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Expunged & Sealed Records in Background Checks

- Posted on 12/02/21

Having a criminal history of any kind can be a significant barrier to many normal aspects of our lives, particularly employment and housing. If you’re applying for a job or are trying to rent a house, it’s almost guaranteed that a background check is going to be conducted. Imagine your surprise when records that you had previously thought were expunged or sealed show up on that background check and you’re turned down for your dream job. It’s important to understand what it means to have your records sealed or expunged, and to learn if and when they can still show up on a background check so you can be prepared. 

Sealed vs Expunged

When you have a record expunged, this means that the record is destroyed and essentially it no longer exists. It should not be able to be accessed by anyone. When a record is sealed, however, this just means that it’s not visible to most of the general public. It shouldn’t appear in background checks that are done by potential employers or landlords, but a criminal case could still show up if law enforcement or other government agencies run a background check on you. 

If both options are available to you, it’s clear that an expungement would be the way to go. However, not all records are eligible for expungement. In certain states, expungement is usually only available to people who were convicted of crimes as juveniles. If you have an adult arrest record or conviction, your best bet is to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney to see if you’re eligible to have any or all of your records sealed. While it’s not quite as good as expungement, it can help exponentially in allowing you to get your life back on track. 

Can Previous Arrests & Convictions Appear on a Background Check If It Has Been Sealed?

In most cases, sealed records should not show up on a background check. If you filed an application to rent a house and your landlord comes back and asks you about a conviction that you thought was sealed, you should speak with a lawyer right away. Sealed records aren’t invisible to everyone, but the people and agencies who have access to sealed records are quite limited, so it’s crucial to be aware of your rights. 

The results of background checks are generated by screening companies and police departments. This means that screening companies need to ensure that all of their records are up to date. This also means it’s possible that mistakes are going to be made. Unfortunately, these mistakes can have quite a negative impact on a person’s life.

Are There Any Exceptions When Sealed Records Are Visible to an Employer?

Yes, exceptions do exist with sealed records. If you’re applying for a certain type of job, your employer will run a background check that will show your sealed records. For example, if you’re applying to work as a law enforcement officer or for a government agency where high clearance is needed for employment, it’s likely that they will have access to your sealed records and may make a decision based on your entire criminal history. 

If you believe that you have sealed or expunged records that are accessible when they shouldn’t be, it’s important to contact a lawyer right away to ensure that your rights are protected. An experienced lawyer can help ensure that the job or that beautiful home that you deserve is within your grasp.