Ask any police officer, potential employer or landlord—your past criminal activity can come back to haunt you.
Even if you’ve served your time, a routine background check that uncovers a criminal record can be used against you, making it more difficult to get a job, rent an apartment, or simply live your life as a responsible citizen.
You may be interested in removing something from your criminal history — and you might be able to do so. Your best bet is to talk to an experienced attorney about what steps to take.
Our legal team has answered the most frequently asked questions we receive regarding criminal records and background checks so you can explore your options.
Most Common Questions About Background Checks.
1. What is a criminal record?
Sometimes called a rap sheet, your criminal record is a list of your criminal history. Your rap sheet includes nearly everything about your past illegal activities, such as:
- Convictions for misdemeanor and felony crimes
- Sentencing information for any convictions
- Current charges
- Prior arrests
- Previous charges
Your criminal record doesn’t include expunged records.
2. Why would someone want to run a background check?
For you, your criminal past is precisely that — in the past. However, many organizations and companies will run a background check to see your criminal record and make a character judgment about you.
Typical reasons for background checks include:
- Adopting or fostering children
- Gaining employment
- Getting into a school
- Joining a military service
- Obtaining a security clearance
- Purchasing firearms
- Renting property
Specific details from your criminal record can disqualify you from these activities. Furthermore, police officers can check your record for law enforcement purposes, like to see whether you have prior offenses for a similar crime to the one they’re investigating.
3. What’s the difference between a criminal record check and a background check?
A criminal record check includes only specific criminal information: charges, convictions and penalties.
A background check includes much more information about your life, including current and former addresses, employment history and any event that’s gone through the courts in some way. Examples include:
- Birth certificate
- Death certificate
- Divorce decrees
- Marriage licenses
4. How can I check my criminal record?
You may check your own criminal record at anytime by visiting the court in your county or through a variety of online services.
5. Are criminal records public?
Yes, criminal records are public. However, juvenile charges and juvenile convictions are usually not made public.
Still, not just anyone can request your criminal record. Law enforcement officials will always be able to access your full criminal history, but private citizens and companies typically must request your permission to do so.
6. Do criminal records transfer from state to state?
Yes, your criminal records go with you wherever you move, even across state lines. Your criminal history is yours forever in most cases.
7. Can criminal records be expunged?
Some criminal charges and convictions can be expunged (or destroyed and removed from your record), but you can’t simply expunge your entire criminal record in one swoop.
Specific charges and convictions are eligible for expungement, and they are usually low-level convictions. Serious violent offenses, like murder and armed robbery, will stay on your record.
8. Do criminal records affect employment?
Yes, criminal records can impact your job search. Potential employers often want to check your criminal history before offering you a job. If they see something they don’t like on your record, they can give the job to someone else.
9. Who can see my criminal record?
Anyone can see your criminal record — law enforcement, private citizens, employers, landlords, etc. However, it’s slightly more difficult for non-law enforcement personnel to access a complete criminal records check on you.
10. Will a criminal record affect a visa application?
Yes, having a criminal record can affect your visa application if you’re planning to travel or move to another country. Every country has their own rules on the matter, so your best course of action is to check with the embassy or consulate of your destination country.
11. Do background checks include drug tests?
No, background checks typically do not include drug tests.
The exception is if a drug test resulted in a conviction. For example, if you violated probation or parole as the result of a failed drug test, that information would appear on your background check, but the details of the drug test would not show up.
12. What does a background check show?
A background check shows a variety of details about your life, such as:
- Bankruptcy records
- Marriage and divorce records
- Serious driving offenses
- Your current and past addresses
- Your felony status
13. Do background checks show arrests?
No, background checks usually don’t show arrests. However, if you were arrested and then charged with a crime, that information will show up on a background check.
Still have questions? We have answers.
Kent Collins Law has an experienced legal team waiting to answer all of your questions about criminal records, background checks, expungements and new criminal charges.
Call our office at 803-808-0905 to set up a free, in-person consultation about your case or complete this form.