Are you being refused jobs because of criminal records that show up under your name? Even if you are sure that you have never been arrested or convicted for a crime, employers might still find criminal records when they search for your name. Millions of Americans share the same name and employers can’t always distinguish between them. Prevent accidental mix ups or verify what will show up out of your real pasts by checking your own criminal records.
What type of criminal record information is available?
backgroundchecks.com offers three types of criminal record reports: a National Offender report, a Single State Criminal Report and National Criminal Report. We collect criminal record information from a variety of federal, state and county public records, including departments of public safety, department of corrections, county courts, offender registries, state dockets, Federal & Appellate court dockets, Supreme Court dockets, County court dockets, municipal jurisdictions, federal fugitive files, small claims courts, federal courts, state courts, supreme courts, district courts, family courts, appeals courts, traffic courts in states available, state and county criminal record repositories, prison parole and release files, probation records, records from other state agencies and Interpol public records. We do not report on police records or arrest records as they are not considered criminal records.
- Traffic Offenses: Normally, the only traffic offenses that show on a criminal record would be serious offenses such as "driving under the influence" or "hit and run" violations.
- Misdemeanors: Usually considered a less serious or minor offense, the misdemeanor is a crime punishable by incarceration, typically in a local confinement facility. The maximum incarceration period is usually limited to one year or less. (A few states classify a misdemeanor as an offense carrying a sentence of two or even five years).
- Felonies: These offenses are considered more serious than the previous two categories. Typically, a felony carries a penalty of incarceration from one year to life in a state prison, to the death penalty.
State Criminal Records
Some states have statewide repositories that collect criminal records from all counties in that state; but there are many variables such as how states and counties define criminal records. The two most common sources are the Administrative Office of the Court and the Department of Corrections. These state laws are often loosely enforced based on the cost, which can cause information gaps. backgroundchecks.com has many statewide repository sources in our criminal conviction database. In addition, wherever we can we add local records from counties to supplement the information on the state level.
Federal Criminal Records
Finally, federal criminal records are different from records that may be stored in state repositories or counties. Crimes committed on a federal level include drug trafficking or other charges with similar ramifications. Some federal criminal records may originate from state or county level crimes and those types of records may reside in county or state repositories. Since backgroundchecks.com has hundreds of direct county sources in our criminal conviction database you may see federal crime results in a report.
What is a Crime?
Crime is an act or omission that the law makes punishable. It can also be the breach of a legal duty, which is treated as the subject matter of a criminal proceeding. There are serious and less serious crimes. However common law recognizes only two classes of crimes- serious crimes or felonies and minor crimes or misdemeanors. There are different types of crimes like administrative crime, white collar crime, hate crimes and the like. Mens Rea (guilty mind) and Actus Reus (guilty act) are two important elements that are necessary to prove a crime.
Criminal record or crime record is the summary of an individual’s contacts with law enforcement agencies. It provides details of all arrests, convictions, sentences, parole violations as well as dismissals and not guilty verdicts committed by an individual. In addition information about height, weight, eye and hair color, identifying marks, different names used by the person, different dates of birth, social security numbers used, fingerprint classification, race, and state and federal identification numbers of the individual are also provided. .
A court is a governmental body consisting of one or more judges who adjudicate disputes and administer justice in accordance with law. The room in which a law court sits is called a court room. A court must have both personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction.
Each State will have a court system for the territory under its control. Each State will have a Supreme Court which is the highest court of appeal in that State. Apart from Supreme Court there appellate courts, District courts, Probate courts, Juvenile courts, Family courts etc. The lowest courts in a State are the courts of inferior jurisdiction like the court of common pleas, small claims court etc. Usually litigation begins at the trial courts which are usually the District courts.
Apart from the state courts there are federal courts also. The federal courts are comprised of:
- U.S. Supreme Court
- U.S. Courts of Appeals
- U.S. District Courts
- Bankruptcy Courts
An arrest report is a record of a law enforcement agency of an arrest and of any related detention or confinement incident together with the connected charge. backgroundchecks.com does not have arrest records in our database.
Warrant is an order of a court which authorizes a law enforcement officer to arrest and bring a person before the judge. A warrant may be issued when a person is charged with a crime, convicted of a crime but failed to appear for sentencing, owes a fine or is in contempt of court.
A bench warrant is a court order authorizing the seizure of a person in order for them to appear in court. It is commonly found in the situation of a person who is required to answer a charge of contempt or a witness who has failed to appear in court after proper service of a subpoena. If a person fails to appear in court when she has been properly ordered to do so, the judge is authorized to issue a bench warrant authorizing a law enforcement officer to arrest someone. Arrest under a bench warrant may usually be made at any time of the day or night.
Once a bench warrant is issued, the police can treat it like any other arrest warrant -- and use it to bring the defendant back in front of the judge. By contrast, the arrest warrant process is started by a police officer.
A search warrant is an order permitting a law enforcement officer to search a particular premises and/or person for certain types of evidence, based on a statement by a law enforcement official who has probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime will be located.
When reviewing criminal records it is possible to distinguish between three different types
- Infraction - An infraction is governed primarily by state laws, which vary by state, but is typically not considered to be a criminal offense. Rather than being subject to a jail term upon conviction, a fine is typically imposed on those found guilty of an infraction. An infraction is neither a crime nor an offense as defined in the penal code.
- Misdemeanor - A misdemeanor is an offense for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment not in excess of one year may be imposed. A misdemeanor is less serious than a felony and is punishable by fine or imprisonment in a city or county jail rather than in a prison.
Misdemeanors are tried in the lower courts, such as municipal, police or justice courts. Typical misdemeanors include: petty theft, disturbing the peace, simple assault and battery, drunk driving without injury to others, drunkenness in public, various traffic violations, public nuisances. The District Attorney may have discretion to charge some crimes as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances.
