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Reentry Resource Center - New York

Serving People from Arrest to Reintegration

RAP Sheets

If you have been convicted, or even arrested, for a crime, there is a record of it. This record can exist in many places at once, and it is important to know who has access to it. The court where you were sentenced maintains records of your criminal case, and these records are public information and are available to credit reporting (or "background check") agencies. A record of your arrests and convictions, known as a "rap sheet," is also kept by the Division of Criminal Justice Services, a state agency in Albany. Below is some key information on who can access these records and how you can correct any incorrect information.

For more information, including a step-by-step guide to fixing rap sheet errors, visit the Legal Action Center ( or the Criminal Records section of Reentry Net/NY.

1. What is a rap sheet?

  • "RAP" sheet stands for "record of arrest and prosecution."
  • If you have ever been arrested in New York State AND fingerprinted, you have a rap sheet - a record of all your arrests and convictions, kept in Albany, NY by the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).
  • Who uses rap sheets?
    • Rap sheets are most often used by criminal justice agencies - police, prosecutors, and defense attorneys. However, some public employers also have access to official rap sheets. Child care agencies, hospitals, financial institutions, home health care agencies, occupational licensing agencies, and bonding agencies may also have access to it.
    • The Legal Action Center has a full list of who can access your rap sheet.
    • You will always know if an employer or other agency is requesting a copy of your official DCJS rap sheet because they will need to fingerprint you in order to get it.
  • Most employers and landlords, however, rely on court records instead of official DCJS rap sheets to check on the criminal backgrounds of prospective employees, tenants, etc. Your court records can be obtained directly from the New York State Office of Court Administration for a fee of $65. They can also be purchased at a much cheaper rate from private credit reporting agencies - the kinds of companies that advertise on the internet: "background checks for $10." There are hundreds of small companies that buy information about criminal cases from local court systems and sell it over the internet.
  • Is it possible for rap sheets to have errors?
    • Because criminal history information is complicated, these criminal background reports often have many errors. You should obtain your own criminal background report from the internet so that you know what information your prospective employers might be able to see. Although employers have many ways to find out about your criminal history, the online background check is the most likely.

2. What are the different ways someone can find out about my criminal history?

  • Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) rap sheet - your official arrest and conviction history
    • Based on your fingerprints
    • Only criminal justice and some public agencies have access to your rap sheet.
    • All records kept in Albany, NY
    • See Question #4 for information about how to get your DCJS record.
  • Office of Court Administration Criminal History Record Search - informal history of your convictions reported by the court system.
    • Based on your name and date of birth (not fingerprints)
    • Public access - anyone can purchase a record for $65
    • Records available online through the Office of Court Administration (
  • Credit Reporting Agencies - private companies that report on criminal backgrounds
    • Most information is summarized from court records
    • Also based on your name and date of birth (not fingerprints)
    • Public access - anyone can purchase records, price varies
    • Errors are frequent
  • FBI Rap Sheet - this rap sheet should include information about convictions in every state in the US as well as in Federal court.
    • Based on your fingerprints.
    • Only government agencies and some employers have access to it.
    • FBI records have a lot of errors and missing information: one report found that more than half of arrests in FBI rap sheets have no case outcome reported.
    • See Question #5 for information on requesting a copy of your FBI record.

3. Why should I get a copy of my official DCJS rap sheet and of my FBI rap sheet?

  • Rap sheets frequently have errors on them, including:
    • Information about records that should be sealed
    • Records from another person's case (especially when the search is just based on your name and date of birth)
    • Cases with "no disposition reported" so they look like they are still open even if they are finished
    • Warrants that have been cleared up but continue to appear
  • You will probably be asked about your record on job applications.
    • If you do not answer completely and correctly, and your employer finds out, he/she may not hire you, or may choose to fire you if you are already working there.
    • Most employers will run criminal background checks on you before they hire you, so it is better if you know exactly what is on your rap sheet so you can think about the best way to explain your convictions when you are filling out an application or being interviewed.

4. How do I get a copy of my official DCJS rap sheet?

  • If you were arrested in New York State, the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services ("DCJS") maintains your New York State rap sheet.
  • Note that if you request your own DCJS rap sheet, the copy you receive will include sealed criminal history information. Do not share this rap sheet with a potential employer. If your employer needs a copy of your rap sheet, they must submit their own request.
  • The best place to get your fingerprints taken is at a legal services office or community-based organization that will work with you to request your rap sheet, review it for errors, and prepare for job interviews.
    • In New York City, you can call the Legal Action Center (212) 243-1313 or the Community Service Society Record Repair Hotline (212) 614-5441.
    • Outside of New York City, use LawHelpNY to find a legal service provider.
    • NOTE: Be careful about getting fingerprints taken at the police station. If there is even the slightest chance that you have an open warrant (because of an old arrest, a summons that you forgot about, etc.), you could risk getting arrested if you are fingerprinted at the police station.
  • DCJS contracts with a private company called Identogo to process all personal record review requests that don't come through service agencies.

