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A criminal record is a record of a criminals criminal history. The information included in a criminal record varies between countries and even between jurisdictions within a country. In most cases it lists all non-expunged criminal offenses and may also include traffic offenses such as speeding and drunk-driving. In some countries the record is limited to actual convictions (where the individual has pleaded guilty or been declared guilty by a qualified court) while in others it also includes arrests, charges dismissed, charges pending and even charges of which the individual has been acquitted. The latter policy is often argued to be a human rights violation since it works contrary to the presumption of innocence by exposing people to discrimination on the basis of unproven allegations. In some countries access to the records are permitted by potential employers, lenders etc. to assess a prospective employees trustworthiness.
In Canada, criminal records are stored in Criminal Records Information Management Services, a centralized database operated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police under the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) since 1972. The database includes all convictions for which a pardon has not been granted, all charges regardless of disposition, outstanding warrants and charges, all judicial orders and other information that might be of interest to police investigations.
There are two types of criminal record checks: standard and vulnerable sector. Vulnerable sector is defined under the Criminal Records Act as minor (less than 18 years of age) and
|“|| persons who, because of their age, a disability or other circumstances, whether temporary or permanent,
(a) are in a position of dependence on others; or (b) are otherwise at a greater risk than the general population of being harmed by persons in a position of authority or trust relative to them
There are 4 levels of standard criminal record checks - level 1 to 4. Level 1 is the most basic check and level 4 being the most extensive. Criminal record check can only be done with the consent of the individual. Due to the sensitive nature of CPIC, only police agencies are authorized to conduct a criminal record check, with the exception of BC Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
- Level 1: Records of criminal convictions for which a pardon has not been granted (CPIC Level 1 Query)
- Level 2: Level 1 + outstanding charges that the police force is aware of (CPIC Level 1 Query + Persons Query)
- Level 3: Level 2 + records of discharges which have not been removed (all charges regardless of disposition) (CPIC Level 2 Query + Persons Query)
- Level 4: Level 3 + check on local police databases, court and law enforcement agency databases  (also known as "Police Record Check")
The vulnerable sector screening includes a level 4 check plus any sexual offences and convictions which pardon was granted. In the event that the gender and date of birth of the applicant matches any sexual offence record in the system, he/she is required to submit fingerprints to the RCMP for a physical confirmation.
Criminal record check is an integral part of the process for obtaining security clearances regardless of level of access. Some provinces may require high-risk professions to be screened to ensure public safety. For example, the BC Ministry Public Safety and Solicitor General requires all healthcare professionals, practicum students in healthcare, childcare facilities staff and volunteers, school and hospital staff regardless of position to undergo a CRC via the Criminal Records Review Program.
Criminal offenses can be pardoned either by the Governor General of Canada, National Parole Board or through an order-in-council by the federal government, as determined by the crime involved under the Criminal Records Act.
In Hong Kong, criminal records are maintained by the Hong Kong Police Force. Unlike other countries listed on this article, Hong Kong authorities do not allow for access to criminal records by employers or school purposes. The Chief Executive of Hong Kong has the sole power to pardon offences committed in Hong Kong under section 12 of article 48 Basic Law of Hong Kong. "The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall exercise the following powers and functions... To pardon persons convicted of criminal offences or commute their penalties".
Criminal records are not purged regardless of time or seriousness of the case. However, under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Ordinance (HK Laws. Chap 297), a criminal record is considered 'spent' if it was the first criminal offence, sentenced to less than 3 months in jail or fined less than $10,000 and a period of 3 years has elapsed since conviction and no new conviction is registered against the said person. Spent records are recorded as such with the exception to:
- Attempting to be licensed as a barrister, solicitor , accountant or insurance broker
- Applying to become a trustee or controller for Mandatory Provident Fund or a bank controller, executive or employee
- Disciplinary proceedings against any judicial officer, members of disciplined services, probation officer, employees of Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority, Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (insurance officers) and Securities and Futures Commission (executive grade only)
- Disciplinary proceedings against government officials who are paid on any Directorate or Directorate (Judicial/Legal Group) Pay Scale and those above point 27 on the Master Pay Scale
All Hong Kong residents who plan to adopt children or travel/emigrate to another country can request for a Certificate of No Criminal Conviction - a document that is issued directly to the Consulate and/or government agencies and not to the requester.
