I’m often asked the question “will this be on my record?”  In order to answer the question, one first has to understand exactly where your “record” exists and what it means to have a “record”.

When most people think of their “record” they are thinking about what exists in the National Crime Information Center or the NCIC.  The NCIC is a computerized index of criminal justice information (i.e.- criminal record history information, fugitives, stolen properties, missing persons). It is available to federal, state, and local law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies and is operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  The purpose for maintaining the NCIC system is to provide a computerized database for ready access by a criminal justice agency making an inquiry and for prompt disclosure of information in the system from other criminal justice agencies about crimes and criminals. This information assists authorized agencies in criminal justice and related law enforcement objectives, such as apprehending fugitives, locating missing persons, locating and returning stolen property, as well as in the protection of the law enforcement officers encountering the individuals described in the system.  Arkansas also maintains a similar database called the Arkansas Crime Information Center.

Even after your court case is closed there is always going to be a record of the charge in the NCIC and the ACIC.  There will be an entry showing the date of arrest, the date of resolution, whether you were found guilty or not guilty, and any sentence imposed.  Any law enforcement officer can access this information at any time.  There is no way to “seal” this record.  However, private employers and private individuals cannot access the system.

There is also a “record” of your offense in the courthouse.  If you were sentenced in Washington County Circuit Court then there will be a record of your conviction in your file at the Washington County Clerks office in Fayetteville.  If you were sentenced in Benton County Circuit Court there will be a record of your offense in your file in the Benton County Clerks Office in Bentonville.  These files are open to the public.  When you think about “sealing” or “expunging” your record it is typically this file that gets altered.

Consult with your lawyer before your case is resolved about what your criminal record will reflect when the case is over and about what options you may have to seal or expunge your record in the future.