Can You Have a Criminal Record and Not Know About It

Many of us would say that they have an immaculate history, and haven’t done anything to violate the law in their entire life, but they end up being unpleasantly surprised when someone claims otherwise. So if you thought that there is no way you can have a criminal record without knowing anything about it, we challenge you to think again. And while you’re at it, try typing your data in just to cross-check whether your assumptions were true or not. The truth may surprise you.

When do people mostly find out about their records?


As it happens often, people search for employment, and employers tend to do a background check on every candidate, just to see who they’re dealing with. The candidate claims he’s clean, but the results of the check done by the employer prove otherwise. How can this be, if you’re completely sure you haven’t done anything against the law? Well, there are a variety of options, which we’ll discuss later in the article. The important thing one should understand at this point is that it can happen to anyone.

You don’t have to commit an actual crime, or be a criminal to have a record…

Here’s something useful everyone should know about criminal records. These are all cases that are public records. Meaning, that even if your case did not result in a conviction, it still remained available as a public record. The same goes for the deferral programs. It could happen you were engaged in one and managed to complete it, but even if the case was dismissed, or you weren’t found guilty of it, it will still stand in your history file. So, if someone claims their records are clean just because they’ve completed a deferral program, the truth and the facts prove otherwise.

At this point, it is important to understand that there is a difference between a charge and a conviction, but when it comes to how the public sees it, there is almost no difference.


Here’s an example… When you were in your twenties, you attended a college party and had some alcohol. Since you were drinking under the legal age limit, you got charged for it. However, the probation program said if you stay out of trouble while it lasts, these charges will be dismissed. Since you obeyed, they were dismissed, and you thought your records are clean. But when you enter your name in the search box we’ve mentioned at the beginning of the article, you were surprised to find out it’s still there. Hence, you don’t need to be a criminal to have a record of your past actions.

Most people find out about this, as we mentioned when the employment process starts. But, it’s useful to learn something from this example. And the lesson is to do a check on yourself when you have time, and if some skeletons from the closet pop out, then one should seek to expunge their record. This will allow you to be entirely clean again, having no tails.

One question you’re probably asking yourself at this moment is whether or not it is possible to actually be charged with something, and not be informed about it at all?

Another surprising answer is yes. If the police suspect you were involved with a crime, they may start the investigation without being obliged to notify you about it. The investigation starts before the official charges. As it does not always end up with charges, it could be you remain clueless about it.

Moreover, you can end up being charged with something without being arrested for it. Leaving you once again with a record you know nothing about.

People often think it is logical for one to be arrested for committing a crime, and the records will follow. But again, this doesn’t have to be the case. You may think this is illegal, but according to the law, it’s not. It is because police in recent years are avoiding arrests because of overcrowded jails. As an alternative they send citations.

Law enforcement officers are allowed to investigate and present what they’ve found out about the crime in front of the prosecutor who then decides whether there will be criminal charges or not. If yes, the court can issue a warrant for the arrest, and you can have zero knowledge about it. Until they knock on your door.

But, there are other situations in which you can end up being surprised like this…


It can happen that someone stole your ID, or other documents, and performed an identity theft. And goes around committing a crime under your name and personal data. This is one of the reasons why you may not be aware of your criminal history.

Hence, one more reason to perform these background checks yourself from time to time, especially if your personal documents were stolen.

Another reason is that your data may be inaccurate. If you are entirely positive you haven’t violated the law, the reason for search results showing you have a criminal record may be because of false data. Someone may have simply made a mistake when entering this data. It’s quite possible.

What can you do about this?

Well, if you have found some dirt while checking yourself which isn’t yours, it’s only natural to turn to the police and ask for more information about the case. We advise you to do this via an attorney, if possible because he will know exactly what to do, who to talk to and how, and more importantly what to do next in order to clean your history from the dirt that isn’t yours. The district attorney’s office also has to have copies of these data, so you may also choose to turn to the person in charge of this position.

Final word

This article surely brought some awareness about all the reasons why your criminal history can be publicly available. Next time you end up in a situation of committing even a minor crime, make sure you file for the expunge on time.