Instant Criminal Reports

Reading your Criminal History Report

What is a Criminal History Report?

A Criminal History Report or ‘rap sheet’ is a record of any and all arrests and depositions that pertain to an individual. Each time a person is arrested and fingerprinted, a record of that arrest is transmitted to the arrest records database of the state where the arrestee resides. All fingerprint records are also sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who maintains a record of all arrests within the United States.

These ‘rap sheets’ can be viewed by anyone who requests them using a special authorized form. Access to an FBI arrest record can only be authorized by special statute.

How can I get a copy of my Criminal History Report?

You can obtain a copy of your criminal history report by visiting the Bureau of Criminal Identification in your state or residence, or visiting their website. 

Who else can obtain copies of my Criminal History Report?

Other than you, criminal justice agencies and other authorized agencies such as those who check backgrounds for employment or licensing purposes, can access your criminal history report. Other members of the public can also access it, within reason.  The laws for members of the public accessing criminal history reports will vary from state to state.

Definitions to Know:

  • Conviction: a formal declaration that someone is guilty of a criminal offense, made by the verdict of a jury or by the decision of a judge. This also includes any time served, even if the convicted spends no time in jail or prison.
  • Felony: a crime under federal law that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year.  Depending on the criminal’s state of residence, this can also include punishment by death or imprisonment in a state or federal prison.
  • Misdemeanor:  a crime that is less serious that a felony, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for no more than 6 months and/or a fine of not more than $1,000.
  • Disposition: The final outcome in a court case or criminal matter.
  • Probation: a sentence where the offender is granted conditional freedom in exchange for certain behavioral restrictions.  These may include drug tests, work programs, or other restrictions, as determined by the judge. Any violation of these restrictions will result in the offender being returned to jail or prison to serve the rest of their time.
  • Parole: conditional release of the offender after he or she has served at least part of their sentence. Offenders are kept under the supervision of the parole board and any violation of the conditions of the parole will result in the offender being returned to prison.
  • Expungement: a court order that effectively erases some or all arrests or convictions from the record of the offender.

Can my criminal records be expunged?

This will depend on the laws in your state concerning the crime for which you were convicted.  Each individual state is responsible for maintaining and if necessary, expunging the criminal records of offenders in their jurisdiction.

How do I go about having my criminal records expunged?

Your first step should be to consult an attorney or other legal counsel.  They will be able to help you make an informed decision and determine whether or not your records can indeed be expunged.


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