In the past few years, numerous states along with Washington D.C. have passed laws that make it easier for people to legally expunge or seal some criminal and arrest records.
However, some legally expunged criminal records may still be found in third-party background check reports if the companies fail to delete these records from their databases.
This can cause potential employment or housing problems for the person whose expunged criminal record still appears in these background search reports.
Background check services are legally required to remove expunged records, but oversights and mistakes can happen when dealing with large amounts of personal information on millions of people.
Background check companies and people search sites often obtain a large number of public records from numerous sources, including courts, government departments and agencies.
Most state governments provide no warning to these companies that a criminal record has been expunged or sealed.
Pennsylvania is the only state that provides corporate buyers of public records with regular notices on which records have been expunged.
It is up to the background check service to verify that criminal and arrest records in their databases are still valid.
A criminal record may be expunged from one government database, but it could still appear in others.
Around one-third of adults in the U.S. have at least one record in the FBI’s master criminal record file.
This master criminal record database is used by law enforcement. The number of new people added to this criminal record database increases by 10,000 names every day.
The Federal Trade Commission has been involved in eight cases against background-check providers since 2009 for allegedly violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act and these companies have settled these cases for millions of dollars without admitting any wrongdoing.
Oftentimes the appearance of expunged records in background reports is a matter of timing, since expunged records may still be found in a third-party database between the time a judge approves the expungement and the company updates the records in their databases.
According to Lester Rosen, author of The Safe Hiring Manual, problems in background reporting usually occur when background check services sell personal information without verifying the accuracy of public records with their primary sources.
It is important that professional background screening services verify any negative personal information with the primary record source to protect people from errors in their record that should not be reported in a background check, including any and all expunged criminal records.
Most public record providers agree that expunged criminal records have no place in consumer reports, but identification and removal of these expunged records can be difficult.
While there are no known statistics on how many expunged crime records may exist in these public record databases, information from the background screening industry indicates that only a small percentage of people contest the accuracy of their background reports each year.