Access to Criminal Records
The record of a person convicted of an offense is usually known as a criminal record. The instances of arrest, conviction, trial and sentencing as well as the date of release can be found by going through the criminal records of an individual. The laws governing the maintenance of criminal records are more or less similar throughout the states of America including the District of Columbia. Several federal rules are also applicable when it comes to the records of persons convicted of committing a federal offense.
The National Crime Information Center (http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/doj/fbi/is/ncic.htm) is responsible for maintaining the database of the criminal history of all individuals convicted of committing federal offenses. The information includes all arrest records including the list of arrest warrants. Felonies and misdemeanors along with the history of missing persons or stolen persons are also included within the database of NCIC.
The Interstate Identification Index also contains the details of arrest, conviction as well as incarceration as compiled by the FBI. The information reflects the entire criminal history of the country as the data is obtained from the various law enforcement agencies and other federal agencies across the nation. While serious offenses like the instances of felonies and misdemeanor are reported voluntarily by the local bodies, the index may also contain several cases of minor traffic and municipal violations as well.
The FBI’s RAP sheet or the records of arrest and prosecution are usually considered to be confidential as revealing the criminal history to a third person violates the privacy Act and may jeopardize the safety of the individual. The RAP sheet is, however, accessible to the law enforcement personnel for reasons of national safety and investigation purposes.
An individual is authorized to access his/her own records in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act. Copies of the documents can also be requested the department. The records of a person who is dead or has provided his/her consent in writing can be accessed as well. The criminal records are an essential part of conducting a background check and are invaluable for checking the trustworthiness of a prospective employer or business partner.
Local Criminal Records
The local police as well as the sheriffs’ departments maintain the criminal records within their own local area of action. Additional law enforcement agencies may also have their own database of local criminal records. The county courts often have their own database of criminal trials as well.
The state police, highway patrol as well as the correctional facilities maintain separate lists of criminal records pertaining to their own area of jurisdiction. Most of these records apart from the warrant records and motor vehicle records can be obtained by the public online for free. The list of registered sex offenders is made available to the general public through the official state resources. This is usually provided for reasons of safety only.
The Department of Correctional Services also provides online details about the inmates along with the details of offenders currently on parole or serving probation. The juvenile records are kept absolutely confidential and cannot be made public at all.