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What Is a Criminal Record in Tennessee?

Criminal records, also known as rap sheets, contain information on the criminal antecedents of an individual and their interactions with the criminal justice system in Tennessee. Information on the arrest, alleged crime or charges, court proceedings, rehabilitation, or correctional status of the individual may be found in their criminal record.

Of all the several police records compiled on an individual, criminal records are the most comprehensive and provide definitive proof of guilt. Other police records, such as arrest records, warrants, and police logs, do not provide definitive proof of guilt. Instead, such records contain supplementary information on the content of criminal records in Tennessee.

Are Criminal Records Public in Tennessee?

Yes. The Tennessee Freedom of Information Act allows individuals to access public criminal records provided they make requests to the approved record custodian—Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). Criminal records obtained from the TBI will contain the following information:

  • Name and aliases of the offender
  • Date of birth and age
  • Race
  • Physical description such as height, weight, hair color, eye color
  • Markings such as tattoos and /or scars
  • Charges
  • Convictions
  • Sentences
  • Correctional status
  • Fingerprint
  • Photograph

A criminal record search will reveal available information unless formally sealed or expunged. Before July 2017, only persons with dismissed criminal charges could expunge their records. Today, Tennessee laws allow persons convicted of certain offenses to seal or expunge their criminal history provided they meet statutory requirements.

Criminal records, considered public in the United States, are made available through some third-party aggregate sites. Searching with third-party websites is often easier as the information is not limited to geographic record availability. Information found on third-party websites can serve as a jumping off point for parties searching for a specific record or multiple records. Typically, requesters must provide the following information to gain access to these records:

  • The record subject’s name, unless the subject is a juvenile.
  • The record subjects’ last known location, including cities, counties, and states.

Third-party websites offer these search services, but they are not government sponsored. Availability of records may vary.

How to Obtain Criminal Records in Tennessee?

Interested persons may obtain criminal records from the Criminal Justice Information Service Division via online or mail requests. This name-based service costs $29 per person, but a requester may submit a fee waiver request for a free public criminal record check. The record custodian is more likely to grant the waiver request if releasing the record serves the public’s interest and not commercial purposes.

What Are Tennessee Arrest Records?

A Tennessee arrest record provides official information on persons who have been apprehended or taken into the custody of law enforcement officers on the basis of an alleged crime. Persons arrested may be officially charged with a crime, in which case, the criminal justice system is initiated against them. An arrest does not always result in a criminal charge. Nevertheless, an arrest record will contain information on the arrested person such as their name, date of birth, race, physical description, and most importantly, their fingerprint, collected and stored through the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS)used in identifying persons under arrest.

In Tennessee, police reports and police reports are not the same as arrest records, despite the terms being commonly used interchangeably. Police records document the actions of police officers, while arrest records include arrest information as it applies to a citizen.

Are Arrest Records Public in Tennessee?

Yes, anyone can obtain public arrest records in Tennessee. However, if such records fall within the nine exemptions provided under the Freedom of Information Act, agencies may fail to provide such records to requesters. Generally, free arrest records in the state are maintained and disseminated by the local law enforcement agencies or county sheriff. While some counties provide an online arrest search tool for all residents, other county sheriffs accept only mail or in-person requests. Other public records are available through the TennCare Public Records Portal.

What Are Tennessee Arrest Warrants?

An arrest warrant in Tennessee is an official document that empowers law enforcement officers to take a person into custody for an alleged offense. An arrest warrant often contains the name, address or location, physical descriptions, and other information that confirms the authority conferred by the court on behalf of the state to law enforcement officers and identifies the intended arrestee. A judge or magistrate issues law enforcement agents an arrest warrant on the grounds that they show probable cause or persuasive reason or evidence that the person named on the warrant of arrest has allegedly committed a crime. Persons who wish to obtain copies of arrest warrants may contain the agency authorized to execute the warrant. Alternatively, the requester may perform an active warrant search on the police department’s official website.

What are Inmate Records in Tennessee?

Tennessee inmate records contain information on the status of persons who were or are serving a term of incarceration in a county jail or state prison. The Tennessee Department of Corrections is in charge of state inmate records, which may be obtained online via a name-based inmate search. Meanwhile, jail records are available on the county and city jail websites.

