How to Obtain Your Criminal Records or Criminal History Report


If you have a criminal record, it is important to know how to get a copy of your criminal history report from the state repository. By reviewing this information, you can ensure the information that employers, landlords, and others may be able to view relating to your criminal record is accurate.

obtaining a copy of your criminal records

Find out what is on your criminal record before a criminal background check is performed


It is sensible to view your criminal history report yourself so that you know what is available to others and so you may correct any inaccuracies that may appear on your record. Knowing what is on your record is also the first step to determining if you are eligible to expunge or seal any of your arrests or convictions.

The state criminal record repositories obtain their information from local law enforcement agencies and courts. While these agencies do their best to ensure information contained in an individual’s criminal history report is accurate, mistakes can occur. Obtaining a copy of your statewide criminal history report is the first step to checking your criminal record. It is a great idea to review the information before embarking on a job search. If there are any errors on the report, you may then be able to dispute that information through the repository or by contacting the agency that supplied the information originally, such as the court or police department.

Benefits of Having your Criminal Record

There are several practical benefits of having a copy of your criminal record, especially when you are looking for employment. Here are just a few of the benefits of knowing what is on your criminal record:

  1. Expungement: Depending on your criminal background, you may be able to get certain convictions expunged. There is a process for expungement, but knowing what is on your record is the first step to determining if you are eligible.
  2. Accuracy: You can report your criminal history accurately on your employment applications and during the interview. This will eliminate the guessing game and the possibility of not being hired simply because you inadvertently misreported information about past convictions.
  3. Employment Applications: You know exactly what information you do/do not have to provide on your employment applications and during the interview phase. For example, applications will often ask for conviction information within a specific time frame only (e.g. 5 years, 7 years, 10 years) and you will know exactly which convictions fall into each time frame. This reduces the chance that you are providing more information than you actually need to.
  4. Employer Perspective: You can see what the employer sees. This gives you the chance to think like a perspective employer and imagine what they think when they see your criminal record. This also gives you the opportunity to address any concerns that the employer may have based on what is in your criminal record. To get help with finding employment with a criminal record, click here.
  5. Employed While Incarcerated: If you worked while you were in the criminal justice system, you can figure out which years you were employed while incarcerated. You can add this information to your work experience.
  6. Penal Codes: You will know exactly what penal code you were convicted of. Once you know the specific penal code sections, you can list these on your job applications, rather than actually naming the crime. You can learn more about the penal code that you were convicted of by going to our legal statutes section.
  7. Parole/Probation: You can keep track of the terms of your parole/probation. When you know what date probation/parole went into effect, you can also ensure that they are not in effect longer than ordered.
  8. Self-Awareness: Sometimes people are not aware of what is on their record. This could be because they have several convictions, the convictions were a long time ago, they were under the influence of drugs at the time, or they have simply forgotten. It is empowering to know exactly what is on your criminal background.
  9. Correcting Errors: You can review your record for any potential errors. There is a process for removing errors, which varies depending on where the error originated. Reviewing your report for errors is very important to ensure everything is accurate.

Glossary of Criminal Record and Criminal Background Terms

There are many terms that would be useful to know when going through the process of obtaining, using, understanding, and handling a criminal background. Below is a brief definition of some of the terms most commonly used:

Read our page on legal terminology for record clearing to learn more about commonly used legal terms.

Specific Instructions on Obtaining Your Criminal Record By State

Below is a list of articles, which contain instructions for how to obtain a copy of your criminal records in specific states. Each article will provide information such as how to contact the central repository to obtain your statewide criminal history report, how to dispute inaccurate information on that report, information on contacting local courts to obtain more detailed county-specific information, and information on the possibility of sealing or expunging your criminal records.

Arizona

California

Florida

Illinois

Indiana

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Nevada

New Jersey

New York

North Carolina

Ohio

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Virginia

Washington

Find more legal articles in our articles database.