How to Remove Criminal Record from Background Check (Expungement)
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Often after a criminal conviction, you might wonder how to remove criminal record from background check. A criminal arrest record or conviction is public information, but can be removed from an individual’s background check through a legal process known as expungement. Expunction means to erase or destroy something.
This process, however, is not as simple as its definition. The following article illustrates what expungement entails and how it may benefit you by outlining how to remove criminal record from background check results.
Can Your Criminal History Record Be Clear? (Criminal Record Expungement)
A criminal charge can be a serious obstacle in your background to overcome. A misdemeanor or felony conviction could potentially become an insurmountable barrier blocking your access to employment, housing, or education opportunities. Your criminal history may also contain background information that you do not want others to know about such as:
- Driving under the influence (DUI) charges
- Criminal trespassing
- Petty theft
- Burglary or breaking and entering
- Animal cruelty
- Drug possession or use1
In understanding what it means to have a clear record, first examine what constitutes a criminal record. This type of record results in a notation on your background check that shows you’ve been arrested (or charged) for breaking a law, or have been convicted of a crime. The term “conviction” includes being found guilty or pleading guilty to an offense and having a sentence or fine handed down as a result.
Often a conviction will appear on your background report for a number of years. In most cases, this period is as long as seven years from the date you were charged with a crime.2 In addition to those seven years, there are some US states which will allow criminal offenses which will remain on your background check for as long as ten years.
If the appropriate time frame has elapsed, there will be no conviction record available if you are undergoing a background screening, unless the screening includes special provisions, such as an executive level position or salary that exceeds a certain amount. In those cases, a check can exceed the10 year mark.
The removal of criminal history records varies greatly depending on the type of conviction, your state, and how long ago it occurred.
In most cases, an arrest without conviction will not show up on your criminal record. For example, if you were arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated (DWI) and the case was dismissed or dropped, this would not show up on most checks, but can show up on some. However, a DWI conviction will be recorded and remain on your criminal record even after sentencing has been completed and you have completed the necessary restitution.
How Long Does A Conviction Stay On Your Criminal Record?
Convictions will remain a part of your criminal record forever unless you take action to have them removed. This can be done through an order of expungement or by petitioning the courts for some other type of post-conviction relief.
Having records expunged is a process where you ask the state to remove all records pertaining to charges that were dismissed, dropped, or never filed in court. Convictions may also be expunged if the crime committed was a nonviolent misdemeanor or felony.
If you have a criminal history that is causing you problems, the best thing to do is check your state’s laws about expungement eligibility.
There are many reasons why someone might want their record cleared. A few of these include:
- You have minimal or no law infractions on your record.
- You have been offered a job and want the chance to be considered for employment without discrimination due to criminal background check results.
- Past criminal history has kept you from obtaining citizenship.
- You have been disqualified for an apartment lease and want to be considered without discrimination based on your criminal record.
Understanding Background Check Removal of Criminal Record
Many people who have been convicted of breaking the law feel as though their background makes it impossible to move on with their lives. A criminal background check can be problematic for those wishing to pursue an occupation that requires licensing or certification, such as teaching. Many employers will deny employment based solely on the results of a criminal history report—even if the conviction on the background is unrelated to the job.
Fortunately, there is a way to remove criminal records from the background check process through methods such as record removal, which is often referred to as “expungement.” This legal procedure allows that certain convictions—for both misdemeanors and felonies—be removed from your public criminal history, provided your sentence has been served.
Arrest Record Removal
If you wish to remove arrest records, there are many ways to clear criminal records from background checks. Each state has its own laws and regulations regarding expungement. Depending on the crime committed, only some felonies may be eligible for record removal. Sex crimes and violent crimes, for example, are not eligible for expungement in most states.
To determine eligibility, each state will have specific guidelines regarding criminal records and background checks. For example, some states require you to wait a certain time period following your sentence before applying for record removal. This may include probation or parole requirements that must be fulfilled prior to petitioning the court. In California, you are not eligible for expungement if you served time in state prison (the record will remain on a California background check).3 In other states, this stipulation may not disqualify you. Check your local jurisdiction and state regulations before applying.
