Rap Sheets

rap sheetOne of the most common concerns for people who have previous criminal records or who are currently facing criminal charges is what information shows up on a criminal rap sheet and what is visible to employers or others conducting a criminal background check. People also want to know what, if anything, can be done to clean up their criminal rap sheet.

What law enforcement refers to as a “rap sheet” is a complete list of all of a person’s arrests and convictions for felony and misdemeanor offenses. These rap sheets are typically put together by governmental agencies such as the California Department of Justice and the FBI and are not widely made available. In California, this information is considered confidential and cannot be publicly released. Typically, law enforcement sources use this information to determine a suspect’s criminal history and to see if they have an active warrant.


The only parties that can view a person’s complete rap sheet are law enforcement officers, judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys working in connection with a criminal case, peace officer agencies reviewing a job application, state and local government agencies reviewing job applicants and state licensing agencies.

In addition, a person is allowed to access their own rap sheet in order to review it for accuracy. These records are correlated with a person’s fingerprints, which are taken whenever a person is booked and arrested or if they provide their prints to a state agency through a Live Scan search.

These rap sheets are not available to private employers conducting criminal background searches. Private employers typically rely on outside companies who review public court records and prepare a report detailing a person’s convictions or any active charges that may exist. The information that is available to a potential private employer or landlord is not as extensive as what is available to law enforcement.

There may be several ways to get rid of convictions that are reflected on a person’s rap sheet. The most common way to clean up a criminal record is to have a prior conviction expunged pursuant to California Penal Code Section 1203.4 PC. An expungement will not completely delete the record of conviction, however it will show that the conviction has subsequently been dismissed. For “wobbler” offenses, the conviction must first be reduced to a misdemeanor before it can be dismissed. For DUI cases, an expungement will not prevent a prior DUI conviction from being used to enhance any subsequent DUI offense that a defendant may commit.


Even if a defendant is still on probation for an offense, he or she may still be able to have the offense expunged. The defendant would first have to request that the sentencing judge terminate probation and then expunge the conviction. Judges may consider a motion to terminate probation and expunge where there is a truly compelling reason for releasing the defendant from his or her obligations. In order to be considered for early termination of probation, the defendant must have completed all terms of probation and cannot have committed any new offenses.

A defendant who is trying to clean up his or her record can also attempt to obtain a certificate of rehabilitation. This is not available for all criminal offenses and is significantly more difficult to obtain than an expungement. If a certificate of rehabilitation is granted the next step would be to apply for a governor’s pardon. This is also very difficult to obtain.

In some cases, it may be necessary for someone who was arrested and never charged with an offense or who was ultimately acquitted to file a motion to seal the arrest record. A person can file a motion under California Penal Code Section 851.8 PC to seal the arrest record so that it would be completely removed from his or her record. This motion is also referred to as a “factual innocence” motion and also presents a very high burden for the defendant to meet.

If you have a prior criminal conviction, are currently facing charges or are curious about criminal rap sheets, it is very important that you consult with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer as soon as possible. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is highly knowledgeable about the criminal expungement process and has helped clients successfully clean up their criminal record.

For more information about Los Angeles rap sheets, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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