In this world, you can break down knowledge into several categories. The things you know, the things you know you don’t know, and the things that you don’t know that you don’t know. This is true for pretty much any subject, whether we’re talking about something as advanced as quantum physics or as simple as doing an arrest record search. Today we’re going to be looking at some things that you might not have known about arrest record searches so you can be sure that you have all of the information when you do your next search.
Arrests are Never Removed From Records
Every moment that we experience fades out and is swiftly replaced by another one. In fact, the moment that you had when you first started reading this article is gone, and now you’re in a new moment. Unfortunately, even if the moment is fleeting, some things don’t have the luxury of disappearing that quickly. One such thing is your arrest records.
Every time someone is arrested, it goes on their arrest record. It doesn’t matter why they were arrested, what they’re being charged with, if they go to court, or even if they’re found guilty. That’s because arrest records are specifically for arrests, so nothing else about the incident matters for something to be added to it. It doesn’t matter if the law enforcement officer decides to arrest someone for jaywalking or homicide. It’s added to their record.
Some states allow the person arrested to petition to have an arrest record sealed, so it can no longer be accessed. It depends on the state, but usually, it takes at least seven years for that to be a possibility. That means that even if you were arrested five years ago, every cop that pulls you over can see that when they run your name through their system. It also means that anyone that does a personal background check can still see the record at any time, assuming that you hadn’t petitioned to have the record sealed.
There are a series of laws in place to ensure some level of government transparency. As you’re probably aware, we don’t have access to all of the government’s records. They classify a lot of information either to make sure that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, like a terrorist organization, or to make sure that the public doesn’t panic about something. There is a limited amount of time the government can keep a document under wraps. Every document must become declassified after 75 years.
Arrest records are never classified to begin with. From the moment you’re arrested, anyone has the ability to access that information. That’s why when you get arrested, you get a lot of mail from different attorney’s offices offering to represent you in court. Police also regularly access these records to determine if they need to be harder on you because you had already been slapped on the wrist.
Because arrest records are public information, that also means that anyone and everyone has access to it. That means your kindergarten teacher, your grandma, your co-workers, your church’s minister, and even total strangers can see when and why you were arrested. Because these records are never cleared unless you go through the process yourself, that means that anyone has access to them for the rest of your life.
Criminal cases are complicated affairs, just as the rest of the law field in general. In criminal court, you have your two sides. The prosecution and the defense. It’s the prosecution’s job to prove that you’re guilty beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt, and it’s the defense’s job to cast a shadow of a doubt on your guilt. This is because in the United States, you are innocent until proven guilty, and you are guaranteed by law to have a speedy trial for any criminal offense.
Let’s say, for instance, you had been arrested a few times for minor vandalism, and now you’re in court for vandalism. The prosecution could point to the fact that you have a history of being arrested for the same crime, which creates a pattern of behavior. It takes an incredibly skilled attorney to defend against such a point, and that’s probably not something you’d get out of an already overworked public defender.
Fortunately, unless you have that very specific scenario, you probably won’t have your arrest record brought up in court, and if you do, your attorney will know about it long before the trial, so they can have a chance to come up with a counter-argument. In the American justice system, there is a process called discovery where both the prosecution and defense get together and share every piece of evidence that they have. This ensures that there is no spectacular theatrics in the courtroom by one side bringing in bombshell evidence.
Of course, courtroom theatrics make for good T.V. and movies. Unfortunately, the drama just isn’t as appreciated when someone’s life is hanging in the balance. The criminal justice system tries its best to play fair for all sides so that people aren’t regularly railroaded by an unfair case.
Anyone Can Access Your Arrest Records, Even if They Don’t Know Where You Were Arrested
As we mentioned, arrest records are considered public information. That means that anyone can access them at any given moment if they know where they’re looking. Most people would just think to check with their county’s sheriff’s department’s website to find this information. If you were arrested in that county, they might just be able to find it. But what if you were arrested in another county?
Well, if someone happened to know what county you were arrested in, they could try that county’s sheriff’s department website and try their luck. Not every county provides that kind of information in an easy-to-access database, so it could be a little hit or miss if they actually find the information they’re looking for.
Nonexistent databases are far from the trickiest part of the average person’s search through county sheriff’s department websites. Some counties do make these databases easy to access, but they don’t do a great job maintaining them. In those counties, people looking for your arrest records may be able to find them with ease, but they might also run into outdated or even entirely incorrect information. That can cause some serious problems for someone trying to find your arrest records.
There’s also the matter that none of these databases are connected, meaning they all operate independently. If someone searches through the database for Macon County, Georgia, they would only be able to find information for Macon County, Georgia. That means that, through this method, at least, someone would need to know exactly what county you were arrested in to get the information that they were looking for.
But what about how someone could find you without knowing exactly where you were arrested. Fortunately for those that are seeking this information, and potentially unfortunately for you, there is a way that someone could do exactly that. All they would need is a good personal background check service, and they can instantly get information about arrests from anywhere in the country.
The process is even incredibly simple. All they need to do is enter your first and last name or even just your phone number, and they’ll have access to not just your arrest records but any other records that you have that fall under public information from anywhere in the country. That means driving records, criminal records, court records, warrant information, and sometimes even more than that.
The reason that these services are able to pull up so much information is that they scour through public records from all over the country simultaneously. Everywhere from Florida to Alaska, and because the records are pulled up so quickly, they could even check for this information while you’re on the phone with them, and you’d be none the wiser. While this isn’t the method that most people use, there are enough people that use this method that you can be sure that someone has accessed your records.
Knowing the Truth About Arrest Records
There are a lot of things to know about the records kept by the United States government. They take very intricate records of everything that they do to ensure that they can review that information at any time if they need to. Knowing about the records that they keep and how citizens might go about accessing them can help you out a lot in the long run. Whether you were arrested once and let go or you have a criminal record as thick as Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, it’s good to know what people could potentially know about you without you even talking about it.
***SpyFly provides consumers affordable, immediate access to public record information. Federal laws prohibit businesses from using SpyFly’s service to make decisions about employment, insurance, consumer credit, tenant screening, or for any other purpose subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 USC 1681 et seq.**