- Felony - In general, a felony is an offense for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment in excess of one year is authorized. Felonies are serious crimes, such as murder, rape, or burglary, punishable by a harsher sentence than that given for a misdemeanor.
The sentence for a felonious crime under state law will be served in a state prison, since a year or less can be served in county jail. However, a sentence upon conviction for a felony may sometimes be less than one year at the discretion of the judge and within limits set by statute.
When reviewing the outcome of a criminal proceeding, the following rulings are possible:
- Conviction - A conviction is the outcome of a trial in which a criminal defendant is found guilty. A defendant in a criminal trial may be convicted by a judge or jury if the prosecutor proves their case beyond a reasonable doubt. In a jury trial, the number of jurors required to convict varies by state.
When a verdict is returned and before it is recorded the jury may be polled at the request of any party or upon the court’s own motion. If upon the poll there is not unanimous concurrence, the jury may be directed to retire for further deliberation or may be discharged.
The following is a sample instruction defining "beyond a reasonable doubt", according to one state's uniform criminal jury instructions.
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest level of certainty recognized in the law. It requires a significantly greater degree of certainty than the next lower standard of "clear and convincing evidence." The clear and convincing standard requires evidence of such convincing force that it demonstrates, in contrast to the opposing evidence, a high probability of the truth of the facts for which it is offered as proof. To be clear and convincing, the evidence must be so clear as to leave no substantial doubt and be sufficiently strong to command the unhesitating assent of every reasonable mind. Again, the proof beyond a reasonable doubt standard requires a significantly greater degree of certainty than that required to meet the clear and convincing evidence standard.
- Deferral - Deferral, generally, refers to putting off something until a future date, such as the payment of taxes. For instance, deposits made to some IRA accounts are subject to tax deferral, where taxes are not paid on deposits made until they are withdrawn.
Deferral, in the labor law context, refers to a policy of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) not to process unfair labor practice charges if the charge can be filed as a grievance and taken up through a grievance and arbitration procedure. The NLRB reviews the resulting grievance settlement or arbitration decision. If it is "clearly repugnant" to the National Labor Relations Act, the NLRB issues a complaint.
- Deferred Adjudication - Deferred adjudication is available in some jurisdictions for certain offenses. It often involves probation, treatment programs, and/or some type of community supervision. If all the conditions of probation are met for the allotted time handed down by the court, the offender can avoid a formal sentence, and in some jurisdictions, no permanent record of the crime will be made. Typically, at the end of the probationary period the charge will be dismissed and no record of conviction will result. Deferred adjudication may be available to eligible defendants upon recommendation by the prosecutor or at the discretion of the court.
- Dismissed with Prejudice - Dismissal with Prejudice occurs when a case is dismissed after adjudication on the merits and the plaintiff is barred from bringing an action on the same claim. Dismissal with prejudice is a final judgment and the case becomes res judicata on the claims that were or could have been brought in it.
- Dismissed without Prejudice - When a case is dismissed but the plaintiff is allowed to bring a new suit on the same claim within the period of limitation it is dismissal without prejudice.
- Acquittal - Acquit means to find a defendant in a criminal case not guilty. The decision to exonerate the defendant may be made either by a jury or a judge after trial. A prosecutor must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A decision to acquit means that the judge or jury had a reasonable doubt as to the defendant's guilt. It may be based on exculpatory evidence or a lack of evidence to prove guilt.
Because of the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy, once a defendant has been acquitted, he or she cannot be retried for the same matter. In some instances, a person acquitted of a crime may have arrest records expunged.
- Not Guilty - Not guilty is a plea entered by a defendant in a criminal or civil case denying blame for the charges brought against him/ her. Not guilty means you deny having done one or more of the elements contained in the offense or that you have a justifiable excuse for doing what you have done. If you plead not guilty the matter will be set for trial at some date in the future.
Not guilty is also a verdict in a criminal trial by a judge sitting without a jury or by a jury after finding that the prosecution has not proved the defendant guilty of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt or that it believes the accused person was insane at the time the crime was committed. The bar against double jeopardy under the U.S. Constitution prevents the defendant from being tried again for the crime charged.
- Non Adjudication of Guilt - Sometimes the court does not give a final judgment regarding the case. The person is put on probation or on a program or community service without an adjudication of guilt. If the person complies then the case may be dismissed. However this depends on the law of the particular county or state. If the law of the state does not permit dismissal the disposition remains adjudication with held. If the person does not complete the terms of probation, a finding of guilty may be entered and the person may be sentenced according to the punishments defined for the offense. If the person successfully completes the terms of probation and has no subsequent offenses, no further action with be taken on the case and the offense for which adjudication was withheld is typically not considered a prior conviction for purposes of habitual offender sentencing.
- Hung Jury - A hung jury is a slang term for a hopelessly deadlocked jury in a criminal case, in which a decision on guilt or innocence cannot be made. Usually it means there is no unanimous verdict , although a couple of states don't require a unanimous verdict to convict. A mistrial will be declared by the judge in the case of a hung jury, and a new trial with a new jury is required. However, the prosecutor can decide not to retry the case.
The definition of a hung jury varies by jurisdiction. A jury may be counted a jury as hung if it failed to reach a verdict on any charge or on any defendant. Some jurisdictions only count a hung jury if the jury failed to reach a verdict on all counts or on all defendants. The number of counts affects the likelihood of a hung jury. As the number of counts increases, so does the opportunity for disagreement. So, the more counts, the more likely that a jury will hang on at least one of them. Local law should be consulted for the exact requirements for a hung jury in your area.