When a person is taken into custody and arrested, their arrest is recorded into a public record, known as a public arrest record.

This record is then kept and maintained by a law enforcement agency regarding a person’s arrest, detention, or confinement. The details of an arrest are listed in the record, such as:

  • Identifying information, including birth date, hair color, and height
  • Criminal charge(s) that the person was arrested on

An arrest may progress through the criminal justice system or the charges may be dropped. If the charges are dropped or the arrest does not progress further, then the case is closed.

Can Anyone Obtain Information about My Arrest?

Since the arrest record is public, anyone can access the information by going to the jurisdiction’s government website. Also, anyone can obtain the arrest record by going to the county clerk’s office in person.

Is it the Same as a Criminal Record?

Not quite. A criminal record is more extensive than a person’s arrest record because in addition to containing a person’s history of arrests, it also contains information about all criminal charges and convictions that a person has faced. Criminal records are also accessible to the public. They are used to determine whether a person:

  • Is hired for a job
  • Receives housing
  • Obtains U.S. citizenship
  • Receives federal aid
  • Can buy a firearm

Can an Arrest Be Cleared from a Public Record?

Yes, in many jurisdictions an arrest can be cleared or deleted from public record and the person’s criminal record. This is referred to as an expungement or a record sealing. Once a judge has granted an expungement or a record sealing, the arrest record is sealed or destroyed. The arrest is deleted from public records, meaning that a person cannot access the information. In some instances, law enforcement agencies may be able to access the arrest record if it has only been sealed and not expunged.

Whether an arrest or a conviction can be expunged or sealed depends on the jurisdiction. Some only allow an arrest to be sealed or expunged. How long a person must wait for the expungement or record sealing also depends on the jurisdiction.

Should I Talk to a Lawyer about My Public Arrest Record?

Yes, if you have an arrest record, you may want to talk to a What Is a Public Arrest Record?
about getting it sealed or expunged. You will also want to discuss any errors on the arrest record.