public Record Laws permit members of the public to look up public arrest records and even obtain a copy of the records. Most states make it possible for interested parties to obtain free arrest records on the arresting agency's website or the judiciary's website. Accessing the information on these official websites is typically free. However, the information is not always comprehensive enough to convey the circumstances surrounding the arrest.

Suppose a public requester cannot access free arrest records from these official websites. The interested requester must make an in-person visit to the physical offices of these record custodians or send a mail request. Arrest records from official record custodians are typically inexpensive. The requester need only pay a nominal fee to copy, certify, or authenticate the arrest record.

What Information Shows Up on an Arrest Warrant?

An arrest warrant is a document signed by an authorized official of the state judiciary permitting the arrest of a named person. Generally, state laws prevent law enforcement officers from making forced entry to a residence or private property without reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. A warrant makes an exception to this rule. The document permits law enforcement agents to arrest a person at a certain time of day and in a certain place, even if it means entering private property without suspicion of wrongdoing.

Although the content of arrest warrants vary with jurisdiction, a typical arrest warrant contains the following information:

  • A description of the alleged crime
  • Restrictions on how and when the arresting agency may execute the warrant
  • The estimated bail amount following the arrest, if applicable

Some states possess a central database for members of the public to perform a warrant search. In case the state does not, interested parties can perform an active warrant search through the DEA Fugitive Search tool or the U.S. Marshall's Warrant Information System. It may also be possible to find this information from the local sheriff’s office in the county where the arrest warrant was issued.

What Information is Contained in a Bench Warrant?

A bench warrant is a court order that a judge issues for the arrest of a person who failed to appear in court. Defendants that are due to appear at trial must attend on the said date and time. Failure to do so without prior authorization will cause the presiding judge to deem the absent defendant in contempt of the court.

In executing bench warrants, the police can forcibly bring a suspected criminal to trial. Given the circumstances surrounding issuing a bench warrant, the suspected person is not eligible for release on bail or bond.

Misdemeanor vs. Felony: Understanding the Difference

The definition varies with jurisdiction, but in most states, a felony is a crime that carries a sentence of more than one year in jail. Colloquially known as true crimes, most jurisdictions consider felony offenses as the most serious of offenses. Thus, persons convicted of felony charges typically serve a sentence in a correctional facility under the supervision of the state Department of corrections or the Federal Bureau of Prisons if the felony is a federal crime. The security level at these facilities is high, given the nature of the crime and the offender. Besides jail time, non-sentencing alternatives for felonies are typically punitive, and the conditions for parole upon release are strict. Common felonies include:

  • Murder in the first degree
  • Burglary
  • Rape
  • Arson
  • Human trafficking
  • Multiple DUI or aggravated DWI, or drunk driving

Compared to felonies, misdemeanors are less serious crimes. In most states, misdemeanors are offenses punishable with less than one year in a county or municipal jail. If the offense is not serious enough for imprisonment, the court will impose sentencing alternatives like fines and probation.

In cases where the offense mandates jail time, the offender will serve time at lower security facilities at a county level rather than state facilities that are higher security. Some states even allow misdemeanor offenders to serve time at home under supervision. Common misdemeanors include:

  • Disturbing the peace
  • Petty Theft
  • Offenses related to drinking and driving, such as OWI, DUI, and DWI
  • Public nuisance
  • Simple assault
  • Traffic violations

Is the Sex Offender Registry Open to the Public?

The sex offender registry is a public database of individuals convicted of sex crimes in the United States. Per Megan's Law, every person convicted of a sex crime must register as a sex offender for a specified period depending on the severity of the crime. In turn, municipalities and states must maintain a searchable database of sex offenders registered or living in that jurisdiction. Likewise, the Department of Justice maintains a national sex offender registry.

Any member of the public may search an official sex offender registry for information on a suspected or convicted sex offender. A person may use information obtained from the sex offender registry to satisfy personal curiosity or protect loved ones. However, states have laws that caution against using the information obtained from the registry to harass, blackmail, or embarrass a sex offender.

