Understanding Criminal Records
When you are arrested, charged with a crime, or convicted of a crime, information about your case will be put on your criminal record. Criminal record is a general term. Different pieces of information and levels of detail will be included on different records, and these records are accessible by different parties. The record law enforcement will see will differ from what an employer might see. It is important to understand the differences between these sources of information so you can be informed of what can and cannot be seen to different people. People often speak of having a rap sheet or a criminal record. Let's look at just what these terms refer to.
Your rap sheet is an official record of your arrests and prosecutions (RAP). This will contain information from any arrests and prosecutions, which includes charges, convictions, and dismissals. Both the State of California as well as the federal government maintains rap sheets on individuals who have had run-ins with the law. The FBI maintains your federal rap sheet and will include both state and federal offenses. The California Department of Justice (DOJ) maintains your state rap sheet. This is an official record of your criminal history.
Rap sheets, unlike court records, are confidential. They are only accessible by certain people, including law enforcement officers, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, state licensing agencies, government employers, and you. In fact, it is even difficult for an individual to access his or her own rap sheet. You will need to submit fingerprints and a form to do so. The rap sheet is what most people and agencies refer to as a criminal record. But they are not the only source of information about your criminal past.
Public Criminal Record
Some pieces of your criminal record may be accessible by the public. Potential employers, landlords, and lenders are just a few of the interested parties that can perform a criminal background search on you and see part of your criminal record. But they won't be accessing your official governmental rap sheet. That is reserved mainly for governmental agencies and representatives. Rather, the information available on these public criminal records is pulled from what is readily available to the public via the court records. Private companies compile this information into an informal criminal record that employers, landlords, and other people can access by paying a fee. These are also known as consumer background checks and are sold as part of a package that includes credit reports and personal references as well. These records will still show arrests, charges, and convictions. Some of these pieces of information can be removed while others cannot.
It is very important to understand that what is on your public criminal record may or may not be accurate. If you have a criminal record, you should request a copy of your official rap sheet from the California DOJ. You should also obtain your criminal record from a private criminal background check company so you can cross reference them and check them both for accuracy. If you see any inaccuracies, you can petition to have them removed. And, if there are any specific entries that are holding you back from getting a job, an apartment, or a loan, you should consider taking steps to clean up your record. Dismissing a conviction can alter both your rap sheet and your public criminal record, but some information about your case will still be visible. Even after an expungement, your public criminal record will still show a record of your arrest and the case. Your rap sheet will show the dismissal, but, again, will include information about your arrest and the prosecution as well.
Consult with a knowledgeable California criminal defense attorney with experience in record cleaning if you have questions or concerns about your criminal record. Although the public can only access what is available through private search companies, that information can still affect your life in significant ways. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you with cleaning your record. While cleaning your record won't result in a complete erasure of your charge, it can help you avoid some of the long-term consequences of a criminal conviction such as loss of respect in the community and adversity in the job market.
If you are in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area and have questions about cleaning your record, call experienced criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can help you take the steps you need to clean your record so you can move on with your life. Attorney Martens has over ten years of criminal defense experience and will fight hard for your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.