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What happens to criminal history information after a conviction?

People in Iowa who have been accused of committing a criminal act rightfully have concerns about how these charges may affect their criminal record. Having a criminal record lead to several negative consequences, including jeopardizing a person's ability to get a job or gain admission to a college or university. In addition, criminal records are public information, so anyone with an agenda against a person could access and transmit this information freely. In short, having criminal record in Iowa is never a good thing, but there are steps a person can take to protect themselves.

All criminal conviction records in Iowa are stored in the Criminal History Record Dissemination Unit of the Division of Criminal Investigation. These records are accessible to anyone and do not require the consent of the person whose records are requested. These records include most convictions for everything other than simple misdemeanors, and most conviction records are stored throughout the person's lifetime.

However, the Division does not freely disseminate arrest records and other matters that do not result in a criminal conviction. For example, some defendants are able to get the court to agree to a deferred judgment, in which case the person agrees to enter into a diversionary program or comply with the terms set forth by the court. If they successfully complete the program and comply with the terms, the court will dismiss the charges and no conviction will be filed. Records regarding a diversion or deferred judgment cannot be accessed by the public without the consent of the defendant.

The best and most important thing a person can do to avoid a criminal record is probably to get more information about their pending criminal charges and their defense options. By successfully avoiding a conviction or entering into a diversion program, a person can typically avoid the consequences and worries that come with having a publicly accessible criminal record.

Source: Iowa Dept. of Public Safety "Criminal Records FAQ," accessed Jan. 18, 2015

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