What Is The Tennessee Sex Offender Registry?

Per Tennessee’s sex offender registration law, law enforcement must collect information regarding convicted sex offenders and make the information publicly available on the sex offender registry. State law also directs law enforcement to continually update the registry with additional information regarding the restrictions and status of registered sex offenders in Tennessee. Besides the state registry, the Department of Justice also maintains a National Sex Offender Registry for all registered sex offenders around the country.

What is a DUI in Tennessee?

Operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or a controlled substance is a serious traffic violation classified as Driving Under the Influence or a DUI in Tennessee. Because drunk driving has been a leading cause of death, Tennessee pursues these cases relentlessly. Thus, drivers face significant administrative and court-imposed penalties. A blood alcohol content (BAC) test is typically conducted to determine if a driver is under the influence. If a BAC level is over the legal limit, it is a law violation.

Generally, a DUI conviction in Tennessee comes with a mandatory sentence of 48 hrs behind bars and up to 12 months in jail. The court may also impose other penalties, such as a license suspension and alcohol ignition interlock. Furthermore, the drunk driving conviction will remain on the individual’s driving record for life.

What are Misdemeanors in Tennessee?

A misdemeanor is an offense defined under Title 39 of the Tennessee Code and generally described as lesser offenses in comparison to felonies though they may be punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days imprisonment and up to $2,500 in fines. Misdemeanors are separated into different levels, Class A, B, C. Depending on the severity of the crime, the law also provides applicable punishments.

  • Class A misdemeanors in Tennessee carry jail sentences of up to 11.5 months and fines of up to $2,500. Common Class A misdemeanors include domestic assault, possession of marijuana, and DUIs.
  • Class B misdemeanors in Tennessee carry jail sentences of up to 6 months and fines of up to $500. Common Class B misdemeanors include reckless driving and prostitution.
  • Class C misdemeanors in Tennessee carry jail sentences of up to 1 month and fines of up to $50. Common Class C misdemeanors include speeding, wildlife violations, and petty theft.

What Are Felonies in Tennessee?

A felony offense is a serious criminal offense that poses a great threat to lives and property. The most severe punishments are reserved for felonies by the law and the courts because of the devastating effects they have on people and society as a whole. Tennessee laws grade felonies by class, depending on the gravity of the offense, and prescribe appropriate punishment for each class of felonies.

  • Class A felonies are punishable with a minimum of 15 years but not more than 60 years in prison and a fine not exceeding the sum of $50,000 except the law states otherwise.
  • Class B felonies may result in a prison term of up to 30 years and a minimum of 8 years in prison. An additional fine of up to $25,000 may be assessed and payable by the offender.
  • Class C felonies carry up to a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 15 years in prison. A fine of up to $10,000 may be applicable.
  • Class D felonies, 2 years but not more than 12 years in prison. A jury may assess a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Class E felonies are the least severe of all the classes of felonies and may be punishable with up to 6 years in prison. The minimum sentence for class E felonies is one year in imprisonment and a fine of not more than $3,000
  • Penalties such as death and life imprisonment are reserved for capital offenses like 1st-degree murder.

What is Probation and Parole in Tennessee?

Parole records provide information on the early conditional release of an inmate from incarceration after they have served part of their prison sentence and due consideration at a parole hearing by the Tennessee Board of Parole. The Parolee is released into the community under strict terms and conditions to ensure they refrain from further criminal activities, receive the necessary support to reintegrate them into society, and see to it that they pose no risk or threat to public safety. A parolee is subject to the supervision of a Parole officer who may enforce the Parolee’s conditions of Parole and issue the Parolee a warning or recommend the revocation of parole if the Parolee violates vital conditions of their parole, such as committing another crime. Parole is usually granted for a specified period of time, and the parolee may be discharged and issued a certificate of discharge by the Board once they have successfully completed their sentence and strictly abiding by the conditions of their parole. Parole information remains part of the parolee’s public criminal records, even after they are discharged.

Probation records contain information on the sentences pronounced by a court following the conviction of an offender for a criminal offense. It is a form of leniency granted by the court, often for first-time offenders or minor criminal offenses, permitting the offender to serve a specified term under the supervision of a probation officer and the Department of Corrections. The court may also order probation as part of a prison sentence such that the offender may serve part of their sentence in incarceration and the other within their community.

The probationer is not without limitations while on probation. In fact, the court imposes strict conditions that the probationer is required to comply with or risk revocation of probation and possible incarceration.

What Are Juvenile Criminal Records in Tennessee?

A juvenile criminal record contains information on the criminal antecedents of a person below the legal adult age. A juvenile delinquent in Tennessee is a person below the age of 18 who is alleged to have committed an offense or has been adjudicated as a delinquent by the Juvenile Court following the applicable court procedures and proceedings. Juvenile court records are generally restricted from public access except as permitted by Tenessee statute in cases where the juvenile is 14 years and older and has committed a serious offense such as 1st or 2nd-degree murder, aggravated rape, rape, rape of a child, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapping.

Juvenile records may be expunged in Tennessee if the juvenile meets all the criteria for expungement provided by Tennessee Code § 37-1-153, which includes

  • They are at least 18 years old.
  • Have never been convicted as a minor or adult of a sexual offense
  • The court has reasons to believe that the minor has been reformed since their last adjudication, and it is in their interest to expunge the juvenile criminal records
  • It is at least one year since their last juvenile adjudication

Expungement of juvenile court records may not necessarily affect law enforcement records such as fingerprints, photographs, and files on the criminal act allegedly committed by the juvenile.

What Are Tennessee Conviction Records?

A conviction record contains information on the final verdict of the court following a criminal trial in which the offender was found guilty or pleaded guilty to the criminal charges against them. Interested persons can get Tennessee conviction records via the Public Case History maintained by the Tennessee State Courts.

Once convicted, the court will pass a sentence, a penalty to hold the offender accountable for the offense. The sentence may include a term of incarceration, incarceration with eligibility for parole, probation, a combination of incarceration and probation, payment of fines, restitution, and other sentences, or a variety of sentences permissible under the law, depending on the class of offense convicted for, the circumstances of the case and the trial court.

Find Tennessee Criminal History Record for Free

A criminal history record, also called a "criminal record" or "rap sheet", summarizes a person's contact with law enforcement agencies. The record contains details about a person's arrests, convictions, sentences, dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and parole violations. It also includes personal information about a criminal offender, including their full name, eye and hair color, weight, height, date of birth, and social security number.

In Tennessee, criminal history records carry information on misdemeanor and felony arrests based solely on fingerprint submissions by the arresting agencies; the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) maintains these records. Individuals can obtain Tennessee criminal history records from the department's Criminal Justice Information Service (CJIS) Division through online and mail requests. Typically, it costs at least $21.90 to obtain a criminal record from the TBI. However, it is possible to have this fee waived if the record custodian believes that releasing the record will serve the public interest.

Still, one can check with a local police department or sheriff's office for free criminal record searches. However, there may be prescribed copy fees.

The Tennessee Code, Section 38-6-109, provides the requirements and procedures for obtaining criminal history records (or criminal background checks) within the state of Tennessee.

Are Police Records Public in Tennessee?

Yes. Records maintained by police departments in Tennessee are considered public. Police records include all records maintained for the detection, investigation, prosecution, and prevention of criminal offenses. Examples of police records include crime/incident reports, accident reports, arrest logs, audio/video recordings, warrants, investigation reports, officer-involved shooting reports, crime statistics, and training records.

Although the Tennessee Public Records Act grants state citizens the right to inspect public records, some records are statutorily exempt. Thus, certain police records are excluded from public viewing, including:

