Being arrested for a crime does not necessarily mean you will be convicted. Often we can help you get charges reduced or dismissed, and avoid jail and a criminal record.
How do I know if I have a misdemeanor on my record?
You can find out if there is a misdemeanor on your criminal history by requesting a copy of your criminal record. You can request a copy of your criminal record from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the relevant agency in your state. In California, that is the California Department of Justice. A criminal defense lawyer can help.
There are several ways to find out if there is a misdemeanor on your criminal record, or “rap sheet.” You can:
Contrary to popular belief, not all criminal records are the same. For example, information about a criminal case that may be on the FBI’s record may not be on the criminal records provided by the local police department.
The FBI will provide a criminal record, or an “Identity History Summary,” on request. Requests can be made:
Online requests are handled by the FBI’s Electronic Departmental Order. Applicants have to:
Fingerprints can be submitted electronically from certain U.S. Post Office locations. These Post Offices may charge an additional fee for taking the applicant’s fingerprints. Fingerprints can also be submitted by mail. They have to be sent with a printout of the confirmation email that was provided at the start of the application process.
Requests sent by mail require the applicant to:
Only current fingerprint forms are accepted. Old fingerprint forms or forms that have previously been processed will be rejected.
The payment has to be in the exact amount. If more than one person’s record is being requested, there is an $18 fee for each person.
An FBI-approved channeler is a private company that will handle the record search process for you. They will collect your information and obtain your fingerprints. They will then file the application package. They will likely charge an additional fee. The FBI maintains a list of these channelers.
State government agencies each have their own process for obtaining a copy of your criminal history.
In California, these requests are processed by the Office of the Attorney General.
California residents have to:
Most local police departments host a Live Scan site. The fee may vary by location. The Office of the Attorney General hosts a listing of Live Scan sites in the state.
Non-California residents have to:
The payment has to be made payable to the California Department of Justice. The record request form, fingerprint card, and payment have to be sent to:
California Department of Justice
Bureau of Criminal Identification and Analysis
Record Review & Challenge Section
P.O. Box 160207
Sacramento, CA 95816
You can also go to your local police department or sheriff’s office and ask for a copy of your criminal record. They will usually take your fingerprints and provide the record, for a fee.
These versions of your criminal record are generally the least thorough. They may not include things like arrest records, criminal charges, or expunged offenses.
Misdemeanors will appear on a background check if the defendant:
The misdemeanor conviction will stay on the defendant’s criminal history until it is sealed and expunged. All criminal offenses on a person’s criminal history will be visible in a reliable background check. However, some background checks only do a criminal history check in state and federal databases. Records for misdemeanor offenses, however, are often stored at the county level. Therefore, they may slip through some background checks.
Misdemeanors will not lead to a conviction, and therefore will not be visible in a background check, if the defendant successfully completed a diversion program.
Misdemeanor offenses that have been expunged are sealed from the person’s criminal record. Most of the time, they will not be visible on a background check.
However, expunged court records are not destroyed. They are just sealed from the public. Certain enhanced criminal background checks, like a Level 2 background check with the FBI, may reveal criminal convictions that have been expunged. These offenses are generally felony-level offenses involving child victims or that require sex offender registration, though.
A misdemeanor is a class of crime. It is generally a criminal offense that carries up to a year in jail for a conviction.
Misdemeanor offenses are often punished with summary probation, though. This is a period of time on supervised release. Defendants have to comply with the terms of their release, as stated in the court order. These often include:
Not complying with any of these rules can lead to a revocation of probation. This can send the defendant to jail to spend the rest of his or her sentence.
Misdemeanors are contrasted with felony convictions. Felonies can carry more than a year in prison. The amount of time of this sentence depends on the severity of the crime.
Having a criminal history comes with numerous repercussions, even if the offense was just a misdemeanor. Some of the most common repercussions of having a criminal background include:
Performing a record check is often the first step towards expunging the offense.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.
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