Everything About Criminal Records
In short, a criminal record is any information kept about a person’s history of arrests and convictions. When a suspect is arrested, they are fingerprinted and photographed. Their information is collected along with any information about the conviction/arrest. a criminal record doesn’t mean that someone has been convicted and found guilty of a crime, in fact nearly one third of the U.S. adult population has a criminal record. 6.5 percent of the US population has a felony record, and 1 in 15 people have gone to prison.
What is in a Criminal Record?
A criminal record typically contains the name, date of birth, other names, physical description, current address, type of crime, outstanding arrest warrants, dates of arrests or convictions, fingerprint data, and mug shot of the person in question.
How Can a Criminal Record be Used?
Criminal Records are used for many different purposes by many different organizations. Police may use them to find potential suspects in an investigation. If you are trying to travel internationally and you have a criminal record, it may be very difficult. Many countries prohibit people with a history of violent or sexual crimes from entering the country, although the laws vary by country. They can also be used in background checks!
During the hiring process, employers must assess if the candidate in question could pose a legitimate threat in the position they applied for. There must be a direct relation between the job and the criminal record for the employer to deny a candidate based on their criminal record. If they choose not to hire, the employer should be ready to prove that their decision was a business necessity.
Those with criminal records are no longer in what is called a “protected class”. A protected class is a group of people with something in common who are legally protected from employment discrimination based on that commonality. Protected Classes include:
- Religion or creed
- National origin or ancestry
- Sex (includes pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity)
- Physical or mental disabilities
- Veteran status
- Genetic Information
Employment discrimination based on any of these characteristics is illegal. Even though criminal records are not included in the list of what is considered a protected class, there are still limitations on how criminal records can be used during the hiring process.
Different Types of Crimes
There are 3 different types of crimes:
Misdemeanors – a crime that is punishable with less than 365 days in jail(examples include minor theft, minor assault, harassment and serious driving violations
Felonies – a crime that is punishable by a sentence of more than 365 days of incarceration all the way up to death. (Examples include murder, theft burglary, serious drug possession)
Infractions – described as “ticket” type of offenses where the resolution is either paying the fine or appearing in a lower court. These are not reportable offenses for employment purposes
Other important definitions include:
- Acquitted – Non-conviction: The charges against the defendant are dropped.
- Guilty – Conviction: It has been proven that the defendant committed the crime.
- Not Guilty – Non-conviction: A jury or judge trial finding that the defendant is innocent.
- Pending: The case has not been to trial at this time. There is no disposition to report.
- Pled Guilty – Conviction: The defendant has pled guilty to the charges against him/her and the court accepts the plea as a conviction.
- Refused – Non-conviction: The case never went to trial. The state refused to hear the case.
- Retaliation: someone commits this offense with the intension to knowingly harms or threatens a prospective witness or informant
For a full list of definitions click here
Criminal Record Databases
All criminal records and related information are maintained in databases. There are three primary levels of criminal databases: county, state, and national. The more serious a crime is the higher it usually makes it up the metaphorical ladder of databases. An accurate background check will make sure that their databases come from verified sources and are completely up to date. This is a big problem with the “free background checks” you see online. If no one is being paid to put time into a thorough background check, no one is being paid to verify sources and maintain an up-to-date database.
Each state also maintains a sex offender registry. These registries include important information to the community to help keep people safe. The information in these registries include name, location, and previous offenses.
Sealed Records and Expunged Records
When a criminal record gets expunged, it’s like it never existed. There is one copy kept by law enforcement but any copy at other agencies are removed. The record may even be destroyed. If someone tries to access an expunged record, in some states they will be notified that there is an expunged record.
When a criminal record is sealed it’s kept on file by the government, but no one can look at it. Unless the state determines that it is in the publics best interest to unseal your records, they won’t be accessed.
More serious crimes are not able to be sealed or expunged. Some examples of crimes that are ineligible for sealing or expungement would be murder, homicide, assault, and burglary. In some instances, records will be eligible for automatic sealing and expunging. If there were no charges or dropped charges, they are eligible. If the person in question was a juvenile at the time of the crime, it should be expunged when they turn 21, or 26 if they were held in a correctional facility. If the minor was charged as an adult for the crime, it is not eligible for sealing or expungement.
A pardon is an act by the leader of the state where they forgive someone of their crime. If the crime committed was a state crime, only the governor of that state may pardon them. If the crime committed was a federal crime, it can only be pardoned by the president. Being pardoned does grant some benefits in comparison to someone who served their sentence. If they are pardoned while they are still serving their sentence, it ends their sentence. While a pardon doesn’t usually expunge their conviction It does restore the rights that are lost as an ex-convict.
Ban the Box Laws
Ban the box refers to the question or check “box” on a job application asking if the candidate has ever been convicted of a crime. Ban the box laws have been a growing trend with more and more states adopting the law. As of now 36 states and more than 150 cities have implemented a ban the box law. The law’s goal is to prevent employers from asking about criminal convictions, so that they can form a less biased opinion of the candidate and better welcome people who have had previous convictions back into the community. Check out our states page to see if your state has implemented a ban the box law.
What can we do for you?
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