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Do Police Officers Have Criminal Records?

It is not uncommon for police officers to have criminal records. Most felony offenses, however, do prevent people from becoming police officers or will result in their termination from the police force.

Misdemeanor convictions, especially if they are more than five years old, do not typically disqualify someone from becoming a police officer. Should the person receive a misdemeanor conviction while employed as a law enforcement officer, he or she may not be terminated depending upon the severity of the offense or if it was committed while the person was acting in his or her capacity as a police officer.

Disqualifying Offenses

The types of offenses that usually disqualify a person from becoming a police officer include the following:

  • Use of a controlled substance, other than marijuana, at any time
  • Use of marijuana within the past three to five years
  • Sale of any controlled substance at any time
  • Any felony conviction
  • Revocation or suspension of driver’s license in the past three years
  • Conviction for a sexual offense

Also, these offenses would normally terminate an existing officer's employment. A DUI conviction may not necessarily disqualify a person from becoming an officer, especially if it is several years old, but it depends on the hiring policies of the particular law enforcement agency.

Checking an Officer's Record

Anyone can check to see if police officers have criminal records by contacting the local or county courthouse or by going to the court's database on criminal records. Private companies also have access to criminal records, which they can find for you for a fee.

The Freedom of Information Act also allows anyone to do a free background check on a police officer.

Many police officers, like any other criminal defendant, can petition the court to expunge a criminal offense if they meet the requirements for expungement. If a criminal record is expunged, it will not be publicly accessible.

Police Credibility Problems

A police officer with a criminal record can hamper a criminal prosecution since he or she is vulnerable to impeachment by a criminal defense attorney. Under the rules of evidence, any witness who has been convicted of a crime can be questioned about it. In a close prosecution, a jury may find it difficult to accept the testimony of an officer with a criminal record, especially if there is little or no other evidence linking the criminal defendant to the offense for which he or she is being charged.

Police officers are not immune from having criminal records, but they are often less severe offenses, such as misdemeanors, although a record that has been expunged could include a felony charge.