Understanding & Reading a Criminal Rap Sheet

DUI Arrest Mugshot

When a person gets arrest and fingerprinted in a state, that person now has what is called a “rap sheet” in that state. A rap sheet is a record of criminal activity that is maintained by the State Department of Justice or DOJ for short.

Each time that a person gets arrested within the same state, another entry is logged on their rap sheet for that state. Say for example that that same person gets arrested in California for a crime; the California State Department of Justice will create a separate rap sheet on that individual even if that person already has a rap sheet in the state of Nebraska for a criminal offense committed in that state.

So every time that an individual is arrested and fingerprinted in a different state, a new rap sheet is created. If a person happens to get arrested in 10 different states, they will have 10 separate rap sheets.

If a person has ever committed a federal crime they will also have a rap sheet that is maintained by the FBI at the federal level. The FBI also maintains a comprehensive record of a person’s nationwide arrests along with a person’s federal arrest record.

When a person who has been arrested for say driving under the influence (DUI) goes to court and their case is adjudicated (decided), the court will inform the DOJ of the outcome in the case. The common dispositions in a case like DUI include “Not Convicted”, “Dismissed”, “Acquitted”, and “Convicted”.



In the case of a DUI offense, a conviction recorded to a person’s rap sheet either means that a plea of guilty was entered by the defendant or the defendant was found guilty of the offense at trial. A criminal conviction (as is the case in a DUI conviction) offense is determined by both the disposition of the case and the classification of the offense, whether it was a Misdemeanor or Felony offense.

As an example, if you received a deferred entry of judgment based upon a guilty plea and successfully completed the court appointed probation period, the guilty plea is not considered a conviction if the probation period was successfully completed.

A conviction can still show up on a person’s rap sheet even though the person may have never served any jail time. A court decree of probation, fines, community service, or any conditional sentences are all considered convictions. A disposition entry on a rap sheet will contain information about the type of offense a person was convicted for.

The typical offenses that will appear on a person’s rap sheet include infractions, which are a non-criminal offense that may consist of a fine, but no jail time. An example of an infraction offense would be a traffic related offense or a non-traffic related offense such as an arrest for loitering in a public area.

A standard first offense DUI conviction that results in a fine, a certain number of days or months in jail along with other various penalties is typically classified as a Misdemeanor offense. A serious criminal offense that could result in possible prison time including robbery, burglary, arson, carjacking, and DUI that involves bodily injury to another person are all classified as Felony offenses.

The fourth type of offense that may appear on a person’s rap sheet is what is known as a Wobbler. Depending on what state a person lives in this offense may be known by a different name. A Wobbler is any criminal offense that could be classified as either a Misdemeanor or a Felony, hence the term “wobbling” between the two categories. Common Wobbler classifications include DUI, assault with serious bodily injuries, grand theft, and possessing stolen property.

There are also special dispositions that may appear on a rap sheet including a deferred entry of judgment. An example of a deferred entry of judgment would be when a person has been charged with say, driving under the influence and meets specific criteria set forth by the court, such as having no prior convictions involving drugs or violence, you may be eligible. In the case of a deferred judgment, the prosecution must agree to the proposed deferred judgment in order for it to be accepted by the court.

A Conditional Sentencing disposition is when a person has satisfied certain court ordered conditions, such as attending and successfully completing a court ordered alcohol and drug treatment program and therefore is not required to serve any jail time due to the fact that they satisfied the sentencing condition set forth by the court.

A third type of special disposition would be Vacating or Setting Aside a Guilty Plea or Verdict. The court may set aside a guilty plea or verdict after a successful appeal has been made by your DUI lawyer or upon the fulfillment of all court ordered probationary conditions.

If a court issues a bench warrant for your arrest for failure to appear for your assigned court date, the court will inform the DOJ of the failure to appear and the issuance of a bench warrant for your arrest. Once a bench warrant has been issued by the court, the warrant will appear on your rap sheet along with any previous convictions.



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