In a continued effort to reduce the long-lasting impacts and barriers that a criminal record creates, Arizona has enacted its third pass at a "second chance" law. This new law, which came into force at the start of 2023, creates a petition-based pathway toward sealing criminal records. The hope is that by allowing specified former criminal offenders to hide their records from view, the state will be able to expand opportunities for those seeking jobs and housing. Ultimately, the goal is to improve access to critical resources and reduce recidivism.
However, there is now a patchwork of laws related to sealing or "setting aside" records in Arizona, creating confusion for jobseekers and employers. How can your business remain compliant and legally "in the clear" amid such a complex landscape? It's helpful first to consider the processes applicants may use today before determining how to respond to changes in the law concerning expungement and background checks.
Understanding the Three Categories of Record Changes in Arizona
As the third effort impacting criminal records, the situation in Arizona might seem confusing. The first two laws that passed allowed for the following:
- The expungement of minor marijuana-related crimes, such as simple possession. An expunged record should not appear on a background check and functionally no longer exists for employment or rental purposes.
- The "setting aside" of certain criminal penalties, e.g., losing voting or gun ownership rights due to a felony conviction. Records that have been set aside still appear on background checks and are admissible in the hiring process.
The new Arizona law will allow for the "sealing" of many more categories of records than before. Sealing is like expungement, although the record remains visible only to authorities responsible for public safety. Only violent felonies and sexual offenses will be excluded; otherwise, Arizonans can petition courts to determine that their record should go under seal. Employers can't consider a sealed record of someone's background, like expungement.
How Can Employers Adapt to This New Situation?
The biggest challenge facing Arizona employers is ensuring quality and up-to-date criminal record information. Since the new sealing process takes time and requires a court-based process, it may take time for official records to update with the new status. Some third-party databases might become out of date in such a scenario.
Therefore, alongside paying closer attention to how you examine records, you should also partner with a reporting agency that provides a high level of trustworthy service. The right background check partner continuously updates their information and ensures employers have the best information for their decision-making processes.
Maintain Safe Policies for Effective Hiring Today and Tomorrow
Although it can be confusing and even frustrating to re-evaluate policies based on legislative changes continually, the efforts may prove worthwhile. After all, you have the opportunity to interview and hire candidates you might otherwise have missed. However, there is also the risk of inadvertently making decisions based on records that have already gone under seal.
Choosing the right partner and thinking carefully about how you consider the impact of expungement on a background check are the key ingredients for success. With access to a well-maintained database of records and professional guidance on how to use it effectively, you can continue to vet candidates effectively while maintaining your standards for hiring.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments