A criminal background check occurs when a judge, employer, police officer, or someone else checks a person’s criminal record to review any crimes they have committed. Criminal background checks are often necessary to determine a person’s eligibility for a job or to ensure the safety of other persons who may be interacting with the person.

In some cases, criminal background checks can disclose very private information about a person’s history. As such, criminal procedure laws tend to be somewhat strict regarding who can access criminal records. However, some states allow criminal records to be searched by the general public, meaning that anyone can access the records through the court’s criminal law system or through the county records office.

When Are Criminal Background Checks Performed?

Criminal background checks may be performed if the person is:

  • Applying for a job
  • Applying for an immigration document or change of status
  • Seeking housing
  • Attempting to work with minors (such as in a school)
  • Applying for a government-related position
  • Involved in a child custody determination

If a person is found to have a history of committing crimes, they may be disqualified from their application. This is especially common if the person has a history of violent crimes. or is found to have a tendency to repeat offenses. The concern over several of the same offenses is that the individual may continue to repeat the behavior in the future.

Can Criminal Records Be Cleared?

Yes, criminal records can be cleared so that criminal arrests, charges, and convictions will not show up on any background checks, unless a government official does the background check. The process of clearing a criminal record is known as expungement.This is available usually after a period of time has passed from the person’s last conviction. The person must have completed their sentences, including probation or parole requirements.

Expungement may be more difficult for felony charges, and it is not always available in every situation. Additionally, an expungement is not an automatic procedure and must be specifically requested. A judge is under no obligation to grant an expungement.

Who Is Qualified For Expungements?

All states allow some form of criminal record sealing or expungement for most juvenile offenses. Most states also permit expungements for misdemeanors and certain felonies so long as the individual meets certain qualifications:

  • If your sentence included probation, you can usually clear your record if:
    • You have finished your probation
    • You have followed all court orders
    • There are no new charges against you
  • If your sentence did not include probation, you can normally clear your record if:
    • One year has passed since your judgment
    • You have obeyed all laws subsequent to your judgment
    • There are no new charges against you

Why Is It Important to Have My Record Cleared?

Many people are able to access your criminal record and will access it for a variety of reasons. Having a criminal record may affect your ability to find a job, since many companies conduct criminal background checks on job applicants. It will also be harder to rent a residence because many property managers and owners require potential tenants to pass a background investigation.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Criminal Background Checks?

Criminal records can often require legal assistance when dealing with them. You may need to hire a criminal lawyer for help if you have any concerns, questions, or legal disputes involving a criminal background check. Your attorney can provide you with legal advice so that you understand your rights.