Criminal defense in Austin Texas.

Will It Go On My Record?

Posted By on October 10, 2008

It’s a common question, but not one that’s necessarily easy to answer.

The problem is there’s no one central database – no one record where things either go, or don’t go. Instead, there are any number of government agencies that make records relating to criminal cases. They include police departments, county and district clerks, booking facilities, and state and local prosecutors, among others. Some of these agencies release information to the public (county clerks, for example, and county jails), others (police, prosecutors) do not.

In addition to local agencies, some states maintain statewide databases. In Texas, DPS maintains both a public version, and one that’s limited to law enforcement. The difference is the public version includes only cases where there was a conviction, or a deferred adjudication. The law enforcement version includes every arrest, regardless of the disposition. In both cases, the results are only as good as the information forwarded to DPS by local agencies. DPS charges $3 per name, to search its public database.

The FBI also keeps a record, but it is restricted to law enforcement. (And for good reasons – NCIC records are frequently incomplete, and always hard to interpret.) When Hollywood detectives check someone’s record, this is usually the record they’re talking about.

But when people ask, “Will it go on my record?” they’re usually not so much concerned with NCIC, as they are with landlords and employers, who don’t have access to police records anyway.

So when a landlord or an employer does a criminal background check, who are they getting their information from?

They’re getting it from private companies, who collect information from public sources, and then resell the information to anyone who is willing to pay. The cheapest, and best one I know of, is They’re cheapest, because they’re free, and they seem to be reasonably accurate, though not complete (they lack dispositions information.)

Bottom line: if you’re arrested, or have anything to do with the criminal justice system, a record will be created somewhere. That record is not likely to hurt you, though, in terms of jobs and employment, unless it leads to a conviction or a deferred adjudication.

If you really want a clean record, you’ll have to look into getting an expunction, or an order of nondisclosure from a district judge.


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