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What is Included in a Criminal History?

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  • Written By: Rhonda Rivera
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2016
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The information on a criminal history record, also known as a background check or criminal record, varies significantly depending on the country and sometimes the jurisdiction within that country. A list of crimes in which the person was found guilty is commonly included in a criminal history, but some jurisdictions also record traffic offenses and dismissed charges. The arrest date, location of the arrest, and what agency arrested the person may also be found in these documents. Depending on the crime, especially if it was of a sexual nature, the name, date of birth, and a photograph of the guilty party is sometimes made publicly available. These records are used to determine the trustworthiness of a person when he or she is trying to qualify for certain benefits such as acquiring employment, adopting a child, or renting a housing unit.

One aspect of a criminal history that all countries have in common is the inclusion of criminal offenses where the party was found guilty. These crimes can range from misdemeanors to felonies. Both serious and minor traffic offenses, such as fatal automobile accidents and running a stop light, may also be included in a person’s criminal history.

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Some countries include dismissed charges and charges wherein the party was found innocent on criminal history checks, though including this type of information is highly debated. This is due to the fact that many nations recognize the presumption of innocence, which is a legal right that one should be considered innocent until proven guilty. Basic criminal history checks can generally be acquired with or without permission from the person the check is being performed on. Alleged offenses that could not be proven are normally still available to law enforcement agencies, even if not available to the general public, potential employers, or potential landlords.

The person’s date of arrest, where he or she was arrested, and what agency performed the arrest is also commonly included in a criminal history. These pieces of information can be beneficial to potential employers and landlords who do not wish to employ or rent to a person who recently committed a crime. It can also help law enforcement agencies determine if that person is linked to similar crimes committed in the area.

Some information that is not related to criminal information may be included in a criminal history background check, depending on the jurisdiction. These checks may include information about a person’s financial situation, because the party pulling the check may want to know how responsible the examined person is with their finances. Some checks will also include information about the examined person’s educational background, such as how well he or she performed on standardized tests.

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Logicfest
Post 2

@Vincenzo -- be careful with that tactic. Convictions can be dealt with in a number of ways. A court can grant a motion to expunge a conviction from a record (scrub your background so it will appear that conviction never happened) or seal your record. In some cases, a conviction is taken under advisement and that simply means that no conviction will be entered if the defendant doesn't violate certain terms.

Never assume that information will not appear in your criminal history. You need to check that history for yourself and see what it includes before you tell a potential employer you've never been convicted of a crime. You'll find business (local ones or those based on the Internet) that

will run those checks for free.

Also, keep in mind that you might still have an ethical dilemma if you tell an employer you've not been convicted even if that incident won't appear in your history. If an employer discovers later that you did have a criminal conviction, what will that employer think of you and what impact will that have on your relationship?

Vincenzo
Post 1

Here's something to keep in mind about those criminal background checks -- they should not turn up any information about arrests and convictions that a court has removed from your record. If you are asked by an employer if you have been convicted of a crime, you can honestly state "no" if that conviction has been removed.

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