How long does a criminal record stay on file?

Updated November 22, 2016

A criminal record can affect your job opportunities, housing options and even educational assistance. Unless you are able to expunge or erase it, a criminal conviction will stay on your record forever.

Criminal Record

Everyone that has been arrested or convicted of a crime has a criminal record. Criminal records are generally kept by the state law enforcement agency in each state. State laws vary regarding who may access your criminal record but, in most states, a potential employer or landlord and most government agencies have access.

Time Frame

A criminal conviction, whether it is a misdemeanour or felony, will stay on your criminal record forever in most cases. Unlike negative credit entries or traffic tickets, the record of a conviction does not "fall off" your record after a predetermined period of time.


In many states, a criminal conviction can be expunged or sealed under certain circumstances. If a record is sealed it will not be available to the public. If a record is expunged it is destroyed completely. State law determines which convictions, if any, may be expunged or sealed.

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About the Author

Renee Booker has been writing professionally since 2009 and was a practicing attorney for almost 10 years. She has had work published on Gadling, AOL's travel site. Booker holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Ohio State University and a Juris Doctorate from Indiana University School of Law.