5. How can I get a copy of my FBI rap sheet?

  • You can get a copy of your FBI rap sheet by writing to:
FBI CJIS Division - Record Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, West Virginia 26306
  • Your letter should include:
    • Your name, address, that you are requesting a personal record request pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 16.30-16.34, and the address that you would like the results of the record check to be mailed to. You should also include your telephone number and/or e-mail address for them to contact you if they have any questions.
    • If you have a particular date which you need the results by, then you should also mention that in your letter to the FBI.
    • You must also include a complete set of fingerprints and your date of birth and your place of birth and $18 (either money order or certified check) made payable to the Treasury of the United States. You may also pay by credit card if you are not requesting to rush the record search.
    • For more information regarding this process see the FBI's website at:
    • Here are instructions for submitting a request directly to the FBI:

6. What kinds of information should be sealed?

When information is "sealed," it is not erased from your record, but it means that most employers and members of the public do not have access to this information.

The following records should be sealed:

  • Arrests that did not lead to a conviction. This can include:
    • Dismissed cases
    • "Voided Arrests" - cases where you were released from the precinct without a date to come back to court
    • "Declined Prosecution" - cases where the prosecutor decided there was not enough evidence to charge you, and released you from court before you saw a judge
    • "Acquittals" - cases where you went to trial and beat your case
    • "Adjournments in Contemplation of Dismissal" - special type of dismissal where your case stays officially open for six months or a year. If you do not get arrested again during that time, the case is dismissed and sealed automatically.
  • Arrests that led to conviction for violations, also called "non-criminal offenses." Violations are not crimes, and are the legal equivalent of a traffic ticket. They should be sealed automatically at the end of the sentence. Common violation convictions include:
    • Disorderly conduct
    • Harassment
    • Possession of less than ⅞ of an ounce of marijuana
    • NOTE: Although VTL 1192(1), Driving While Ability Impaired, is a non-criminal conviction, it will never seal. The same goes for PL 240.37, Loitering for the purpose of engaging in a prostitution offense.
  • Youthful Offender adjudications - If you were convicted of an offense when you were 16, 17 or 18 years old, the judge could have chosen to set aside your conviction and offer you a Youthful Offender adjudication (often called a "YO") instead. For first-time misdemeanor convictions, a YO should be automatic; for future convictions it is up to the judge. Check with your defense lawyer to see whether you have any YO adjudications. You don't have to disclose them to employers, but it's good to know about them.
  • Family Court (Juvenile Delinquent) convictions - any conviction you got in Family Court is a juvenile delinquent conviction, not an adult criminal conviction, and should be sealed for employment, housing, and other civil purposes. In some cases law enforcement agents (like police officers and prosecutors) may have access to some Family Court records.

It's important to note that many cases are not sealed properly. You should obtain a copy of your rap sheet to make sure that these cases have been sealed so that employers cannot see them or ask about them. There is more information below on how to seal a case that was not sealed correctly.

7. Can I do anything to seal criminal convictions (misdemeanors and felonies) on my rap sheet?

  • Unfortunately, the answer is usually no. At this time most criminal convictions - even misdemeanors - cannot be sealed or expunged in New York State, even if they are decades old.
  • The one exception is Conditional Sealing under the Rockefeller Drug Law Reforms passed in 2009. This applies only when you have successfully completed a court-ordered drug program.
  • However, you can apply for certificates that show rehabilitation - information about this is can be found in Reentry Net's Conditional Sealing Folder and in the Legal Action Center's booklet on conditional sealing.

9. How do I fix errors on my rap sheet?

  • The Legal Action Center has published a booklet to teach you how to get a copy of your rap sheet and then review and correct its mistakes. This booklet is called "A Guide to Getting, Understanding, and Correcting your Criminal Record" and is available at:


This handout is an excerpt from The Consequences of Criminal Charges: A People's Guide, published by The Bronx Defenders. It is partly adapted from the Legal Action Center's booklet "A Guide to Getting, Understanding, and Correcting Your Criminal Record." It is for informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for legal advice. It is up to date as of November 2013.

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