A criminal charge is a written accusation someone did something or failed to do something punishable by law. Police officers and victims can file reports that lead to criminal charges, but not all hold up. However, you may feel negative effects when charges or convictions show up on a criminal history report.  

Have the arrest removed from your record if no charges result. It’s wise to have charges removed if a case is dismissed in the end, too. Record sealing or expungement is possible even if you have a conviction. 


The police can arrest someone if they suspect he’s committed a crime. The crime could be minor or serious.  Police may bring charges after investigation and working with a prosecutor. Police notify the suspect and may ask him to come to the police station. Finally, police may get a warrant, allowing for search and arrest.


“Booking” follows arrest. During “booking,” police obtain identifying information from the suspect, such as name, address, phone number and driver’s license number. There’s also a check for any outstanding warrants. The police take a “mug shot” and fingerprints, and physical condition is noted. In addition, the suspect will be searched; if the arrest was legal, and evidence is collected for the case. 

Filing Criminal Charges

An arrest doesn’t mean there’ll be charges filed. The prosecutor reviews everything and decides what, if any, criminal charges to file. If you’re arrested and may face charges, you should contact a criminal defense attorney who may be able to talk with the prosecutor before any charges are filed. 

Generally, any person who feels they are a crime victim can file a complaint with the police. Most often, you file with the police department where the crime happened – the jurisdiction. If the police decide against pursuing the case, you can always take your complaint to the prosecutor’s office. A prosecutor can look at the case and decide whether to file charges.  

Removing Criminal Charges

If criminal charges are dropped or dismissed, make sure the arrest record is destroyed, deleted, sealed and/or expunged. The rules and process vary depending on where you live, but it’s important to make sure your record is accurate. Many employers run criminal background checks and an incorrect record may cost you a job. 

In some places, there’s an automatic expungement of arrest records if criminal charges aren’t filed. If criminal charges are filed, but later dismissed, it’s wise to contact a criminal defense attorney and ask if the record can be removed, sealed or expunged. Even with a conviction, sealing or expunging the record is possible.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • How do I get an arrest record removed from my criminal history?
  • Can I stop a person from filing false charges against me?
  • Can a felony conviction be expunged?