Criminal Law

Will Expunged Records Show Up on a Background Check?

An expungement can clear a conviction off your criminal record. Not only will your crime not show up on most basic background checks, but it can also help you get a fresh start. If a job application asks if you have been convicted of a crime, you can honestly answer “no” and get back to your life.

However, there are exceptions, and some arrests and convictions will show up on some background checks. How do you know whether expunged or sealed records will show up on a background check or report? See if your charges fall under one of the exceptions, or talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer who knows how the expungement process works in your state.

What Is an Expungement?

Expungement is a legal process to get rid of arrest, criminal charges, and conviction from your criminal record. The criminal offense may be sealed or destroyed and no longer accessible by the public, such as companies doing background checks for employers. The process for getting an expungement and the types of offenses eligible to expunge depends on your state’s laws. Even if your case never ended in a conviction, you could also be able to have the arrest or charges expunged.

There may be limitations to which types of offenses are eligible for expungement. There may also be several requirements, including a waiting period, until you can have the conviction expunged. Other limitations may include avoiding additional arrests and criminal charges. Your state may also only limit expungements to juvenile charges, drug possession offenses, or other petty offenses, infractions, or misdemeanors.

In some states, certain types of crimes are not able to be expunged, which may include drunk driving, sex crimes, child abuse, or drug trafficking.

Are Your Records Sealed?

In some states, what is sometimes referred to as expungement is actually sealing records. Depending on the state, it could be the same process as an expungement, but some states differentiate between the two. Make sure you understand if you are trying to expunge your record or seal the records. It may not make a difference in a criminal background check, but it should help explain where your criminal record is now.

Your Records Should Not Show Up on a Background Check

Different background checks look for different things, including rental history, credit report, and driving records. However, most background checks will include a review of criminal records. Criminal record searches may include:

  • County criminal records
  • State criminal offenses
  • Federal criminal records
  • Warrants
  • International criminal records
  • Sex offender registries
  • Adult protective services records

In most cases, after your offense was expunged, it should not show up on a basic background check. This includes the types of background checks done when:

  • Applying for a job
  • Filling out a rental application
  • Applying for a mortgage
  • Signing up as a driver for Uber or Lyft
  • Volunteering for church or community activities

If your records are expunged, they should be destroyed or moved from the public record. They should not be available for anyone to search. If your records are sealed, they are generally retained by the courts but removed from public access. Sealed or expunged records cannot be used in employment checks, but the courts, police, and prosecutors may still be able to access sealed records.

Who Can See My Sealed Records?

If your records are sealed, there are limited situations where your sealed criminal arrest, charges, and conviction may be seen and used against you. This includes:

  • Police searches
  • Applying for firearm ownership and a carry permit
  • Immigration
  • Licensing for lawyers
  • Applying for jobs with law enforcement agencies

Some types of jobs may include FBI checks, which include sealed records. This includes jobs dealing with sensitive information, financial information, or public service. Some jobs that may allow access to a sealed criminal record include:

  • Teachers
  • Police officers
  • Childcare
  • Airport workers
  • Insurance company employees
  • Casino workers
  • Bank employees

Can I See My Own Sealed Record?

You are generally eligible to see your own sealed records. If your court records were expunged, they may have been destroyed. If your records are sealed, you can go to court and request your complete record. You can also talk to your criminal defense lawyer for help getting access to your records.

You may also be able to do a public search of your unsealed records using your state’s court computer system. Depending on the state, the court or judiciary website may allow you to search for records by name. If you have records that are accessible to the public, you may be able to see what will show up on background checks.

A Warning About the Internet and Criminal Records

Unfortunately, the internet makes it much easier for past arrests and convictions to hang around in the public eye. Even if you have your record expunged or your records sealed, this does not destroy an online news article related to your arrest or conviction. While that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it to seek an expungement if it’s available to you, you should be aware of this possibility.

Criminal Defense Attorney Help for Expungements

If a private background check company is seeing your expunged records and using them against you, they may be in violation of state or federal law. If you have questions or concerns about your expunged records coming back to haunt you, a criminal defense attorney can help you make sure your record has been expunged.

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