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Criminal history

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Criminal history

This article is about the crime term. For the record label, see Criminal Records.

A criminal record or police record is a record of a person's criminal history, generally used by potential employers, lenders etc. to assess his or her trustworthiness. 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.


Individuals can obtain a national criminal history to check themselves.

A person may be required to present a Police Certificate as part of employment screening, as a prerequisite for volunteer work, as preparation for a court appearance, to apply for a visa to enter/stay in some countries, or to satisfy a statutory requirement.

Individuals can obtain a national criminal history in through two ways:

1. Their local police service.

2. A CrimTrac-accredited “broker” such as a commercial background checking service provider. A list of NPCS Accredited Agencies is available from the CrimTrac website.


Persons with criminal convictions in Brazil get their identity cards stamped with an identifiable mark making them recognizable for having criminal records.


In Canada, criminal records are stored in Criminal Records Information Management Services,[1] a centralized database operated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police under the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) since 1972.[2] 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.[3]


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 Template:Cquote

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.[4] 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 Justice.[5]

  • 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 [6] (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.[3] 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.[7]

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 of Justice 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.[5] Many Canadian universities require a Criminal Records Check or other screening procedure (e.g. Child Abuse Registry Check, Vulnerable Sector Screen) as a condition of admission into its programs.[8][9]


Criminal offenses can be pardoned either by the Governor General of Canada, Parole Board of Canada or through an order-in-council by the federal government, as determined by the crime involved under the Criminal Records Act.

Pardon has been renamed as record suspension under Bill C-10, otherwise known as the omnibus crime bill or by its formal name Safe Streets and Communities Act, introduced by the Conservative government in 2011.[10][11] The change officially came into force on March 13, 2012.[12]


In Germany, the Criminal record is called Führungszeugnis and is issued at the federal level, by the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Hong Kong

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".

Spent records

Criminal records are not purged regardless of time or seriousness of the case.[13] 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.[14] Spent records are recorded as such with the exception to:

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.[17] Spent records do appear on such certificates with annotations that such records are spent according to Hong Kong law.[18]


A criminal record (Dutch: strafblad) is stored at Justitiële Informatiedienst in Almelo.[19][20] By sending an e-mail with required data, scan of your passport or ID card, and paying € 4.54 it is possible to have access to your own criminal record (if you have one).[21]

Creating and destroying a criminal record

A criminal record will be created after sentencing because of a violation or crime. The record will exist for 5 years in case of violations or 20 years for crimes. If the sentence is three years of imprisonment or longer, 30 years will be added at the time the criminal record will be stored. A traffic violation (according to the Mulder law) will not be stored in a criminal record, unless there will be a trial. Normally the traffic fine is given by a police officer, and the payment is generally done by banking. There won't be a trial, nor an addition in a criminal record. In case of sexual crimes (article 240b-250) the criminal record will be destroyed after 80 years. (article 4)

Consequences of a criminal record

For certain professions, it is required to not have a criminal record, or have an empty one. These professions can be: lawyer, teacher, executor, professional translator, police officer, etc. A criminal record can also prevent you to get a visa and certain permits.

Declaration about Behaviour

Close to the opposite of a criminal record is a Declaration about Behaviour (Dutch: Verklaring omtrent het Gedrag).[22] This declaration will be given if the person:

  • has no criminal record;
  • has data in the criminal record which is irrelevant for the person who requested it. Not in all cases, because for a police officer you may not have any data in the record.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, criminal records are administered by the Ministry of Justice. Under the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004, records are automatically hidden from the public for less serious offences, if the individual has had no convictions for at least seven years and meets the other criteria of the act.

An individual can request either their current (Clean Slate) or complete criminal record through the Ministry of Justice, or provide authorisation for a third party (e.g. employer) to view the current record. It is illegal, with some exceptions, for a third party to request a complete criminal record.[23]


In Sweden, the police has a record of convictions ("Belastningsregistret"). It does not contain arrests, and its information is not available for general public, even regarding serious crimes. Individuals can ask for a copy of their own record once per year, or against a fee anytime. For employment involving children or for security guards etc, a check will be made against the criminal record. Regular employers more and more often require applicants to get a record copy themselves and give the employer. The number of requests for own copies increased from 40,000 to 199,000 between 2003 and 2012.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, criminal records are issued by the Disclosure and Barring Service (England and Wales), Disclosure Scotland (Scotland/ basic Disclosure for all the UK) and Access Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland), which have partial access to the Police National Computer (PNC). 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 (convictions which have not yet been expunged under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974), 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.[24]

Arrests that do not lead to an official finding of guilt (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, social worker, teacher which involve contact with vulnerable groups and children.

Individuals and the self-employed cannot apply for a DBS check of their own criminal record, as they cannot ask an exempted question (a valid request for a person to reveal their full criminal history, including spent convictions) of themselves. Only organisations registered with the DBS can ask an exempted question and submit applications for criminal records checks. There are two types of registered organisation: a registered body - the employer an umbrella body - a registered body that processes criminal record checks for non-registered organisations who can ask the exempted question.

United States

Main article: Criminal records in the United States

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. Law enforcement agencies often share this information with other similar enforcement agencies and this information is usually made available to the public.[1]

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.

The NCIC (National Crime Information Center) is one such database. Generally, 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.

See also


External links




  • How CPIC works
  • Understanding Criminal Records

Hong Kong

  • Rehabilitation of Offenders Ordinance

New Zealand

  • Criminal records at the Ministry of Justice website


  • Criminal Records Bureau
  • Disclosure Scotland
  • Criminal Record
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