Can a Background Check Expose Your Expunged Felony Charges?
The thought of going through a background check is nerve-wracking for anyone. But it can be especially stressful for individuals who have felony convictions on their record. Even if the record was expunged, you may be uncertain what the employer could see or what the results of a criminal background check may show.
What is Expungement and What Crimes Can Be Expunged?
Expungement is a legal process that clears all criminal charges and convictions from a person’s criminal record. In any event, it is not accessible by the public, which includes employers and background check companies. Getting a conviction expunged can be a complex process that varies depending upon the state where the conviction occurred and the type of crime. But in most cases, it is up to the individual to pursue legal actions to initiate the expungement of the records.
States have discretion in terms of what crimes are eligible for expungement. Some crimes are not considered eligible by many states, such as drug trafficking, sex crimes, and child abuse. Other states limit expungement eligibility to juvenile crimes, drug possession offenses, petty offenses, infractions, and misdemeanors.
In the vast majority of cases, expungement means that the conviction is cleared from your criminal record. In cases of expungement, the applicant can honestly answer ‘no’ if the application asks whether they have been convicted of a felony (unless there are other felony convictions that have not been expunged). Even a background check focusing on criminal activity should not display any expunged convictions.
What Records will Expungement Affect?
Criminal records searches commonly include:
- County criminal records
- State criminal offenses
- Federal criminal records
- International criminal records
- Sex offender registries
- Adult protective services records
When an expungement is granted, it extends to all public records and is removed from public access. This includes any records that may show up for pre-employment background checks or background checks required for housing, loans, and volunteer activities.
Would Anyone be Able to See an Expunged Record?
An expunged record is removed from public access and sealed. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that nobody will ever see it. It just means that only certain individuals may access the information. While an expunged crime won’t show up on a background check, it may be seen during:
- Records searches may be law enforcement
- A background check for firearm purchases or permits
- Immigration-related matters
- Licensing for attorneys
Are There Certain Professions that Require Access to Sealed or Expunged Criminal Files?
While expunged records don’t appear in most background checks, they may appear when an FBI check is conducted. FBI checks are done for jobs that deal with sensitive information or vulnerable populations. Examples of jobs that may require an FBI check include:
- Jobs in finance
- Insurance companies
- Bank of casino employees
- Police officers or first responders
- Teachers or childcare workers
- Positions with the federal government
FBI background checks may show all criminal activity, including convictions, arrests, traffic violations, and other minor infractions. They also require fingerprint recognition.
What to Do if I Have an Expunged Criminal Record?
If you have an expunged conviction, it’s good to do some research into the type of background check required before moving forward. In many instances, if the background check is required for a job or to secure housing, you don’t have to worry about your record being discovered.
However, if you are applying for a specialized position that requires an FBI background check, you may want to be prepared for the potential employer to see your previous conviction.
In addition to this guidance, it’s important for those with expunged records also know that expungement only seals the official court record. If any media was devoted to your arrest or conviction, it might still be available online. Any potential employer could do a quick internet search and find information about your past criminal activity. And while this information cannot legally be used to deny employment, it is good to understand that the information may be available to the public through these sources.
The laws governing background checks and expungement can be confusing. One misstep can result in a failure to legally use the right information when making hiring decisions. When in doubt, it’s best to work with professionals with experience in conducting compliant background checks. Contact USA Fact today to learn more.
USA Fact Global Screening Services provides comprehensive background and criminal checks for employers that comply with federal and local laws. By helping you eliminate high-risk applicants through tailored solutions, USAFact enables you to create a safe and productive work environment and a foundation for future success.