How Long Do Criminal Records Last?

Criminal records can be confusing to navigate for many individuals, and if you have a knock on your criminal record, you’re likely wondering how long it will be there. After all, there are certain things you need to keep in mind when applying for jobs or other opportunities with a criminal record.

This article will help you understand what is included in a criminal record and how long you can expect items to be visible on your criminal background report.

What Is Included in a Criminal Record?

An individual’s criminal record includes the history of a person’s criminal offenses. Any criminal offense that has received a conviction or been tried in court will appear on a criminal record, including felonies, misdemeanors, and in some cases, DUIs.

Many of these items are seen as notable by employers or others who review your background history report, so it’s only natural to wonder how long these items will be viewable by others. Unfortunately, things on your criminal record might be there for much longer than you initially thought – read on for more information on this.

Understanding the Longevity of Criminal Records

While the longevity of your criminal record is highly dependent on state disclosure laws and the specific offenses recorded on your report, you can expect most criminal offenses to stay on your record forever. This means that no matter the offense, it will likely stay there and be public record forever.

However, there are some exceptions regarding who can access your criminal record after a certain period of time. For example, based on state law, most basic background check reports will only date back seven years. A more in-depth criminal record check might show criminal offenses that were committed and recorded further back than seven years. Other states allow the disclosure of crimes up to ten years old. Still, others have regulations surrounding who can access the entirety of your criminal record and in what circumstances.

Summed up, you can expect criminal offenses to stay on your record indefinitely, barring a few special circumstances. If you want to know more about disclosure requirements and how far back individuals can see when they request a background check or thorough criminal record report, check with your state’s specific reporting and disclosure laws.

Below, we give you a little more information about specific types of criminal offenses that appear on criminal records.


Even though misdemeanors are generally reserved for less severe crimes, they will still appear on your record indefinitely. That being said, misdemeanors are often a good candidate for expungement based on the exact nature of the offense, which we’ll give more detail about below.


Felonies are one of the most severe items to have on your criminal record, and they will likely be on your record for life. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do to remove a felony from your record. While expungement might be a possibility, the chances are that you will need to navigate life with a felony on your record indefinitely.

However, many states are banning the mandatory disclosure of felonies or other criminal offenses upon applying for jobs, which helps to even the playing field when seeking work with a felony on your record.


Arrest and conviction records do appear on most criminal record background checks. These records will only be shown if they have been carried out; an arrest warrant or pending conviction is unlikely to be listed on your record until a court date or other fair criminal processes have been completed.

Juvenile Records

Most individuals believe that any criminal offenses committed before turning 18 will be automatically sealed from their record upon their 18th birthday. However, not all juvenile records will be immediately sealed or expunged, and sometimes these criminal offenses can follow an individual into adulthood.

State law greatly affects how juvenile criminal records are treated when the offending individual turns 18. So, it’s important to look up these specific state laws if you are concerned about a juvenile criminal record and want to know your options as you go into adulthood.

Are DUIs a Criminal Offense?

Traffic violations and DUIs are often confused for the same thing, but these are actually two different types of offense. Traffic violations such as speeding, parking tickets, and driving infractions are unlikely to appear on your criminal record unless you have a history of previous offenses and cause enough harm for it to be considered a criminal offense in your state.

DUIs typically count as a criminal offense, but again, this depends on your state’s laws and the way they treat DUIs or DWIs. You can expect a DUI or repeated DUIs violations to lead to a criminal conviction and potentially even a felony, depending on the circumstances of the offenses and state law.

What Is Expungement?

Expungement is the process of sealing an individual’s record from public access. While law enforcement professionals and certain individuals may still be able to access your criminal record, your criminal offenses will be sealed from view by the general public and any employers. Essentially, expungement wipes your records clean so that you won’t need to disclose criminal offenses as you navigate daily life.

The expungement process involves gathering information about your conviction, submitting applications and paperwork to a court, and then appearing in front of a judge to speak about your case and request to have your records sealed. In most cases, you will need an experienced criminal attorney to help you navigate the process and receive the best possible results for your situation.

Staying Informed About Your Criminal Record

Possessing a criminal record can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to mean the end of opportunities in your daily life. Staying informed about your criminal record and specific state disclosure laws, disclosing everything on your criminal background report to potential employers, and exploring topics such as expungement are all helpful ways to ensure you navigate your daily life without letting your criminal record get in the way of opportunities.



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