Meanwhile, Megan's Law also ensures residents receive notifications when a sex offender moves into the community. The sexual assault and murder of Megan Kanka of Mercer County, New Jersey, made these measures necessary. Megan's attacker, Jesse Timmendequas, was a sex offender with two prior convictions of sex crimes against young children. Yet, the community was unaware of his status as a sex offender before he committed the despicable crime.

DUI, OWI, and OUI: Understanding the Difference

DUI, OWI, and OUI are serious traffic violations that generally refer to the same offense. DUI means Driving Under Influence, OWI means Operating While Intoxicated, and OUI means Operating While Under The Influence. A common characteristic of these traffic violations is that the driver is in physical control of the motor vehicle and shows signs of impairment, as established by sobriety tests. Generally, states enact drunk driving laws that criminalize driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or any substance that can impair a driver’s physical or mental status.

States set measurable physical and chemical criteria for identifying an impaired driver. Generally, drunk driving laws empower law enforcement to conduct field sobriety tests or chemical tests that measure blood alcohol content (BAC) if an officer deems the driver impaired after a traffic stop. Usually, a BAC above 0.08 is the legal limit. Nevertheless, several states have zero tolerance for drunk driving. Thus, even with a BAC lower than 0.08, law enforcement can still charge a driver with drunk driving if an open alcohol container or a minor is in the motor vehicle.

Furthermore, the penalties for a DUI, OWI, or OUI are mostly the same. Most states suspend the driver’s license on the spot pending a court trial or administrative review by the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Besides license suspension, guilty drivers also face other penalties, depending on the circumstances surrounding the offense. The most common penalties include fines, increased insurance premiums, community service, and even jail time.

What Information Do Inmate Records Provide?

Inmate records are documents that contain information on offenders held in a county, state, or federal correctional facility. The Sheriff's Office or Police Department operates county jails where inmates convicted of misdemeanors serve time. The state Department of Correction operates state prisons where offenders convicted of felonies serve time. Persons convicted of federal crimes spend time in federal prisons maintained by the Federal Bureau of Prison. Administrative staff at these facilities are custodians of inmate records and jail records and often provide inmate search tools for interested parties.

Parties can also obtain public inmate records per the state's Public Records Law or the Federal Freedom of Information Act. These agencies maintain online databases of inmate records. The information in an inmate record differs with the level of jurisdiction. Nevertheless, requesters can expect to see the following information in a typical inmate record:

  • Inmate's full name and all known aliases
  • Mugshots and fingerprints
  • Physical identifiers such as tattoos, body marking, and piercings
  • Physical description, including height, weight, eye color, hair color, and race
  • The date of incarceration and the expected date of release
  • Any "good behavior" points awarded to the inmate used to earn early release or parole
  • Details of the convicted offense(s)

Probation and Parole: What's the Difference

Probation is an alternative to incarceration. Courts place convicted offenders on probation, allowing the offender to be released back into the community without going to jail. The individuals placed on probation are typically those deemed to pose minimal risk to society. Nevertheless, there are certain restrictions to the offender's behavior and activities during the probation period. Probation officers are appointed to offenders of probation to supervise and report any delinquency. In the case of a probation violation, or breach of the terms or conditions, the court may order that the individual serve the full jail term. Under certain circumstances, the court may impose fines and stricter conditions.

Probation records contain information on court-imposed conditions that a convicted offender must meet to avoid serving jail time. Although the content of probation records differs with jurisdiction and the offender, a typical probation record contains the following information:

  • The offender's personal information.
  • Probation conditions, such as fines, community service, education classes, and periodic reports to an assigned officer.
  • Conditions that the offender must meet to maintain probation status.
  • The duration of the probation.

Parole is conditional release for inmates incarcerated in the United States. The state Board of Pardons and Paroles determines an inmate's eligibility for parole and the conditions for parole if released. Once released, the parole board assigns a parole officer to each parolee to ensure that conditions are met.

