States Initiatives – Sealing criminal records from public view

Due to the adverse impact a criminal record may have on an individual to obtain employment, many states are taking a new look at their policies relating to the ability for an individual to expunge their criminal record. Several states have expanded the types of offenses that can be expunged and shorten the waiting period before a request to expunge can be submitted. The goal is to prohibit an employer from finding a record and taking an adverse action.
Unfortunately, people are not aware of their ability to expunge their record. As a result, there is a growing movement for states to automatically seal certain types of records from the public. Pennsylvania recently implemented a policy that requires courts to seal certain lower-level, nonviolent crimes automatically after 10 years. These records will not be available when background check companies or employers conduct a search. Other states are expected to follow Pennsylvania’s lead.
“The Box” on the application that requests self-reporting of prior offenses is in effect in one form or another in many states. Individual with a record should always check with the court where the offense occurred to determine if that record will be found in a background check and if it is, seek an expungement.
Additionally, candidates should always obtain a copy of the background check from the background company to confirm if a record was found during the search whether or not the candidate has a record. The employment authorization must include the name of the company that will conduct the search. There are numerous errors that occur during the criminal search process that result in false positive hits that can result in the rescinding of an offer.