By petitioning the court to expunge a criminal conviction, a person is essentially asking to wipe that conviction from the public record. If the court grants the request, the record should, for all intents and purposes, cease to exist. Sealing a record is a slightly different process. Sealed records are technically still there, but they are no longer part of the public record and can only be accessed and reviewed by way of a formal court order. One question that many ex-offenders ask when moving through the expungement or record-sealing process is whether these records can still show up on a criminal background check.
Ideally, an expunged or sealed record would not be reportable as part of any standard criminal background check. Individuals who seek to have their records expunged or sealed—and who are eligible for such outcomes—are often looking for the kind of fresh start that a clean record can provide. Once a record has been expunged or sealed, the person can truthfully answer “No” if asked whether they have ever been convicted of a crime. Many states legally bar employers from making hiring decisions based on expunged or sealed records, which means it’s actually better for hiring managers not to know this information.
However, just because a record has been expunged from the record or sealed from public view doesn’t mean all traces of it are gone. Expunged and sealed records can sometimes show up on criminal background checks.
Many courts or agencies, after granting a petition for expungement or record-sealing, do not inform the public of the decision. As a result, the conviction in question might be wiped from that court’s records but not from criminal history databases maintained by third parties. Since these databases are the go-to source of criminal history data for so many background check companies, sealed and expunged records will often still find their way onto a large percentage of pre-employment background checks.
At backgroundchecks.com, we operate a program called MyClearStart designed to help individuals through the expungement process. If you have a conviction on your record, you can use MyClearStart to get a free evaluation on whether you might be eligible to have that conviction expunged, sealed, or otherwise removed from the public record.
If you are eligible and decide to go through with the process, you can return to backgroundchecks.com when your petition for expungement is granted. We have a partnership with The Foundation for Continuing Justice which can help you to ensure your expunged record is eradicated from hundreds of criminal history databases around the United States. We offer this service free of charge. Click here to learn more about the partnership.