Suppose a parolee breaches the parole terms and conditions, also known as a parole violation. This is considered a parole violation, and the state's Board of Pardons and Paroles can review the violation and revoke the parole privilege if necessary. Consequently, the parolee returns to prison and serves the full sentence. Conversely, suppose the violation is not serious enough for the parolee to return to prison. The parole board may then impose additional conditions, place the offender in a "sanctions facility," or provide alternatives that may keep the person from being returned to prison.

The parole board is also the custodian of parole information. Generally, parole information is available online through the board's official website. Certain states also provide access to parole information through the state Department of Corrections website. Parole information retrieved from these sources will describe parole conditions, including mandatory supervision, parole period, violations, and revocations of parole privileges.

How to Obtain Juvenile Court Records

Generally, juvenile court records are sealed criminal records not available to the public. State public record laws and the federal Freedom of Information Act prevent record custodians from releasing the information contained in a juvenile criminal record to unauthorized persons.

Juvenile court records include information regarding a juvenile or minor detained or convicted of a crime. In most states, a minor refers to persons under the age of eighteen (18). However, states like Alabama and Nebraska set the age limit at nineteen (19) years. Only authorized persons may access court and criminal records regarding individuals below this age.

To further protect minors who commit a criminal offense before the legal age, most states allow individuals who were minors at the time of the offense to apply for an expungement. The court will only grant this petition if the person has met statutory and administrative conditions for granting the expungement. For example, the person must have maintained good behavior since the arrest or conviction and must not be a party to any active investigation or trial. Contrary to public knowledge, the expungement of juvenile criminal records is not always automatic. The person named on the record must submit a formal petition and show that all conditions for expungement are in order.

What Happens During a Criminal Case?

Every state adopts a rule of criminal procedure that the criminal justice system follows to establish guilt and punish an offender for a crime. Although the events in criminal cases vary with the case and jurisdiction, a typical case goes thus:

Initial Appearance: Following an arrest, law enforcement shall bring the suspect before a judge within 24 - 48 hours. The judge shall inform the individual of the charges and assign a court-appointed attorney if the individual does not have a personal attorney.

  • Bond or Bail Hearing: The court conducts a bail or bond hearing for the accused's conditional and temporary release in exchange for collateral. Generally, most courts will release an accused on bail or bond unless the person committed a serious felony, deemed a flight risk, or threat to society.

Arraignment: Here, the prosecutor, or the district attorney, files formal charges against the suspect, and the court requires the individual to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. In some cases, an offender pleads nolo contendere. From here on, the case ends in a plea deal or goes to trial.

  • Plea Deals: The burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove a person is guilty of the criminal charges. However, suppose the evidence or other factors suggest a lengthy case or uncertainty for either party. Then, the prosecution and the defendant may negotiate a plea deal for the accused to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence or some other benefit.

Trial: If the accused pleads not guilty, and both parties cannot reach a plea deal, the case will proceed to trial. The time from arraignment to trial is usually 60 – 70 days, depending on the state. At the trial, the defense attorney and prosecution make arguments, call witnesses, and provide supporting pieces of evidence to convince the judge or the jury.

Sentencing: Following a trial, the judge or jury shall retire to consider the case and litigants' arguments. Then the judge or jury shall arrive at a verdict. If the judge or jury determines the offender is guilty of the charges, the offender faces punishment ranging from imprisonment to community service, fines, and restitution.

Appeals: An individual has the option of appeal if there is cause to believe an erroneous verdict or unfair trial. The appellate court in the state handles such appeals. In most states, this is the court of appeals. In many states, the appeal goes directly to the state Supreme Court or, in rare cases, the Supreme Court of the United States.

Designated court officials record and document the events that happen at every stage of the court trial. The documents created throughout the case make up the court record.

What Information is Contained in Criminal Conviction Records?

Criminal conviction records are documents that detail events leading from complaint or arrest to the formal conviction of an individual in a trial court. These records are commonly known as "arrest and conviction records" by most state criminal justice institutions. Like all public records, criminal conviction records are available from the clerk of court in the court where a judge.

