Types of checks

Crimes And Criminal Records

Crime is an act or omission that the law makes punishable. It can also be the breach of a legal duty, that is treated as the subject matter of a criminal proceeding. Common law recognizes only two classes of crimes- serious crimes or felonies and minor crimes or misdemeanors.

What is a criminal record?

A 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, the criminal record may include 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. There is no single repository for all this information about a person.

 

Are criminal records public information?

Yes.

 

What type of criminal record checks and criminal record information is available?

We collect criminal record information from a variety of federal, state, and county public records, including state police departments, department of corrections, county courts, offender registries, municipal jurisdictions, federal fugitive files, state courts, district 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 arrest records.

  1. 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).
  2. 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.

 

What are 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 for criminal records 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.

 

What are 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.

 

What does the criminal record search reveal about the severity of the offense?

Most jurisdictions classify an offense as an infraction, misdemeanor, or a felony.

  1. Infraction - An infraction is governed primarily by state laws, which vary by state, but is typically not considered to be a crime. Rather than being subject to a jail term upon conviction, a fine is typically imposed on those found guilty of an infraction. Usually, an infraction is neither a crime nor an offense as defined in the penal code. Infractions often include disorderly conduct and public nuisance offenses. Traffic offenses are usually infractions too, with the exception of more serious offenses, such as "driving under the influence" or "hit and run" violations.
  2. Misdemeanor - A misdemeanor is usually a crime for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment not in excess of one year may be imposed. A misdemeanor criminal record 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, simple assault and battery, drunk driving without injury to others, and serious traffic violations. The District Attorney may have discretion to charge some crimes as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. The sentence for a first-time misdemeanor is often limited to probation. A sentence of incarceration will usually be served in the county jail.
  3. 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 felony under state law will usually be served in a state prison. 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.

What does the criminal record say about the outcome?

  • Conviction - A conviction is the outcome of a plea bargain or 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. A conviction is evidence that the defendant committed the offense.
  • 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 about 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 records expunged. An acquittal is not evidence that the defendant committed the offense.
  • Dismissed - A criminal case can be dismissed for a variety of reasons. The most common is that the prosecutor decides not to complete the prosecution, often resulting in a criminal record entry of "nolle pros" (which is an abbreviation of the Latin term "nolle prosequi", which means "I do not want to continue"). Less frequently, the court will dismiss the case. A dismissed case is not evidence that the defendant committed the offense.
  • Diversion or Deferred Adjudication - Deferred adjudication is available in some jurisdictions for certain offenses. Typically, the court defers adjudication of guilt if the defendant enters a diversionary program, which usually 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 conviction and 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. In many jurisdictions, the defendant must plead guilty to be eligible for the program; if the defendant fails the program, then the judge enters a conviction based on the guilty plea. A conviction after deferral is evidence that the defendant committed the offense.
  • Pending - A criminal case takes time to work its way through the court system. A pending case is not evidence that the defendant committed the offense. A defendant with a pending criminal case may be unwilling to discuss the details of the alleged offense during the case.

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