Criminal Court Records Contain Errors

Trial and Clerk Errors

I’ve looked at hundreds of criminal records over the years. What I’ve discovered is that criminal court records contain errors.

I know, we all made mistakes: dialed the wrong number, misspelled someone’s name. But when a court clerk doesn’t accurately record a judge’s ruling in a criminal case, it can have serious and long lasting consequences.

Earlier this year I discovered errors in the court records of two individuals. The errors were found in cases dating back to the mid-1980s. Had I not been helping the men seal their criminal records, the errors would never have been discovered.

The Felony that was a Misdemeanor

When Rodney (not his real name) was in his 20s he was charged with felony aggravated criminal sexual abuse for having sex with a minor. The minor told Rodney she was 18 when she was only 15.

Fortunately for Rodney, the charge was amended to misdemeanor criminal sexual abuse. Had Rodney been convicted of the felony charge, he would have been branded a “child sex offender.” Unfortunately for Rodney, the court record incorrectly showed he’d been convicted of the felony charge.

Last year a staffing agency bluntly told Rodney that it had no jobs for him.

The Mysterious Count Three

As a teen, Ken and his twin brother watched as some other teens stole a bike from a child. Ken’s brother was arrested. Ken went to the police station and told police that he, not his brother, had stolen the bike so his brother would be released.

Ken was first charged with burglary and aggravated battery, both felonies. The aggravated battery charge was later dismissed and the burglary charge amended to misdemeanor theft, a sealable offense (unlike burglary). When I pulled up the case on the court’s computer, it was a confusing mess. There was no ruling on the burglary charge and it showed that there were three charges, not two.

Fortunately for Ken, the original court file still existed. Had it been destroyed, Ken would have had no way to prove that the computer record was incorrect.

The Moral to the Story

Don’t assume that your criminal background record is accurate. Have the state police or the FBI run your background so you can see whether the information is correct.