Court clerks generally maintain physical copies of the criminal conviction records. Criminal conviction records can be obtained in-person or by mail request, but these means are not always convenient or fast. Thus, most record custodians also store digital copies of criminal conviction records on online databases.

How to Find Criminal History Records for Free

Various state and federal government agencies maintain criminal history information of persons in their jurisdiction in online and/or physical databases. Some of these databases may be accessed for free if the requestor meets the jurisdiction's eligibility requirements for a fee waiver or if the inquirer is satisfied with only viewing the information and not making any copies. To obtain criminal history information for free, the inquirer may contact the law enforcement agency in the judicial district concerned and provide the information needed to facilitate the record search. The procedure for obtaining criminal records at no cost will be communicated to the requestor if applicable.

Are Police Records Public?

Whether or not police records are public depends on the laws of the state or jurisdiction in which the records were created. In some states, police records are entirely public and can be accessed by anyone with a direct, tangible interest in the information contained within these documents. Other states limit access to authorized users such as law enforcement agencies, attorneys, and other government officials. Police records are documents containing detailed information about a criminal investigation or case and may include reports, notes, photographs, audio recordings, and evidence.

How to Obtain Police Records

To obtain police records, interested and eligible persons (where applicable) may visit the state or local law enforcement agency concerned. If the judicial district made its police records available to the public, then they may be made accessible through the department's online database or by making in-person or mail queries to the office. The requesting party will be required to provide information to facilitate the record search including the full names of the police officials concerned, the case number (where applicable) and other relevant details.

Are Police Reports Public Records?

Police reports refer to documents that summarize police investigations, observations, and findings related to criminal activity. The availability of police reports is often determined by the state or jurisdiction in which the records were created. Some states, for example, may require a requestor to provide proof of identity and/or direct tangible interest in the case before a police report is released. Other states, however, may make all police reports available to the public in full or partially redacted forms.

How to File a Police Report with Law Enforcement

A police report is typically filed following a criminal investigation or incident. To file a police report with law enforcement, interested persons should contact the precinct in the jurisdiction where the incident occurred, and provide the necessary information such as their full names, date of birth (where applicable) and details of the incident. The requirements for filing a police report will ultimately vary depending on the state or jurisdiction involved.

Where to Find Free Public Police Records

Various state and federal law enforcement agencies provide access to police records in response to eligible public requests. Those interested in obtaining free public police records can visit the relevant agency's website or contact their office to learn more about the procedures and eligibility requirements. However, while requesters may not be required to pay a research fee, they will be expected to cover the cost of duplication of these records.

How to Find Mugshots

Mugshots are photographs taken after an individual has been arrested or detained by law enforcement officials. Whether or not they are available to the public can depend on the laws of the state or jurisdiction in which they were taken. Interested persons may contact the relevant law enforcement agency, provide the individual's full name and date of birth (where applicable) to facilitate a record search, and request access to these mugshots if they are available.

Dictionary of Criminal Records

Acquittal: When the court hearing a case formally acquits the defendant of guilt with respect to the charges against him. The defendant is found guilty.

Arraignment: The first formal court appearance in a criminal case, in which the defendant is formally required to plead guilty or not guilty, and the court sets forth future plans for trial and/or sentencing.

Arrest Records: This is a record of all arrests, or stops and stops, made by law enforcement of a criminal for committing a specific crime. This record typically provides the criminal charges associated with the arrest, the police who arrested the individual, and the jurisdiction in which the arrest was made.

Arrest Report: When a person is arrested on suspicion of a crime, a report is filed. This is sometimes called a police report or an “arrest report”. Detail all pertinent facts related to this apprehension, to include the thoughts, impressions, and speculations of the police officer on scene regarding the criminal and the crime scene.

Arrest Warrant: When a court formally orders the immediate arrest of an individual in connection with a criminal case.

Bail: Bail is the monetary security requirement set by a court in exchange for the arrestee's ability to get out of jail before their hearing or trial in exchange for a promise that the arrestee will appear at all appearances future mandatory court proceedings.

