A person acquires a criminal record in Tennessee the first time they are arrested and fingerprinted for a felony or misdemeanor charge by law enforcement in the state. Subsequent arrests and the resulting criminal dispositions will be added to the person’s criminal record.
State law enforcement agencies and courts forward criminal history record information to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which maintains the state’s central repository for criminal history information.
Criminal records are accessible to the general public in Tennessee: the TBI’s Tennessee Open Records Information Services (TORIS) website can be used to look up the criminal record of anyone in the state.
What is a criminal record?
A criminal record is an official document detailing a person’s criminal convictions, pending criminal cases, prior arrests, and other interactions with law enforcement agencies. Additional names for a criminal record include criminal history record, rap sheet, and a police record.
As with marriage records and court records, criminal records are generally public records in the United States and can be accessed through a criminal background check. However, public access to specific criminal record information varies from state to state.
In the State of Tennessee, criminal records are public records and can be accessed by using TORIS, a fee-based search tool for criminal history record information.
What is included in a Tennessee criminal record?
As criminal records are kept by law enforcement agencies at all levels of government in the United States, a Tennessee criminal record may vary in format and content depending on the law enforcement database from which it is accessed.
Generally, a Tennessee criminal record will include the following information:
- A person’s full name and possible aliases
- Personal information such as age, date of birth, sex, ethnicity, height, weight, and other physical characteristics
- Fingerprints and mugshot
- Misdemeanor criminal offenses and convictions
- Felony criminal offenses and convictions
- Past and outstanding arrest warrants
- Pending and dismissed charges
However, the general public will not be able to offenses committed by juveniles on a criminal record obtained through a TORIS search.
Why would someone access a criminal record?
There are many reasons to access a criminal record.
- Most commonly, people search criminal records as a way to run a background check on a particular person.
- They’re also used by law enforcement to identify or locate people involved in unsolved crimes or by the court system to determine an appropriate sentence after a conviction.
- An individual may want to access his or her own record as well. It’s not uncommon for people to request their own criminal records to see what information is public.
- In some cases, a record could be inaccurate or include outdated information. If that’s the case, it’s important to have the record corrected.
What’s the difference between an infraction, misdemeanor, and felony?
Arrests and convictions listed on a criminal record are separated into three categories: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.
To give a better understanding of the information listed on a criminal record, here’s a quick overview of each category of offense:
- Infraction – An infraction is a minor violation of the law that is regulated at the state level. Punishment for an infraction is usually just a fine or a written warning, rather than a jail or prison sentence. Examples of infractions include minor traffic violations, public nuisance offenses, and littering.
- Misdemeanor – A misdemeanor is a crime that is more serious than an infraction, yet less serious than a felony. Generally, a misdemeanor punishable by a term of imprisonment of less than a year, or by a term of probation. An individual convicted of a misdemeanor is more likely to serve time in a county or local jail than in a federal or state prison. Examples of misdemeanors include driving under the influence, most drug abuse violations, and petty theft.
- Felony – A felony is the most serious type of crime, often characterized by the use of a weapon during a crime, serious injury to a victim, and/or holding a person against their will. Felony convictions typically result in a term of imprisonment of more than one year in a state or federal prison. Examples of felonies include rape, murder, and grand theft.
What is the difference between a Tennessee arrest record and a Tennessee criminal record?
While an arrest record is an official document including the details of a specific arrest, a criminal record is a more comprehensive document that includes a person’s entire criminal background known to law enforcement agencies.
How do I search for a Tennessee criminal record?
You can use the fee-based online search tool Tennessee Open Records Information Services (TORIS) to look up whether or not a person has a criminal record in Tennessee. If the subject of the criminal background check has a criminal record in the state, a copy of the criminal record will be forwarded to you by the TBI.
Here’s an overview of TORIS:
- A single search costs a non-refundable $29, which can be paid by debit or credit card. Even if a search yields a negative response, you still must pay the fee.
- A request sent through TORIS is a name-based record check, rather than a fingerprint-based check. Spelling the subject’s name correctly is essential, as the search will not return results based on variations of the name.
- Juvenile offenses will not be returned by a TORIS check.
How do I obtain a physical copy of a Tennessee criminal record?
A TORIS search returns criminal records in PDF format, which you must print yourself in order to have a physical copy of the record.
Why can’t I access a Tennessee criminal record?
There are a number of possibilities why a TORIS search may not return a criminal record for a particular search subject.
Here are some of the most common reasons:
- The person does not have a criminal record in Tennessee.
- The person committed offenses as a juvenile, which are not public record in the state.
- The person was arrested but not fingerprinted. Only information about fingerprinted subjects is forwarded to the TBI.
- The person has a criminal record under a different name or alias in Tennessee.
- The person has a criminal record in a different state.
- The person’s criminal offenses have been sealed or expunged.
How do I search for Tennessee criminal case court records?
In order to access criminal case court records in Tennessee, you should contact the court clerk of the Tennessee court that processed the case and make a request to view the record. Visit the Tennessee Courts: Circuit, Criminal, Chancery & Business Courts page to find the address and contact information for every Tennessee court.
Additionally, you can use the Tennessee Supreme Court: Public Case History tool to check the status of cases held in the Tennessee Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Court of Criminal Appeals.
Does Tennessee allow criminal records to be sealed or expunged?
A criminal charge may be eligible for expungement in Tennessee under the following circumstances:
- A trial resulted in a not guilty verdict.
- An individual was arrested and released without formally being charged with a crime.
- A grand jury returned a “no true bill”.
- Charges were dismissed.
- A case resulted in a “nolle prosequi” (prosecution not pursued).
- A court hearing resulted in an order of protection being denied.
The first step in expunging a criminal charge is to file a request in the court that first processed the case. Visit this tncourts.gov page to learn more about the expungement process.
How can I have false information on a Tennessee criminal record corrected?
In the case that your Tennessee criminal record has incorrect information or falsely attributed arrests as the result of identity theft, you may submit an official challenge to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Follow these steps to file a challenge with the TBI:
- Get your fingerprints taken on an official fingerprint card at a local law enforcement agency office. This may include a variable fee.
- Complete the fingerprint card by filling out your personal and contact information.
- Highlight the inaccuracy on a copy of the criminal record.
- Write a notice detailing the error and give your personal account of the events.
- Prepare a cashier’s check or money order for $24 payable to “Tennessee Bureau of Investigation”.
- Mail the letter, fingerprint card, criminal record with the incorrect information highlighted, and cashier’s check or money order to:
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
901 R.S. Gass Blvd
Nashville, TN 37216
Upon receiving your challenge, the TBI will conduct an investigation to determine whether the challenge is valid. If they find the criminal record to be in error, the TBI will have the information corrected.
Contact the TBI at 615-744-4057 with any questions or concerns about the challenge process.
How long are Tennessee criminal records kept on file?
Unless a criminal charge is successfully expunged in court, it will remain in the state’s central repository of criminal history record information–and on your criminal record–for an indefinite period.