You were young, wild and crazy, and maybe spent the night in jail, but you can't remember. Or you know you spent the night in jail, and you want to clean up your criminal record. Luckily for you, from traffic tickets to sex crimes, your peccadilloes are public record. The exceptions are only if you were so young as to be considered a juvenile or if you committed a federal offense.
Go to your local police department to obtain a criminal background check on yourself for purposes of employment, licensing, security and VISA/immigration clearances, foreign adoption or travel. You are required to submit a fingerprint scan so a comparison can be made to either eliminate you from known criminals or to validate your personal criminal history.
Check with the state that incarcerated you and find out what they require. In California, for instance, you can request the assistance of the Public Defender's Office if they represented you in your case. Or you can search the California State Department of Justice database for information about your case. As of May 2010, a copy of your criminal record is available by paying a processing fee of $25 and submitting live scan fingerprints for an additional cost. Processing time is normally 72 hours.
Contact the National Crime Information Center (NCIC III File) for a copy of your criminal record if you committed a federal offense. The United States Department of Justice Order 556-73 regulates these requests. There is a fingerprint match procedure that makes a positive identification of you as the appropriate person entitled to the record. Your FBI identification number is also helpful for identification.