Created By: Larkmarn on February 4, 2013 Last Edited By: Hemma on March 30, 2015

Squeaky Clean Criminal Record

The lack of a criminal record is mentioned in order to characterize someone.

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Seen It a Million Times please add examples as you come by them.

A character is looking into the background of another character. Upon looking into them, someone will say something along the lines of mentioning that they have a spotless record, not even a minor infraction like a speeding or parking ticket. It counts just as much as if they mention that the only thing on their record is a ticket; if that's the worst they have, then it's not that bad.

This has a couple uses. It can show how saintly a character is by essentially "praising them by faint damnation," or it can show that they seem to be an unlikely suspect, which means that in a Police Procedural show, well, that's another roadblock the protagonists will have to come back from. In rarer cases, it can mean that they've changed their identity and their record is so clean because it didn't exist earlier.


Examples

Comic Books
  • Judge Dredd: In one chapter, the Judges do a random sweep of citizens' apartments and become highly suspicious when one person turns out not only to have zero violations in his apartment, but has never broken any of Mega-City One's laws in the past.

Film

Literature
  • In the The Millennium Series, Lisbeth investigates Michael on behalf of Mr Vanger, as Michael is indicted for libel. As his previous record proves to be clean, Vanger decides to hire him as a detective.

Live-Action TV
  • Used many times in Dexter
    • Very frequently used to describe Dexter's Victim of the Week, usually to handwave how the victim was Beneath Suspicion and thus slipped through the cracks.
    • Doakes cites something similar to this after looking into Dexter's background. He believes that no one's record is that clean unless they've done some scrubbing.
    • Quinn, being Doakes-lite, reaches the same conclusion.
    • When looking into the identity of the girl that Dexter found at the home of a victim, he mentions that she doesn't have so much as a speeding ticket.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, when Marshall looks into the background of Robin, he mentions that in addition to not being married, she's "not so good at parking legally."
  • A late fourth-season episode of The Secret World of Alex Mack used this to describe the man sent by the FDA to review GC-161, a drug that was designed so people could eat as much as they wanted without gaining excess weight, but instead induced Combo Platter Powers. Knowing there was no way the FDA would approve GC-161, Danielle Atron and Lars conspired to inconspicuously drug his coffee and put him in a situation that would publicly humiliate him and ruin his reputation, allowing GC-161 to be pushed onto the market.
  • In Red Dwarf, when Rimmer is convicted of mass murder by an automated justice system, he protests: "I've never so much as returned a library book late."
  • Played for laughs on one episode of (I think it was) Law & Order: Criminal Intent. A person of interest in the Case of the Week was so squeaky clean "he even does jury duty" (referencing the joke that juries are made up of people too dumb to get out of jury duty).
  • In Bones, after Dr. Vincent Nigel-Murray is killed, the cast reminisces about how he was apologizing for the worst things that he had done to them... and realized that none of them were very bad. This makes them realize if that's the worst he's capable of, then he was a really nice person.
  • Comes up frequently on Barney Miller: they check a perp for priors and he comes up clean, so Barney tries to talk the injured party into dropping the complaint.
  • Shows up often on Castle. One notable example is when investigating the torture and subsequent murder of a surgeon. Ryan and Esposito are discussing how unusual it is for that to happen, given that the surgeon had no criminal record and no connections to any mobs. Ryan goes so far as to mention, "The guy didn't even have any porn on his computer"

Webcomics
  • In Nodwick, a pair of bureaucratic devils look up the history of the Lawful Good cleric Piffany and discover that the worst thing she's ever done is squash a bug. And she did a week's penance to make up for that!
Community Feedback Replies: 33
  • February 4, 2013
    Tiiba
    Well, there was an instance of this in the Batman animated series, but I don't remember the details.

    The villain in Miss Congeniality also got that description.

    This might trigger the very stupid and heavy-handed rule against stock phrases.
  • February 4, 2013
    Larkmarn
    That did occur to me, but it struck me that while yes, this can be seen as a stock phrase... it's also a perfectly apt description of the character in question. There's not really a more concise way to phrase it, unless you have any ideas?
  • February 5, 2013
    Tiiba
  • February 5, 2013
    randomsurfer
    It is also used when discovering that a character has changed his identity: "Bob's records only go back 5 years - before that, nothing. Not even a speeding ticket."
  • February 5, 2013
    robinjohnson
    • In Red Dwarf, when Rimmer is convicted of mass murder by an automated justice system, he protests: "I've never so much as returned a library book late."
  • February 5, 2013
    JohnnyCache
    Hm, could this be considered the inverse of Arson Murder And Jaywalking?
  • February 5, 2013
    Larkmarn
    More like an example of the inverse of Damned By Faint Praise... but I don't know if there's a trope for that.
  • March 5, 2013
    SKJAM
    • Judge Dredd: In one chapter, the Judges do a random sweep of citizens' apartments and become highly suspicious when one person turns out not only to have zero violations in his apartment, but has never broken any of Mega-City One's laws in the past.
  • March 5, 2013
    henke37
    Is there a trope for the opposite: someone with an incredible amount of traffic tickets?
  • March 5, 2013
    Larkmarn
    I think that's just a sign of Drives Like Crazy.
  • March 5, 2013
    Elbruno
    I agree with Squeaky Clean Criminal Record. It's much more indicative than a stock phrase that doesn't always show up when the trope happens.
  • March 25, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Bump. This happens so often in Criminal Procedural shows but I can't think of any off the top of my head but I want people to keep it in mind.
  • March 25, 2013
    StarSword
  • March 25, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    Is the first line in the description asking viewers to add examples directly, or something else?

