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Criminal Records 101

Criminal records, also known as ‘rap sheets’, are documents that contain your personal identification details, your legal status and a listing of any crime you may have committed. It is the responsibility of the state government, usually a law enforcement agency, to keep the criminal records of each of its citizens updated and accurate. Even if an individual has never been convicted of a crime, criminal records usually also include instances of arrests.

Who Accesses Criminal Records?

A copy of your criminal record may be requested by your potential employer, a future landlord, an educational institution you are seeking admission in, or even by police authorities. The latter usually asks for the retrieval of one’s criminal records to check on a suspect’s past records and/or to aid in coming up with the most appropriate ‘sentence’. For instance, if you have been caught driving under the influence and your record shows a history of DUI arrests, then you will be slapped with a higher sentence this time.

There are also reasons why YOU should access criminal records such as if you are planning to employ someone or you simply want to check up on somebody (a suspicious neighbor, a potential business partner, etc.). You can even pull a copy of your own criminal record to see what others will see and to check if you have been a victim of identity fraud. Obviously, if you see entries of crimes you have never committed, it is highly possible that someone else has been using your identity!

Laws for accessing criminal records vary from one state to another. Some states view criminal records as public records that anyone can retrieve, while other states require the consent of the person before the criminal record is released. Whatever your purpose, you should check first what the specific rules are in your state.

Criminal Records – Ordering Online

Traditionally, criminal records are requested in person, on the phone or through fax. This often comes after a laborious search for the right courthouse and submission of required documents and corresponding fees. Online criminal records, on the other hand, are instantaneously yours, without all the trouble.

Once these criminal records are transferred to an online repository, requests can come through and approvals for disclosing the information can be accomplished in much less time. Although there are many websites that offer free access to criminal records, other companies on the Internet will require you to pay a minimal fee to cull information from a variety of sources.

These online companies also have standardized formats for easier investigation and comprehension. They also provide summarized descriptions of each of the items that turn up in a search so that you do not need to read through all of the documents in detail. And because the data is stored over the Internet, you can request for criminal records 24/7.

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