In the United Kingdom, criminal records are maintained by the Criminal Records Bureau (England and Wales), Disclosure Scotland (Scotland) and Access Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland), which have partial access to the Police National Computer (PNC). (It is important to stress that a PNC record is not the same thing as a criminal record.)
These records are not publicly accessible, and cannot be viewed without the subject's consent (though an employer may make such consent a condition of employment). Information supplied depends on the level of disclosure. Low-level disclosures give only unspent convictions (i.e. convictions which have not yet been expunged under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act), while enhanced disclosures ideally include all convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings. An enhanced criminal record certificate may contain relevant information that need not relate solely to criminal matters.
Arrests which do not lead to an official finding of guilt (e.g. a conviction or the acceptance of a caution) are not considered part of a person's criminal record, and are not typically disclosed to the appropriate body. However, an enhanced disclosure may include such additional information, supplied at the Chief Police Officer's discretion. Enhanced disclosures are typically used to screen applicants for positions such as police officer and social worker which involve contact with vulnerable groups.
In the United States, criminal records are compiled and updated on local, state, and federal levels by various law enforcement agencies. Their primary goal is to present a comprehensive criminal history. They may be used for many purposes, mostly for background checks including identification, employment, security clearance, adoption, immigration/international travel/visa, licensing, assistance in developing suspects in an ongoing criminal investigation, and for enhanced sentencing in criminal prosecutions. In the United States, these compilations are unlikely to be admissible in court as proof of arrest or conviction. Criminal histories are maintained by law enforcement agencies in all levels of government. Local police departments, sheriffs’ offices, and specialty police agencies may maintain their own internal databases. On the state level, state police, troopers, highway patrol, correctional agencies, and other law enforcement agencies also maintain separate databases. Laws enforcement agencies often share this information with other similar enforcement agencies and this information is usually made available to the public. Registered sex offenders have information about their crimes or misdemeanors readily available, and Department of Correctional Services in many states disseminate criminal records to the public, through media such as the Internet.[verification needed] Usually, the only group in society that is not subject to dissemination of any criminal records is juveniles.[verification needed] Some adults can also be eligible for non-disclosure of their records through the process of Record sealing or Expungement. Some states have official "statewide repositories" that contain criminal history information contributed by the various county and municipal courts within the state. These state repositories are usually accurate so long as the state requires and supervises the uploading of data from the local courts. Some states make reporting to the repository voluntary. The information obtained from these repositories can be incomplete and the use of this information has associated risks. The federal government maintains extensive criminal histories and acts as a central repository for all agencies to report their own data. NCIC (National Crime Information Center) is one such database. Generally, and with a very few exceptions, the records compiled by the federal government are not made available to the private sector. Some private re-sellers claim to offer an NCIC record search. In most cases these claims are fraudulent. Though NCIC records may not be available to private sector companies, they still may hold very accurate criminal records bought from other reporting agencies.
Department of Justice
National Crime Information Center
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) manages the official national criminal history database through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). The NCIC stores information regarding open arrest warrants, arrests, stolen property, missing persons, and dispositions regarding felonies and misdemeanors. The FBI's compilation of an individual's criminal identification, arrest, conviction, and incarceration information is known as the Interstate Identification Index, or "Triple-I" for short. This is basically the FBI's rap sheet (Record of Arrest and Prosecution). 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 may also contain municipal and traffic offenses if reported by the individual agencies. Each individual who has an entry in the Interstate Identification Index has a unique "FBI number" that is used to identify a specific individual. It compensates for the fact that an individual may provide several false names, or aliases, to a law enforcement agency when he or she is booked. An individual may also lie about his or her date of birth or social security number as well, making an independent, unique identification key necessary. It is important to note that the information provided by the Interstate Information Index may come from the agency who "booked" the individual and not necessarily the agency who arrested the individual. Therefore, there may be discrepancies between the arrest date, location, and arresting agency listed in the database and the actual date, location, and agency who made the arrest. The Interstate Information Index may also contain incarceration information as well, listing each time an inmate is transferred from one correctional institution to another as a separate "arrest." The Interstate Information Index is only as accurate as the information reported to it by individual agencies, and frequently lacks comprehensive information on the dispositions of the various arrests it lists. It is best used as a guide on where to find more comprehensive information on the individual.
National Instant Criminal Background Check System
Mandated by the Brady Bill, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is used by the FBI to screen potential firearms buyers. Citizens who are currently ineligible to own a firearm under current laws may have the opportunity to have their firearms rights restored. Eligibility largely depends on state laws. In addition to searching the NCIC databases, NICS maintains its own index to search for additional disqualifiers from gun ownership. Private companies are not allowed access to this system for background checks.
Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System
The FBI maintains the largest biometric database in the world with the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). Criminal submissions from arrests and civil submissions from authorized background checks are stored in IAFIS. Currently, IAFIS has more than 47 million submissions in its repository.
Combined DNA Index System
The Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) stores DNA profiles for both convicted felons in the Offender Index as well as unidentified DNA found at crime scenes in the Forensic Index. CODIS was originally piloted in 1990 as a project among 14 states. Currently, all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the United States Government participate in CODIS.
Department of Transportation
National Driver Register
While not officially a criminal history repository, the National Driver Register (NDR), operated by the Department of Transportation, maintains information on drivers regarding suspended licenses. The NDR maintains a database of information posted by individual states as mandated by federal law. All drivers who have had their licenses suspended for any reason (including suspensions resulting from several successive minor traffic violations, i.e., Massachusetts suspends for three separate speeding tickets over a six month period) have that information posted by state Registry of Motor Vehicles offices to the NDR . Also, the NDR records information concerning convictions of driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances, failing to render aid at an accident involving death or injury, and knowingly making a false affidavit or committing perjury to officials about an activity governed by a law or regulation on the operation of a motor vehicle. Additionally, the NDR contains information on traffic violations resulting from a fatal automobile collision, reckless driving, or racing on the highways. Under federal law, states are required to obtain information collected and stored by the NDR to review records of licensees identified as possible "matches." If a match is obtained, often states will take action to call the match to a hearing to prove that they are not "the same person," placing the burden of proof on the suspected "match" to prove the distinction. Increasingly, state licensees find themselves caught in a Catch-22 situation where the transmission of information causes them to fail to be alerted to the fact that their driver's record has been combined with that of another driver, often to their unique disadvantage. This has led to a growing number of false arrests, citations, and actions being taken by officers against drivers who are, in the end, victims of mistaken identity.
Secure Flight, operated by the Transportation Security Administration, screens United States airline passengers to see if they are on terrorism watch lists. Unlike the predecessors Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) & CAPPS II, Secure Flight does not scan passengers for outstanding warrants nor does Secure Flight use computer algorithms to search for links to flagged terrorists.
Obtaining copies of Federal criminal records
It is possible to obtain copies of criminal records maintained by Federal agencies under the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act. In general, you may only obtain records concerning yourself, deceased individuals, or living individuals who have given you their permission to obtain their records.
Most states have a statewide agency who acts as a clearinghouse for all statewide arrest information. These so-called "state rap sheets" are usually much more detailed than the Interstate Identification Index; usually listing not only the arrest information, but the subsequent court action following that arrest.
National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System
The National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS) is an interface to search each state's criminal and driver records as well as the License Plate Reader (LPR) records going back one year maintained by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Thus through NLETS, a law enforcement agency in one state could search for someone's criminal and driver records in another state. NLETS potentially serves as a better tool to search for minor misdemeanors and traffic violations that would not be in the NCIC.
Expungement of criminal records
In the United States, criminal records may be expunged, though laws vary by state. Many types of offenses may be expunged, ranging from parking fines to felonies. In general, once sealed or expunged, all records of an arrest and/or subsequent court case are removed from the public record, and the individual may legally deny or fail to acknowledge ever having been arrested for or charged with any crime which has been expunged. However, when applying for a state professional license or job that is considered a public office or high security (e.g. security guard, law enforcement, or related to national security), you must confess that you have an expunged conviction or else be denied clearance by the DOJ. There is no post-conviction relief available in the Federal system, other than a Presidential Pardon.
- ↑ CPIC FAQs on Criminal Records Checks
- ↑ How CPIC works
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 VPD Consent form
- ↑ Criminal Records Act ( R.S., 1985, c. C-47 )
- ↑ RCMP Yukon - Criminal Record Check Application Process
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Who Must Have a Criminal Record Check
- ↑ Criminal Record Check Form
- ↑ Vulnerable Sector Verifications
- ↑ Under what circumstances could the criminal record be deleted?
- ↑ Rehabilitation of Offenders Ordinance
- ↑ s.4 Rehabilitation of Offenders Ordinance
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 Schedule to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Ordinance
- ↑ Certificate of No Criminal Conviction
- ↑ WikiCrimeLine: Enhanced criminal record certificate
- ↑ Expungement (Erasing an Arrest or Conviction)
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