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What Is a Criminal Record?
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What is a Criminal Record?
A criminal record is a list with all the crimes a person has been convicted of. This list is kept and updated by the local, state, and federal levels by different law enforcement agencies. The main objective of a criminal record is to provide a complete criminal history about an individual to be used for many purposes such as identification, job applicants screening, tanents screening, potential date checks etc. In the United States, these compilations are unlikely to be admissible in court as proof of arrest or conviction.

United States Criminal Records
Criminal histories are kept by law enforcement agencies on all levels of government. On the local level, police departments, sheriff's offices, and specialty police agencies keep their own internal databases. On the state level, state police, troopers, highway patrol, correctional agencies, and other law enforcement agencies keep separate databases as well. National law enforcement agencies often share this information with other enforcement agencies. Criminal histories are usually made available to the public. Registered sex offenders and other real-time criminal threats have information about their crimes readily available. By using mediums such as the Internet, the Department of Correctional Services in many states distributes criminal records to the public. The only group in society not having its criminal records being distributed is typically juveniles.

Some states have official "statewide warehouses" that hold criminal history information given by the various county and municipal courts within the state. These state “warehouses” are usually precise so long as the state requires and oversees the uploading of the data from the local courts. Some states make reporting to the “warehouse” a voluntary action. The information obtained from these “warehouses” can be partial and the use of this information has associated risks.

The federal government keeps comprehensive criminal histories and acts as a central “warehouse” for all agencies to report their own data to. NCIC (National Crime Information Center) is one such database. Generally, and with a very few exceptions, the records assembled by the federal government are not made available to the private sector.

Federal Records
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) manages the official national criminal history database via the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). The NCIC stores information concerning open arrest warrants, arrests, stolen property, missing persons, and character data regarding felonies and serious misdemeanors. The term "serious misdemeanor" is deceptive, as any offense with over one year jail-time potential is a felony. A felony usually refers to a serious crime such as murder, rape or grand larceny. Some felonies are not considered as serious.

The FBI's compilation of one’s criminal identification, arrest, conviction, and incarceration information is known as the Interstate Identification Index, or "Triple-I" for short. Essentially, this is essentially the FBI's rap sheet. It contains information voluntarily reported by law enforcement agencies across the country, as well as information provided by other federal agencies. It contains information on felonies and misdemeanors and other crimes. It may also contain municipal and traffic offenses if reported by the individual agencies. Anyone with an entry in the Interstate Identification Index has a unique "FBI number" that is used to identify him/her. It compensates for the fact that an individual may have given several false names, or aliases, to a law enforcement agency when he/she was booked. One may also lie about his/her date of birth or social security number, making an independent, unique identification key system essential. It is important to be aware that the information provided by the Interstate Information Index may come not from the agency that arrested the individual but from the agency that "booked" him/her. Therefore, there may be inconsistencies between the location, arrest date, and arresting agency listed in the database and the actual location, date, and agency that made the arrest. The Interstate Information Index may also contain imprisonment information as well; listing each time an inmate is moved from one correctional institute to another as a separate event. The accuracy of the Interstate Information Index greatly depends on the information reported to it by the individual agencies, and frequently lacks comprehensive information on the dispositions of the various arrests it lists. It should be considered as a guide on where to find more comprehensive information on a defendant and not as the solemn truth.

Department of Transportation
Though not officially a criminal history “warehouse”, the National Driver Register (NDR), operated by the Department of Transportation, maintains information on drivers concerning suspended licenses and such. In addition, the NDR has a database composed of posts made by individual states as mandated by federal law. All drivers who have had their licenses suspended for any reason (including suspensions resulting from several consecutive minor traffic violations, i.e., some states suspend one’s license for three separate speeding tickets over a period of six months) have that information posted to the NDR database by the state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles offices. The NDR also keeps records concerning convictions of driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances, failing to provide aid at an accident involving death or injury, and knowingly making a false sworn statement or lying under oath to officials about an activity governed by a law or regulation on the operation of a motorized vehicle. Moreover, the NDR keep information on traffic violations resulting from a lethal automobile crash, irresponsible driving, or racing on the highways. States are required by federal law to obtain the information compiled and stored by the NDR in order to review records of licensees identified as possible "matches." If a match is found, states will usually call the “match” to a hearing to prove they are not "the same person," placing the burden of proof on the suspected "match" to prove the difference. More and more, state licensees find themselves caught in a situation where the transmission of information make them fail to be aware to the fact that their drivers record has been merged with that of another driver, usually to their disadvantage. This has caused an increasing number of false arrests, certifications, and actions being taken by officers against drivers who are, eventually, victims of mistaken identity.

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