Bail: When an arrested individual is unable to pay their bail amount to get out of jail, they often contact third parties who loan them the bail money, with interest, and this is called a bail bond.

Burden of Proof: The duty of a court of law and its jury is to prove beyond a doubt that an alleged criminal is guilty. Otherwise, the alleged offender is presumed innocent. This means that the burden of proof falls on the prosecution. They must prove that a person is guilty.

Arrest Warrant: When a court orders the immediate arrest and repossession of a particular entity to appear in court for a case that is directly or indirectly related to them.

Dismissed Charges: A court or the prosecutor may suggest that criminal charges brought against a specific person be dismissed, or withdrawn, based on a variety of criminal judicial reasons, such as insufficient evidence to proceed or because of due process rights. of the criminal were raped.

Charges Filed: Criminal charges are filed against a particular individual at or shortly after the arrest.

City Check: This is a type of online search offered on an online criminal record search site that offers valuable information about particular areas of the city to those seeking it. Common areas of detailed information provided to the search engine are city: populations, race, education levels, employment/occupations, income, 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 relevant probable cause and applicable evidence.

Crime: An act that is in direct violation of available city, county, state or federal laws.

Crime Classifications: Under the criminal justice system, there are felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions, of which there are other crime classifications, determined by the serious nature of the crime and the amount of harm incurred as a result.

Criminal Charges: Charges are filed against a person for the commission of a crime at or shortly after the person's arrest.

Criminal Justice: This term refers to the subject of criminal law, that is, how the crime is prosecuted, sentenced and punished; in accordance with the jurisdictional laws in force 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 of guilt or the corresponding sentence.

Criminal Public Records: Every crime and arrest has a unique criminal record assigned to it in all jurisdictions of the criminal justice system. These are called: criminal public records.

Criminal Record 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 prosecuted. It is the entire basis for knowing where to look for a particular individual's criminal record.

Criminal History Check A type of search conducted through an online verification service that uses criminal history databases, at various jurisdictional levels, to check for a match in databases that have, and whether more criminal information is available to the person conducting the search.

Criminal History Search: When a person seeks to discover the possible criminal history of a particular individual and the nature of this history in the criminal justice system.

Defense: The party in a criminal court case who is defending the charges against you to include the defendant and their particular means of legal counsel.

Defendant: The person accused by the plaintiff is the defendant. In civil cases, this is the person against whom the plaintiff files a lawsuit. In a criminal case, he is the alleged criminal.

Due Process of Law: Due process of law gives each individual the right to be treated with certain rights as evidenced by the reading of the Miranda Rights, as dictated by the federal government so that the prosecution of a criminal is fair.

Employment Verification: Someone can perform a criminal history search on a person before hiring them for a job; this is an employment check.

Evidence: The facts and accounts of witnesses that will be used as proof that a particular person committed the crime in question.

Expungement: Expungement occurs when data contained in a criminal record is expunged, sealed, or withheld from all future public view, in accordance with certain jurisdictional laws and/or specific case details.

FCRA Compliance: The Federal Credit Reporting Act was designed to protect consumers from predatory business tactics. Originally enacted in 1970 to help consumers correct errors on 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 checks performed on the employee before the process begins.

Felony: Within the three basic classifications of crimes, a felony refers to a crime that is the most serious of the three, which allows for punishment of at least one year in prison and/or fines, probation, and any restitution required. Within the classification of serious crimes, the crimes are ordered in classes of severity in the following graduation from most serious to least: 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 crimes, an infraction refers to the least serious of violations of the law, generally punishable by minor fines, etc.

Inmate Search: An inmate search is a specialized type of criminal search, which seeks information related to a person's possible terms of incarceration. Searches for this type of information will provide details about the time the person spent in jail/prison, what crime they were incarcerated for, as well as other pertinent details.

Jail Sentence: The term set by a criminal court for an offender convicted of a specified offense to be served in a county jail or state/federal prison, respectively.

Juvenile Criminal Records: Criminal records of people who have committed crimes or been arrested by the police, before reaching a certain age. These records are often expunged as a minor is often not considered worthy of being old enough to make an informed decision.

