Fixing Criminal History
Most background checks trace criminal history back up to seven years. In some instances, such as if an individual is applying for a government or high-security job, infractions beyond this time frame can still be seen. After a certain amount of time has passed, as determined by the state, some individuals may be able to expunge or seal their records so that potential employers or other parties conducting a screening can no longer view this information. However, there are stipulations about who can petition to have this history removed based on the type of crime, the state, and other infractions on their record.
What a Record Can Show
A criminal background check can reveal any local, state, or federal convictions, whether misdemeanors or felonies. In some instances, driving records may also be reviewed as part of the screening process. This can include information about tickets, DUIs, or accidents resulting in fatalities. In addition, while controversial, a background check can also reveal information about dismissed cases, pending charges, and acquitted cases. So while the prevailing law of the land declares an individual innocent until proven guilty, this type of information can potentially be viewed as a red flag in the screening process. On the other hand, juvenile records, while accessible by legal authorities, are sealed and cannot be viewed by potential employers, landlords, or lenders.
Any infractions will typically stay on record for a duration of seven years. However, sex offenders will often have to register beyond this timeframe, sometimes for the rest of their lives. The sex offender registration system is publically accessible by any interested individuals, including general members of the community.
At What Point Can a Record Be Cleared?
Some individuals may petition to have their criminal records expunged or sealed. Their eligibility for this request is often evaluated based on:
- Whether or not they are a first time offender. If an individual has more than one criminal offense on their record, this diminishes their chances of being able to expunge their record. In these cases, traffic violations or multiple crimes than occurred at the same time do not typically count as additional offenses.
- The type of crime. Different states have different laws regarding what type of crimes can and cannot be expunged. Most violent offenses, sex crimes, or crimes that carry a mandatory prison sentence cannot be removed from an individual’s criminal record.
- Whether the crime is at the state or federal level. While eligible individuals may petition to have their records expunged at the state level, there is no removal of federal crimes from a record except through a presidential pardon.
- The amount of time that has passed. Individuals looking to expunge or seal their records should contact a legal professional regarding the probationary period, statute of limitations, or other timeframe that applies to their situation according to the laws in that state.
It is important to note that expunging a criminal record is not a quick or easy process and often can become quite expensive when all the legal fees are added up. It is best to seek the advice of a local legal professional about specifics regarding the process and results that can be expected.
Additional Things to Know
- Once a criminal record is expunged or sealed, that individual can legally claim to be free of any charges or convictions if asked by a private employer. However, some government jobs do require applicants to disclose this type of information as part of the screening process.
- Once seven years has past, potential employers, landlords, and lenders can no longer see offenses. However, police and other government agencies can still access this information. If an individual is applying for a government position, a high-security job, or involved in caring for children or the elderly, this information can still be used against them as part of the screening process.
- Check with your state or a legal professional for specifics. Since the extent to which the law allows an individual’s criminal record to be used against them for employment purposes can vary based on the state, it is important to understand local regulations.