Criminal Records

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US Criminal Records DataThe term criminal record, also known as a rap sheet, is a person’s criminal history. A criminal record includes convictions, but may also include charges that did not result in convictions and arrests that did not result in charges. Generally, a criminal record will only contain offenses charged while a defendant was an adult; juvenile criminal records are usually sealed. There are exceptions to this general rule; juvenile defendants who are charged as adults will usually not receive the same protections.

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Although criminal histories are generally a matter of public record, it may be difficult to find a person’s entire criminal history. The National Crime Information Center is a government database that compiles data about the criminal justice system, but this information is generally not available to the public. Instead, a criminal history usually involves an investigation of the jurisdictions where a person has lived. While a person convicted of a crime in one jurisdiction may have a complete criminal history in that jurisdiction because of pre-trial criminal history compilation requirements, it is also possible for a person to have an incomplete criminal history that only reflects any arrests, charges, or convictions in that jurisdiction. Furthermore, while some federal laws mandate reporting of different classes of offenders, most notably child sex offenders, states still maintain those databases.

Criminal Histories

Some states contain statewide criminal history databases, though individual access to those databases may be difficult to obtain or prohibitively expensive. Most local jurisdictions maintain criminal histories and may even provide some relatively easy access to criminal histories, online. For example, many state and local prison and jail facilities contain information about detainees, including the full criminal histories of those detainees. However, these histories may omit information from other states. To ensure that you have a person’s complete criminal record, it is important to know if they have lived in other locations.