Average Length of Time For Police Recordkeeping
The retention of police records depends on the level of crime and the state in which it occurred. Arrests prior to the age of 18 (the legal age of an adult in the United States) are often sealed; however, thereafter, an arrest can remain on your record indefinitely. Records are kept and maintained on local, federal, and state levels. Many states have a Record Retention Board, chaired by the Secretary of State, that sets a range of time for the storage of police records. For example, in Missouri, arrest records are closed after 30 days if the person was found not guilty, or dismissed for any reason. The 30 day time frame is the average for many states. However, in some states, local law enforcement agencies keep records indefinitely, since digital methods do not require physical space to do so.
State Police Records
Colorado allows people to petition to have certain police records sealed. If your records are sealed, authorities still have access, but no one else can view them. In Nevada, misdemeanor and traffic citations are stored for a minimum of two years after they have been closed, while other criminal case records are held for six to seven years. To find out how long each state holds their police records, you can check with the Secretary of State's office or State Attorney's office.
The national database gets information from state databases; however, not all information is forwarded to the national level. Records sent to a federal agency are kept for 110 years from the offender's date of birth, time of death, or until a local agency requests that a record be expunged (removed/sealed). Records are maintained and made available to all other criminal justice agencies by National Crime Information Center (NCIC), which is maintained by the FBI.
Records can be expunged in most U.S. states, depending on the time that has passed (following state or local guidelines), the type of arrest, and the other components of a person's record. If you are worried about your own record, it is best to find out the requirements of the particular state holding the records. However, having your record expunged or sealed does not mean it no longer exists. Rather, it generally becomes an "unofficial record" and is simply unavailable. Most criminal records remain on the federal level, but can only be accessed by federal agencies.