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How far back do criminal record checks go?

Updated April 17, 2017

Criminal background records keep track of a criminal's acts for their entire criminal career. But records' systems can be limited.

Records Kept

In general, once a crime record is placed on file, the record remains in the system until the person dies or reaches an advanced age such as 100 years old.

Age of Records

The oldest age of a record depends on how long the state has kept records on the crime and disposition in the system. A state might have begun keeping records as early as the 1930s or as late as the 2000s.

Who Searches

A state might not make the full length in the file available to any searcher. Criminal justice officers conducting searches might have access to the full length, while the public has access to only a few years.

Record Type

A searcher can find convictions for the longest length of time in the past, especially felony convictions. Arrests without a disposition and diversion programs might stay on record a few years or less.

Removed Records

After the record remains on file a period of time, an official can expunge or annul a record. The public no longer has access.

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About the Author

Adam Benjamin Pollack is a San Diego native dedicated to the great sentences on civil society. He authored the Subchapter S Report to tell legal news for the American Bankers Association. He holds a Juris Doctor from Indiana University and a Master of Public Policy from University of California, Berkeley.