Remove Record of Charges With Expungement
Expungement is the process of asking a court to erase your arrest records. When you expunge your criminal record, it means that all arrest and conviction information will be removed from public access, so long as you don’t violate probation. By having certain convictions removed from your criminal record, you may be able to become more competitive when applying for jobs.
Record expungement is a legal process that requires a qualified attorney. Records pertaining to charges that were dismissed, dropped, or never filed in court are often simple to delete. Convictions can prove to be more difficult.
Whether your conviction is eligible for expungement depends on the state in which you live. Many states have enacted “ban the box” laws that allow applicants to be considered before their criminal background check results are reviewed by an employer.4 This can help those who were convicted of low-level crimes, such as non-violent misdemeanors or drug possession.
Even if your state doesn’t have “ban the box” laws, you can still petition for record sealing or expungement of criminal records through the court system. The following list provides link to state expungement laws and processes:
Removing Criminal Records from Background Check with Post-Conviction Relief (Motion to Vacate, Pardon, Plea Withdrawal)
Types of post-conviction relief outside of expungement include motions to vacate, guilty plea withdrawal, or pardon. A motion to vacate is often used for cases involving false accusations or convictions that occurred due to a violation of your constitutional rights. A guilty plea withdrawal may be appropriate if you were coerced into pleading guilty, such as when the prosecution threatened increased charges upon losing at trial. If you plead guilty without having an attorney present, this might also qualify as a case for withdrawing your guilty plea.
Pardons are another legal option that may allow you to have certain criminal convictions erased from public records in your background or sealed from the court system, if they meet specific criteria. A presidential pardon, in particular, could help someone with a criminal record restore their rights.
These types of less common post-conviction relief methods are typically only afforded to those who have had their rights violated or were falsely accused of breaking the law. For most people seeking information on how to remove criminal record from background check, expungement will be the only option.
Expunge Certified Criminal History Background On Law Enforcement Agency Background Checks
If other types of post-conviction relief are not available to you, expungement of certified criminal history may still be an option. Criminal record expungement can help you have a clean slate. Many people with a criminal history report feel relieved when their infractions of the law are not reflected on background checks or employment applications. Having your criminal history record expunged of all convictions and arrest information may be the best way to avoid problems in the future.
A person criminal history should not disqualify them from obtaining gainful employment. Everyone deserves a fresh start, and expungement of criminal records is one way to achieve this.
By petitioning the court for record removal or expungement, it’s possible for some people who have had trouble finding employment due to charges on their background check to find relief. However, depending on the crime committed, expunged records may still be visible to the law enforcement agency or court system.5 While these entities may still have access to your record in their own databases, all arrest records, police reports, and other information pertaining to criminal cases involving you will be removed from public access as an expunged criminal. Expunging certain convictions may also allow you to legally claim incidents never occurred as long as it meets applicable laws which are regulated by the state.
Expunction is the legal process for how to remove criminal record from background check permanently. Expungement is a complicated process, so it’s important that you consult an attorney for help.
While expungement can be an effective way to remove criminal records from background checks, it may not always work for every person in all cases. Depending on the severity of what you were charged with and if there are any previous convictions under your name, having certain crimes removed from your background might not happen even after you have filed for an expungement.
Find a legal team who specializes in record removal service prior to filing any paperwork in order to increase your chance of success.
If you are applying for a job at a company that requires fingerprinting (healthcare, government positions, schools) law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation will get involved.
Fingerprint background checks are completed using the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). A criminal history check will be conducted by an agency in your state and sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for verification. These agencies have access to all criminal records across the nation which means employers can find out about any convictions, not just those which occurred in the state where you live. A level 2 background check will also include misdemeanor offenses such as assault, theft, and disorderly conduct.
If you have been arrested or convicted of a crime at some point in your life but do not want it appearing on an FBI criminal report, there are options available for you to remove this information from your background history. Opening a case with the FBI to dispute your “rap sheet” by challenging their Identity History Summary Check may have arrests and convictions deleted from your FBI report.
Another option for the removal of criminal records includes working directly with agencies in charge of maintaining certain types of criminal documents. For example, if you were arrested by law enforcement in California, the appropriate agency in that state will keep copies of the incident on file. When requesting the removal of police records directly, it is important to send a letter that includes all of your personal information, including your name and address. You should also include the case number if you have it. This is often not a successful endeavor, however, as many agencies do not operate in such a fashion. Having police and arrest records erased will involve substantial legal processes.