  • Documents containing identifying data about any employee, law enforcement officer, or informant (Tennessee Code, Section 4-6-140(c))
  • Investigative reports of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and others mentioned in Tennessee Code, Section 10-7-504(a)(2)
  • Identifying information of victims of sexual offenses, including names, home addresses, telephone numbers, social security numbers, any photographic or video depiction of the victim, and whether the defendant is related to the victim, except the relationship is an essential element of the offense (Tennessee Code Section 10-7-504(q)
  • Juvenile identifying information (Tennessee Code Section 10-7-504(t))
  • Law enforcement documents and files related to proceedings within the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts (Tennessee Code Section 37-1-154)
  • Juvenile fingerprints, photographs, audio and video recordings (Tennessee Code Section 37-1-155)
  • Law enforcement body-camera video recordings (Tennessee Code Section 10-7-504(u))
  • Identifying information of a crime victim (Tennessee Code Section 40-38-111(i)) 
  • Wire, oral, or electronic communications intercepted by any means authorized under Tennessee Code Section 40-6-304(f)

How to Obtain Police Records in Tennessee 

Police records in Tennessee are maintained by the record section of each police department, which receives, reviews, and files the records for reference and prosecution purposes. Therefore, individuals can request police records from the specific division believed to have a record.

Generally, requests for copies of non-exempt police records can be made in person, via email, or by telephone. However, copy fees may be required for some police records. This fee may be waived if the cost for reproduction is less than $50.

Some eligibility criteria that may apply when accessing public Tennessee police records, as stated in the Tennessee Rules and Regulations for Access to Public Records, include:

  • Requests must be made using the Public Records Request Form (SF-1565)
  • Requesters must submit proof of Tennessee citizenship to receive or inspect copies of public records. Acceptable documents include:
    • A valid Tennessee driver's license or other state-issued photo ID showing the requester's Tennessee address, or
    • A business letterhead with the business address in Tennessee

Are Police Reports Public Record?

A police report contains an arrest or incident's facts, circumstances, and timelines. Usually, it is written by the responding officer and submitted to the police department for review and filing. Examples include accident reports, incident reports, and arrest reports.

Police reports in Tennessee are open to the public under the state Public Records Act. Citizens can access these reports from the custodial police departments. Some reports require the remittance of a fee to a police department before release.

How to File a Police Report with Tennessee Law Enforcement

To file a police report with Tennessee law enforcement, an individual may visit a city police department or county sheriff's office during regular business hours or call the designated phone number on a law enforcement agency's website.

Notwithstanding, many police departments provide an online crime reporting system (typically located on a "File a Police Report," "Report Crime", or ¨Submit an Online Police Report" page) as a more convenient and simple means of reporting crimes in Tennessee. However, this online service can only be used for non-emergency crimes. Further, the crimes that can be reported online vary by jurisdiction.

For instance, an individual can only report the following crimes to the Nashville Police Department:

  • Theft of personal items like wallets and phones
  • Mailbox thievery
  • Scams
  • Traffic enforcement
  • Miscellaneous criminal activities, such as vandalism, abandoned vehicles, disruptive noise, and loitering
  • Identity theft
  • Annoying phone calls
  • Car accidents 
  • Criminal mischief
  • Petit larceny, such as the theft of property worth $1,000

Generally, those filing police reports online in Tennessee must have functional email addresses and be 18 years or older. Individuals must also note that a report cannot be submitted anonymously; one must indicate their name, phone number, and location to submit a report. Also, the reporting party must have information about the incident's date and time, place, and witnesses (if any). Above all, the incident must have occurred within the jurisdiction that the person wishes to file the report.

After submitting an online crime report, the police agency will review the report, and the individual will be contacted if further investigation or information is needed.

Where to Find Free Public Police Records

Under the Tennessee Freedom of Information Act, police records maintained in Tennessee are publicly accessible, except for confidential records. These public police records can be requested at the different police departments during regular business hours for free, but some records will require the requester to pay a fee to a law enforcement department to obtain copies. At times, an individual can retrieve a particular number of pages of a police record for free, but the other pages will require the payment of a fee.

Additionally, the public can search online public records databases maintained by local police departments and sheriff's offices to find free public police records in Tennessee.

How to Find Mugshots in Tennessee 

A mugshot is a police photograph taken from the shoulders up after a person's arrest. It allows investigators, the public, or the victims to identify criminals and suspects of crimes.

Mugshots in Tennessee are considered public records and may be found in arrest records, sex offenders registries, and inmate records. Mugshots are available at all local police departments in the state since they are taken when someone is arrested/charged with a criminal offense. Thus, interested persons can visit or call their local police division's to obtain mugshots.

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