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The following is for informational purposes only

How Long Does a Criminal Record Last?

Anyone who has run in with authorities has likely heard comments about their "criminal record". Much like the old threat of some broken school rule going "on your permanent record", your "criminal record" reflects crimes. Generally speaking, the more severe the crime, the longer it remains at the top of a criminal record. Extreme crimes, or crimes committed with excessive force, usually stick to a criminal record longer than misdemeanors might.

What Kind of Charges can Show Up on a Criminal Record

Felonies, the most severe charges a defendant can be accused of, will always appear on a criminal record. The only time this doesn’t occur is if a person lives in a state that allows felony record expungement. An expungement is a process that will enable a defendant to appeal to have the charge removed from their record.

On the other hand, there are also misdemeanors. These are less severe crimes and are typically accompanied by short jail time and fines. Felonies result in lengthy imprisonment terms. Misdemeanors can stay on a record indefinitely unless the convicted individual files for and is granted an expungement.

In other words, the answer to "how long does a criminal charge stay on your record" is simple; until the record is deleted. Unless the documents go through the proper channels for removal, the crimes will stay visible to those who look at them.

When do Crimes Qualify for Expungement?

Those arrested based on felony or misdemeanor charges may have trouble with expungement. Take note, as well, that not all states practice expungement as an option; Nevada, for example, only allows the sealing of records. The criminal record must reach one of the following criteria to qualify for expungement:

  • If the accused is charged with a crime, but then the accused is acquitted.
  • If the accused is convicted but then eventually found to be innocent.
  • If the accused is convicted but granted a pardon by the Governor or President.
  • If the accused was formally charged by a grand jury or a judge’s information, but the case was dismissed later.
  • If the accused was charged with a crime, but the statute of limitations expired.
  • Or if the accused was arrested but not formally charged.

Expungement Alternative

The above criteria are hard enough for the average person to meet; for situations like this, there is another way to "remove" charges from a record. The alternate route to expungement is qualifying for non-disclosure records. Non-disclosures differ from expungements in that they do not remove the charge; they only hide it from the public.

There are, however, many crimes that cannot fall under non-disclosure laws; this means that they remain visible to the public, including prospective employers or landlords. Some of these crimes include:

  • Aggravated sexual assault or prohibited sexual conduct
  • Compelling prostitution or solicitation of it
  • Sexual performance of a child or anything involving child pornography
  • Premeditated murder or second-degree murder
  • Injury or abuse to a child, elder, or disabled person
  • Violation of a protective or restraining order
  • Abandoning or endangering a child, including kidnapping
  • Acts of violence like hate crimes or disturbing the peace

Background Checks will Return with a Criminal Record

First-time criminals may be unsure about the relationship between a background check and a criminal record. After all, the differences in any comparative examination of the judicial system will return to everyday confusion. Said another way, the judicial system is difficult to understand, and there is rampant misinformation.

What is There to Know About Background Checks?

Depending on your state, there’s a lot to learn about background checks. Visualize a golden retriever to summarize the relationship between background checks and criminal records. This golden retriever carries a criminal record; it will be delivered to the authorities and then reported to the person who requested it. Essentially, background checks return with criminal records and any other relative information.

In many states, it is legal for employers and landlords to do a background check before committing to any agreements. Unfortunately, this ensures that those who have committed crimes cannot recover. There are a few states, like Texas, where this issue is faced head-on.

In Texas, a prospective employer’s background check is not conducted unless the job has a salary of over $75,000. If the job is over this mark, the employer can do a background check back to a person’s 18th birthday. Alternatively, many background checks stop at 3-year, 5-year, 10-year, and 20-year intervals. Most states have laws that prevent the look back at seven years prior. Typically, the time determined depends on whether the check is for misdemeanors or felonies. (Felonies are usually longer spans.)

Note: background checks do not return with all charges unless requested. To order a background check costs money, and to get long ones done takes a lot of money. These costs reflect the judicial process; however, they all but guarantee small business owners and low-to-middle-income landlords likely won’t check for felonies.

What About Fingerprint Background Checks?

The "fingerprint background check" is a catch-all term used to compare a candidate's fingerprints with others, particularly those in the criminal system. The amount and quality of the information retrieved from databases with this data can vary. There is also another issue with these types of checks.

Fingerprint background checks can be "level 2" background checks. These particular types of checks will uncover criminal history from any point in the defendant's life. Level 2 background checks include any criminal records made during the juvenile ages. Some occupations conduct these checks regularly, including personnel at daycares, schools, hospices, or foster parents.

Criminal Records Will Affect Your Life Forever

If someone is convicted of a felony, that will follow them for the rest of their life. At some point, they may be able to ask for an expungement, but what happens when that falls through? Non-disclosure agreement, here we come—but that can also be rejected. Convictions profoundly impact your life, so if you are indicted, lawyer up.

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