Employers who want to find out about convictions will check your criminal record through a service completed by background check companies. These agencies will look at your personal and professional history as well as criminal background records. They’re responsible for evaluating information provided by an employer, conducting a background investigation of the applicant, and providing reports to employers regarding any findings.
Employers are compelled by state and federal law to look at criminal records in a specific way. However, most companies have their own policies regarding the hiring of individuals with past convictions or arrests on their records.
Some states allow employers to consider arrest information when making a decision about an applicant’s suitability for employment if the charges are related to job responsibilities. When you apply for jobs that involve working with children or other vulnerable populations such as senior citizens, there are state and federal laws that will require employers to conduct a criminal history check.
However, state fair employment practices and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission make it illegal for employers to discriminate against individuals with criminal records in most cases. Employers are not allowed to consider arrests that have been expunged or sealed from their applicant’s records.
If the arrest happened more than seven years ago or you were found innocent of any wrongdoing, your past cannot legally be considered. US employers must be careful when considering the criminal history of an applicant in order to avoid discrimination that falls under the US Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Verifying Expungement Was Performed
After your lawyer has completed the record clearance, it is important that you verify your convictions have been removed. This can be done by knowing how to do a background check on yourself, especially using services offered by companies specializing in record expungement background checks.
If you notice any convictions still listed, this is a sign that the expungement process was not complete and as a client, you should speak to your attorney immediately. It is important to note that not all crimes are eligible for expungement or record cleaning depending on state law. Request a copy of your criminal history report from the court that handled your case and compare it to older reports, if available. If you notice any discrepancies in official records regarding arrests or convictions, follow up with your counsel.
If you were arrested for breaking the law, but never charged or found guilty of a crime, this is another reason why record expungement may be beneficial to you. Contact your local court and inquire about having your arrest records destroyed so future employers don’t see them on background checks.
Many people who have been arrested but not charged find that they are unfairly disqualified from employment even if no conviction occurred. This is because some employers choose to automatically disqualify applicants with a criminal history, regardless of the offenses committed or their eligibility for record expungement. If you were arrested without being charged, consider ordering your own background check and verifying this information yourself before applying for employment.
If you want to remove old crimes from your record or have convictions cleared from public access, having them expunged is a route you may wish to consider. Attempting to seal your record is not enough to ensure it never shows up on a background check. Expungement is the only way to have certain offenses erased from public records and your criminal record cleared.
Having arrests or convictions that occurred in the past does not have to be a barrier when applying for employment or housing. With the help of an attorney specializing in expungement, you can remove your criminal history from background checks and begin building a brighter future for yourself. Expungement can also allow you to live without fear of future arrest due to past indiscretions of the law.
If the crimes committed are eligible for removal through an expungement process, it’s important that you consult with an attorney who specializes in this type of law before filing any paperwork so there are no mistakes made during the legal proceedings. Knowing how to remove criminal record from background check permanently can provide peace of mind and open new opportunities.
1Misdemeanor. 2021. Wikipedia. 10 November 2021. Web. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misdemeanor#Misdemeanor_classes>
2Maurer, Roy. 12 June 2019. FCRA’s Seven-Year Reporting Window Begins with Charge, Not Dismissal. SHRM. 10 November 2021. Web. <https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/fcra-seven-year-reporting-window-begins-with-charge-not-dismissal.aspx>
3How to Get a Felony Expunged in California. 2021. Robert M Helfend, Attorney At Law. 10 November 2021. Web. <https://www.robertmhelfend.com/criminal-defense/how-get-felony-expunged-california>
4Paycor. 3 August 2021. Ban the Box Laws By State. Paycor. 10 November 2021. Web. <https://www.paycor.com/resource-center/articles/ban-the-box-state-by-state>
5Devendorf, John. 4 May 2021. Will Expunged Records Show Up on a Background Check? LawInfo. 10 November 2021. Web. <https://www.lawinfo.com/resources/criminal-defense/expungement/will-expunged-records-show-up-on-a-background-check.html>