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Rap Sheets

Important Information about Rap Sheets

The term “rap sheet” refers to a list of all a person's arrests and convictions. This document is also known as a “criminal record” or a “record of arrests and prosecutions.”

A rap sheet includes information on both misdemeanor convictions and felony convictions, as well as information regarding any arrests and pending charges that appear on court records. Rap sheets are confidential and can only be accessed by specific people.

What is a Rap Sheet?
A rap sheet has information about someone's prior arrests and convictions, called a criminal record.

A rap sheet is an official record of arrests and prosecutions (RAP). It has information that includes charges, convictions, and dismissals. The state of California and the federal government maintain rap sheets on people involved with the law. It is the official record of your criminal history.

Three organizations keep track of criminal records. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the CLETS system operated by California law enforcement agencies collect and store this information.

There are also private companies that compile this information into criminal records. These companies then provide the information to private employers who process criminal background checks on prospective personnel. Rap sheets are confidential and only accessible by yourself and specific people, such as:

  • law enforcement officers,
  • judges,
  • prosecutors,
  • defense attorneys,
  • state licensing agencies,
  • government employers.

You might find it difficult to access your rap sheet. You will have to submit fingerprints and a form to do so. The rap sheet is what most people and agencies call a criminal record, but there are other sources of information about your criminal past.

Who Can Access a Rap Sheet?

As noted above, different types of rap sheets are confidential. Confidential rap sheets have information only available to specific people or entities, depending on the situation.

The people and entities who can see the rap sheet usually include police, judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys (in criminal cases), peace officer agencies (when applying for a job), state and county governments (when applying for a job), state licensing agencies (for granting licenses), and the person named on the rap sheet (to check for accuracy).

Who Can Access a Rap Sheet?
There are only certain people who have access to someone's rap sheet, such as law enforcement.

Keep in mind that private employers can also review publicly available criminal information about prospective personnel when considering them for employment.

An employer could not access your arrest record if it didn't lead to a conviction unless the case is current. Employers are also prohibited from accessing any convictions for bad checks older than seven years or any convictions for which you were pardoned.

If you had an arrest that led to a successful diversion program, then the employer is prohibited from accessing that. If you completed a diversionary program, an employer is prohibited from accessing that information. Certain marijuana offenses are also not eligible to be accessed by prospective employers.

Some pieces of your criminal record could be accessible to the public. Potential employers, landlords, and lenders are some interested parties that can perform a criminal background search on you. Still, they won't be able to access your official governmental rap sheet.

The information on these public criminal records is pulled from what is already available to the public through court records. You need to understand that what is on your public criminal record may or may not be accurate.

How to Get a Copy of Your Rap Sheet?

As discussed above, only specific people can access an individual's rap sheet. If you want a copy of your rap sheet or want to check its accuracy, you can request a copy from the FBI and DOJ.

To get your rap sheet, you must provide proof of your identity by sending in a copy of your fingerprints and paying a processing fee. There are many places where you can get your fingerprints taken for a small fee.

Keep in mind that the FBI does not give out copies of arrest records to anyone but the person who is the subject of the record. For more information, please visit the FBI's Identification Record webpage.

If you want to get a rap sheet from the DOJ, you have to request it from the state DOJ where you live. To get your rap sheet, you will need to include a completed application, proof of your identity by sending a copy of your fingerprints, and payment of the processing fee. The DOJ will only give a rap sheet to the person entitled.

How Can You Clean Up a Rap Sheet?

In the state of California, there are four main ways to clean up a rap sheet, they are:

  • Expungements – This legal process will result in a criminal conviction being deleted from an individual's rap sheet. The individual and the criminal conviction must be eligible to be expunged under state law. If an expungement is successful, you do not have to disclose any information about the case or the previous conviction to potential employers.
  • Pardons – This is a legal process where the state governor will set aside a criminal conviction. The individual and the criminal conviction must be eligible to be pardoned under state law. The individual must submit an application and letter explaining why a pardon is appropriate and showing how the individual has been rehabilitated from the crime.
  • Record sealing – This is a legal process to remove juvenile records from public view altogether. The individual and the juvenile criminal record must be eligible to be sealed under state law. Once a juvenile record is sealed, it is no longer a public record.
  • Certificates of rehabilitation – This court order states that an individual has been rehabilitated after a conviction.

Readers should note that a rap sheet is different from a criminal record. Most criminal record background records don't include a rap sheet because they can only be accessed by certain people discussed above.

How Can You Clean Up a Rap Sheet?
Call us to learn about your legal options.

You should consult with a California criminal defense attorney with experience in record cleaning if you have concerns about your criminal record.

The information that is available through private search companies can have an impact on your life in many different ways.

A defense attorney could help you clean your record, but it won't result in your records being completely erased but could also help you in the employment market.

Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles, California. We might be able to help you take the necessary steps to clean up your record to move on with your life. Contact us for an initial case consultation via phone or the contact form.

We speak English, Russian, Armenian, and Spanish.

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