A party can check if he has a misdemeanor on record by looking up his criminal history in the court in which he appeared. A local court usually has a free public access terminal to look up case information. He can also call or email his local court to ask whether a misdemeanor is on record. A party should also be able to look up his record at his local law enforcement agency.
In addition, a party can perform an internet search on the website of his state department of law enforcement. Results may not be certified. This service requires a fee, but a party can apply for a fee waiver.
Other People Who Can Help
A party can check if he has a misdemeanor on record by contacting his former or current attorney, parole officer or probation officer. State laws and agency rules regulate how long these people retain files. Many attorneys keep a client’s file for at least 10 years, although a state usually requires an attorney to keep files for less than that.
What Information Do I Need?
A party needs her exact name and date of birth. If the name or date of birth varies, the search may turn up records of other individuals. A party who changed her name after committing an offense should search using the name she had when she committed the offense. Some states, such as California, require a party to provide live scan fingerprints for a request to the state’s department of justice.
What Information Will Not Appear
A state court’s report will not include information from family, civil court cases or federal court cases. Juvenile cases are heard in juvenile delinquency court, which is a division of family court. A report will not disclose sealed or expunged records.
Some states will not include certain types of offenses on a criminal record. A party should check the laws of his state to determine what offenses will be omitted. For example, New York will not include case dispositions for a party whose only conviction was a single misdemeanor more than 10 years before the request date. New York will also not include a conviction of a fifth-degree misdemeanor for marijuana possession, which is an offense for possession of a small amount of marijuana.
Sometimes Employers Can’t Get Records
A party can request her own criminal record to review it for accuracy. Some states, like California, do not allow requests from a third party, such as an employer. Other states, such as Georgia, allow an employer to get the criminal record of another person with the signed consent of the person whose records are requested.
Do Not Use Reports for Immigration Purposes
A party should not use his criminal record for visa or immigration purposes or to engage in transactions with foreign nations. A party who wants to request a record clearance for immigration purposes should make a specific request to the appropriate state agency. In California, that agency is the state’s department of justice.
Requesting a National Criminal Record
A party who wants a national criminal record should request an Identity History Summary Check from the FBI’s Criminal Justice Services Division. An Identity History Summary Check can be used to satisfy a requirement to live, work or travel in a foreign country. A party can submit a request for this document electronically on the FBI’s website, by mail or through an FBI-approved channeler.
An FBI-approved channeler is a private business that has contracted with the FBI to submit the request. There is a fee for an Identity History Summary Check request.
Read More: How to Purge a Criminal Record
- New York State Unified Court System, Criminal History Record Search: On-line Direct Access
- State of California, Department of Justice: Public Records
- Oregon Judicial Branch: Find a Case or Court Record
- New York State Unified Court System, Criminal History Record Search: Overview
- California Department of Justice: Visa/Immigration
- Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Obtaining Criminal History Record Information: Frequently Asked Questions
- FBI: Criminal Justice Information Services
- FBI: Identity History Summary Checks
- FBI, Services: Requesting FBI Records
- Arizona Judicial Branch: Public Access to Court Information
- California Courts: Clean Your Record
- American Bar Association: Materials on Client File Retention
- When searching, try a few different spellings of the name if the obvious spelling does not yield results. Baby name websites often provide alternative spellings for names.
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.