Approximately one in every three Americans has a criminal record, with state criminal databases holding over 100 million records. Criminal records include not only state and federal convictions but also arrest, booking, and charging records whether a conviction resulted or not.
Criminal records tend to follow a person wherever they go, creating numerous obstacles along the way. Within the criminal justice system, courts, prosecutors, law enforcement, and others use prior criminal records in criminal charging and sentencing determinations. Other government agencies may look to criminal records when making decisions regarding immigration status, public assistance, and professional licensing. And, for individuals looking for jobs, housing, or loans, criminal records can also raise red flags and derail opportunities.
Many states offer legal pathways to expunge or seal criminal records or to correct inaccurate records. While these options might not erase one’s past, they might open doors that were previously closed. Learn more about criminal records and possible expungement options.