If you’ve ever been in trouble with the law, you already know that a criminal record can haunt you long after you’ve moved past the event that caused your arrest.

There is something that you probably don’t know, however: there are many different versions of a criminal record and they don’t all contain the same information. Some of them may even have incorrect information — which can cause you a lot of grief if it stands between you and a job or an apartment.

Anyone with a criminal history is well-advised to find out what appears in their own background checks — so that they can address the issue head-on before someone else (like a potential employer) sees it.

In order to get a full picture of what your criminal records contain, you need to request a copy from the following places:

  • Your county record, which can be obtained through the local sheriff’s office. Sometimes called “police checks,” these can be the most forgiving of the criminal records out there. They only include offenses in the county you’re in and don’t show any cases that were dropped, cases in which you were found not guilty or cases that were expunged.
  • Most county clerk of courts now maintain a website that will let anyone review the public criminal history of anyone else — and they also show civil actions, like bankruptcies. That’s important to understand because, even though it isn’t a criminal offense, some employers may consider it a factor if they’re hiring you for a financial position.
  • Commercial background checkers abound, and they can report any non-expunged convictions anywhere in the United States. They are also the ones most likely to contain inaccurate information. If you’re denied employment based on a check by one of these companies, you have a right to know which company provided the information.
  • State Bureau of Criminal Identification agencies (referred to as BCI units) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) generally provide comprehensive and accurate information. They may also include certain records that have been expunged — but they require your permission and fingerprints in order to run the check.

It’s also important to understand that some cases don’t have to haunt you for the rest of your life — if you’ve never discussed having your record expunged, especially if it was a single criminal charge from long ago, an attorney can provide you with the correct information.

Source: lasclev.org, “Understanding and Sealing Criminal Records In Ohio,” accessed Aug. 16, 2017