What Goes on a Criminal Record?

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The specifics of what goes on a criminal record varies by country. In the United States, records are compiled at local, state and federal levels by law enforcement officials. They’re most commonly used for background checks regarding the identity and security history of individuals seeking employment, applying for travel visas or requesting bank loans. Law enforcement officers also routinely check criminal records during an arrest. Criminal records are sometimes ordered sealed by the court, such as with juveniles, but the majority of these records are available for public scrutiny.

General Information

Criminal records list an individual's basic demographic information such as full name, date of birth, known aliases as well as current and previous addresses. Arrest dates for both felony and misdemeanor crimes are cited and thus become part of an individual’s criminal history. In some jurisdictions, these arrests remain on the record even when the person was not convicted of the crime. All states allow individuals to view their criminal record to check it for content as well as accuracy. Some states have formed partnerships with authorized online vendors to help expedite and simplify this process.

Violent Crimes

An individual's criminal record typically includes arrests or convictions for violent crimes such as murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Sexual assault or physical abuse of a minor also meet the criteria for violent crimes. Other violent crimes include simple assault without aggravated injury or use of a weapon. Simple assault crimes often involve domestic violence or intimate partner violence.

Property Crimes

Property crimes listed on a criminal record include burglary, theft, vandalism, arson, forgery, motor vehicle theft, fraud, embezzlement, destruction of property and shoplifting. The value of the property damaged or stolen may be included on the record. Property crimes may also lead to additional or more severe charges when someone is injured or dies as a result of the offense, such as a bystander's death during the theft of a motor vehicle.

Traffic Crimes

Certain traffic crimes may be included on a criminal record. Almost all jurisdictions will include driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, reckless driving, driving without a license, driving with a suspended license. Speeding tickets, parking citations and other non-criminal traffic infractions are generally not included on a criminal record.

Other Crimes

Criminal records also contain a list of convictions for other crimes, including possession of drugs, manufacture of drugs, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and public intoxication. Disorderly conduct, loitering and vagrancy are also deemed criminal acts that are typically included on an individual's record.

Legal Matters Expressly Excluded

Civil judgments are not noted on a criminal record, including creditor actions, lawsuits and bankruptcy matters. Although it's sometimes a lengthy and expensive undertaking due to court and attorney fees, you may attempt to have your criminal record expunged. With this process, if you meet the criteria set forth by the judge and he rules in your favor, certain crimes are permanently removed from your record.


  • Some states allow you to search for your criminal record online or to receive a paper copy of it for a fee. Check with the department that maintains criminal records in your state, usually the Department of Justice.

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