What is a Criminal Record?


CanadasBorder.com Crossing the Canadian
Border with a Criminal Conviction

Who Can See Your Criminal Record?
How Your Criminal Record Hurts You
How To Expunge Your Criminal Record
Contact Us

This site maintained by
Clear Your Record
Law Firm, LLC
2200 112th Avenue NE
Suite 120
Bellevue, WA 98004
(425) 646-2926
Fax (425) 952-7409

A record to remember

A record to forget

If you are reading this, you probably have a criminal record. Almost every contact with police creates a permanent record. This remains true even when your case is dismissed. It may be possible to seal your conviction, or clear your criminal record, or expunge a dismissed criminal case. We can help you clear your record.

Even if you were never charged with a crime,
your arrest remains a permanent, public record.
This is also true if your case was dismissed or if you received a deferred sentence, deferred prosecution, stipulated continuance, or stay of sentence.
Not long ago, juvenile convictions were sealed or destroyed after you reached a certain age.
In many states, this is no longer true.


To make matters worse, many members of the bench tell first time offenders that if they complete their probation, their matter will be dismissed and "taken off their record."
Nothing could be further from the truth.

As a result, there are a number of people walking around with criminal records who do not even realize the fact.


A chain of government agencies create, store, and exchange criminal record information.

Police Departments

Every criminal record begins at the most local police level. Every agency has its own criminal database.

Police maintain some of the most comprehensive local records on individuals including arrests,
investigations, 911 calls, and other data.

The Local Courts

City and county courthouses are the next step in the record chain. Every court keeps a detailed record of its cases. They then report this data to one state agency.

The Centralized State Agency

Every state has one agency that compiles, maintains, and distributes criminal record data. This is the agency that most employers and landlords would contact although many internet companies now act as middlemen.

Federal Bureau of Investigation

The FBI strives to maintain a criminal database on every individual in the system. Although the current trend is toward a decentralized system, this agency maintains a number of important repositories including The Master Name Index, The National Fingerprint File, The National Crime Information
Center, and The National Instant Criminal Background Check.

back to top


The "criminal rap sheet" is a relatively recent
phenomenon. The earliest police departments
only began in the middle of the nineteenth century. In the early days, the "police blotter" recorded little more than a list of the days events. Only later did the information become organized around the individual.

Near the turn of the century, the first national criminal identification system was born using photographs, measurements, and other physical descriptions. The most important development however was the evolution of fingerprint identification.


In 1924, the newly created FBI established an official Identification Division. It was instantly the largest system in the country but was severely limited by the lack of uniform records coming out of every state. This problem persisted for forty five years until the advent of the computer.

National Crime Information Center

In 1967, the FBI helped develop the National Crime Information Center or NCIC. This system had its own telecommunications system and operated as a joint venture with the states.

Around the same time, the states began to develop their own central depositories. By 1975, over half of the states were participating in the national Computerized Criminal History (CCH) System.


By 1977, many states were pushing for a
decentralized system. In 1978, the I.I.I. network was established. This system ties together all depositories into one national system and has now replaced the
FBI as the primary criminal search engine.

Click here to find out who can see your record.






We have made this Web site and provided these materials for informational purposes only.
This is not a legal opinion or legal advice. It is not intended to create nor does it create an
attorney-client relationship. No one should act upon this information without seeking
professional counsel. If you are interested in legal services, please contact us so that
we may place you in touch with a qualified attorney from your state.

? 2005. Clear Your Record Law Firm, LLC.