    In Nodwick, a pair of bureaucratic devils look up the history of the Lawful Good cleric Piffany and discover that the worst thing she's ever done is squash a bug. And she did a week's penance to make up for that!
  • March 25, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    A late fourth-season episode of The Secret World Of Alex Mack used this to describe the man sent by the FDA to review GC-161, a drug that was designed so people could eat as much as they wanted without gaining excess weight, but instead induced Combo Platter Powers. Knowing there was no way the FDA would approve GC-161, Danielle Atron and Lars conspired to inconspicuously drug his coffee and put him in a situation that would publicly humiliate him and ruin his reputation, allowing GC-161 to be pushed onto the market.
  • May 30, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Comes up frequently on Barney Miller: they check a perp for priors and he comes up clean, so Barney tries to talk the injured party into dropping the complaint.
  • May 30, 2013
    Bisected8
    • In the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond's identified as a spy by the Big Bad's tech guy because of this trope.
      Tech Guy: He's got a perfect record. Crossed every "t", dotted every "i".
      Elliot Carver: So...?
      Tech: Government agent. When it looks too good to be true, it usually is.
  • May 31, 2013
    Magiphart
    In Ghost Trick Cabanella's white coat is said to represent his clean record.
  • December 18, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Sorted the examples by media.
  • December 18, 2013
    Larkmarn
    ^ Appreciated.

    ^^ I'm going to need more information. That seems to more be Light Is Good.
  • December 18, 2013
    frosty
    Shows up often on Castle. One notable example is when investigating the torture and subsequent murder of a surgeon. Ryan and Esposito are discussing how unusual it is for that to happen, given that the surgeon had no criminal record and no connections to any mobs. Ryan goes so far as to mention, "The guy didn't even have any porn on his computer"
  • December 18, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    in Megamind. Hal Stewart's lack of criminal records and notable achievements, a Blank Slate so to speak, were used to hammer the point that he is in fact, an The Every Man.
  • February 8, 2014
    Elbruno
    The description should probably mention that this can also be done to characterize a Phantom Thief. They are so good that no one has ever caught them red-handed. I also got one example like that.

    • Kasumi Goto from Mass Effect is so good of a Phantom Thief that her criminal records are completely intact, and few are the ones that know about her activities.
  • February 8, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Third Rock From The Sun: When Harry runs for city council his opponent's team looks into his background to find something shady for some Negative Campaigning but they can't find anything - because he only arrived on earth about 3 years previously.
  • February 8, 2014
    reub2000
    I think the Bones example needs some context: He was a Bunny Ears Lawyer that tested the patience his colleagues by constantly reciting facts that where only tangently releated to the subject at hand.
  • March 29, 2015
    DAN004
    Bump.
  • March 29, 2015
    Chabal2
    Good Omens: Aziraphale is an angel, and so scrupulously Lawful Good that he's been audited five times on the basis that anyone who turns in accurate tax forms on time has something to hide.
  • March 30, 2015
    TonyG
    On The Simpsons episode "Lisa's Rival", Lisa is jealous of the new girl in school and, in desperation, asks Bart to dig up some dirt on her. Bart reports that the girl is "clean as a bean.".
  • March 30, 2015
    crazysamaritan
    I think the definition is a bit weak, but still wiki-quality. Name is clear, and plenty of examples have been collected, so I added a hat. Good luck.
  • March 30, 2015
    DAN004
    Is Larkman there?
  • March 30, 2015
    Folamh3
    • When Sullivan is up for promotion in The Departed, Ellerby says to him "You have an immaculate record. Some guys don't trust an immaculate record. I do. I have an immaculate record." (The irony, of course, is that Sullivan is The Mole in the police force.)
  • March 30, 2015
    BKelly95
    Live Action Television
    • On one CSI the two suspects in a killing are found with one having killed the other. Brass is surprised at this as the suspect who killed the other has no criminal record. He emphasizes this during the interrogation by showing him a folder of his past crimes. It's empty.
  • March 30, 2015
    marcoasalazarm
    Shows up on an episode of Person Of Interest: the CIA agent that is the Victim Of The Week happens to not only be pretty pristine in terms of dirt, but the parking ticket that is on his record was fought against most earnestly (with a 70-page report, even), which is clear evidence that he will try and find the reason why everybody on his listening post was massacred, no matter what.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

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