Misdemeanor: Within the three main crime classifications, misdemeanors are less serious than felonies and are punishable by fines and/or jail/prison for up to one year. Misdemeanors, like felonies, are further classified according to the severity of the offense committed into Classes A, B, and C, with Class A being the most serious crimes and Class C misdemeanors being the least serious.

Online Criminal Record Check: A common way that people search for criminal records is by using an online check. These online services check thousands of database records for criminal records listed in various criminal justice and law enforcement resources.

Parole: A term that refers to an offender being released from their jail/prison sentence and offered a supervised re-introduction into society.

Petty Jury: Also known as a trial jury, this group, usually consisting of 12 people, is responsible for hearing the facts presented and forming a unanimous judgment against an alleged criminal. In federal variants, the number of jurors can be as few as 6.

Plea Agreement: In a criminal case, the defense may accept a lesser charge and/or punishment relative to the charge in question, in exchange for a guilty plea.

Police Questioning: A person suspected of involvement in a crime may be questioned by police before or after being arrested, with certain apparent stipulations.

Police Records: A popular form of record sought by individuals, which discusses various steps in the arrest, questioning, and investigation of the respective jurisdictional law enforcement in relation to a specific crime and/or potential offender.

Preliminary Hearing: An appearance before a court that initially determines whether there is sufficient evidence for a trial if the defendant has already pleaded not guilty.

Jail Records: These records report details of an offender's time in jail and/or prison, to include: length of time, jail/jail name and location, and any other supporting details.

Imprisonment Term: The amount of time established by a criminal court that a convicted felon must be detained in prison/jail for a crime committed.

Probation: Probation is typical, a part of every convicted felon's punishment; and it is a means of supervision and rehabilitation of offenders as they carry out life outside of prison. It can be a punishment in exchange for prison or a lesser sentence.

Community Parole Service: A way to be rehabilitated back into society, as well as serve a term of punishment, which allows the convicted criminal to live on their own terms and serve their community simultaneously.

Probation court: A type of court that deals exclusively with probation matters, to include both the terms of probation and probation violations.

Probation Officer: The jurisdictional employee who mediates between the terms of court probation for a criminal and the criminal himself, to ensure that the obligations set forth by court probation are met.

Probation Violation: When a convicted felon ordered certain terms of probation, he or she fails to carry out the obligations of probation properly.

Prosecution: The act of formally charging and prosecuting a person for a specific crime.

Restitution: As part of the sentence, many courts will require a convicted criminal to pay the victim of the crime a certain amount of money or value to apologize for the damages caused. This is called restitution.

Criminal History Search: A search for criminal history information is one that an individual performs through a physical and online search of various information repositories, within the law enforcement and criminal justice system, that contain criminal records. penalties of the person in question. The person can undertake a search for this information with or without the help of a third party service.

Sentencing: The court overseeing a particular criminal case, after hearing both the prosecution and the defendant, ruled that the criminal is guilty. The guilty party will then be subject to punishment in the form of fines, imprisonment, and/or restitution.

Sex Offender Check: This is a type of online search run through an online checking 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 they are released from jail/prison or once they move to a new community to work or live, these records are public information. Online verification services run checks to locate sex offenders in a certain area, as provided by the finder.

Sex Offender Files: Popular means of criminal history, listing the sexual offenses of particular individuals with details including: full name, address, severity of offense, etc., as mandated by jurisdiction.

Sex Offender Registry: Under Federal Law, all sex offenders are required to register in a publicly accessible database, every few years and whenever they move or change jobs.

Statute of Limitations: This refers to the time in which a lawsuit can be filed. The time frame may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the type of civil or criminal case.

Moving Violation: Moving violations can be violations of the law, whether or not a person is driving, and are subject to fines, license suspension/revocation, and possible jail time.

Trial: The court setting in which the defense and prosecution present their sides of a criminal case for review by 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 potential criminal and/or their belongings.

Witness: Someone who has seen or had access to evidence that supports a particular criminal case.