Criminal Record Check Lawyers

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 What is a Criminal Records Check?

A criminal record check involves finding out if a person has a criminal record and then reviewing it if the person has one. A person’s criminal record may contain information about any processing they have experienced in their state or federal criminal justice system.

This would include warrants issued for the person’s arrest, criminal charges, convictions, and sentences that may have been imposed as punishment for a criminal conviction. A criminal record check is usually needed when a person’s background is questioned, e.g., when taking on employment or applying for a rental unit.

Employers may also check with the national sex offender registry to see if a job applicant has ever been convicted of a crime against children.

When Are Criminal Record Checks Needed?

Criminal record checks are usually requested in situations such as the following:

  • Applying for Certain Kinds of Jobs: Employers are legally allowed to check the criminal records of their potential employees, but not all of them do it. Employers can legally refuse to hire a potential employee if the person has a record of a criminal conviction;
  • Applying for Government Employment or Appointment; An applicant’s criminal history is likely to be checked if they apply for a position with the federal government or a state or local government;
  • Working with Children: All school systems, childcare facilities, and other employers of people in positions requiring interaction with children conduct criminal record checks of job applicants;
  • Cases of Child Custody: If a person seeks custody of a child or visitation rights, they may be subject to a background check;
  • Housing: A landlord may well ask if a person has a criminal record;
  • Applying for Professional Licenses: Most states require a background check, including a criminal record check, when a person applies for certain professional licenses, e.g., a license to practice law or sell or serve alcohol.

Thus, criminal record checks are usually needed when the issue of determining a person’s character and whether they might pose a risk to security and safety comes into play. It is important to remember that having a criminal record can adversely affect a person’s ability to get a job, find housing and make other steps in life.

The online criminal background check system is an application employers can use to search for a potential employee’s criminal record. Some companies conduct background checks and have access to this system. Many businesses use this application across the world.

U.S. citizens are sometimes asked to provide a “certificate of good conduct” or “lack of a criminal record” for use in foreign countries for such purposes as adoption, school attendance abroad, employment, and the like. U.S. law enforcement agencies may not be familiar with requests of this type.

There are ways, however, to obtain proof that a person does not have a criminal record, as follows:

  • Local Police Records Check: A person can go to their local police department in the city or county in which they live or last lived in the U.S. There they can request that the police conduct a local or state criminal record search and provide them with a document showing that they have no criminal history. A person would want to know whether the country they want to use the check demands authentication. The U.S. State Department has an office of authentication where a person can obtain authentication of a document;
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation: The Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) offers two ways for a person to request their FBI Identification Record or proof that a criminal record does not exist. A person may obtain a copy of an identification record by submitting a written request to the CJIS Division of the FBI.
    • The request must be submitted with acceptable proof of identity. That one would state a person’s name, date and place of birth, a set of rolled-inked fingerprint impressions, and a certified check or money order for the fee. If a person does not have a criminal record, a report showing this is provided to them.

A person may also submit a request through an FBI-approved channeler, a private business with a contract with the FBI to receive fingerprint submissions and other required information, collect the fee and forward it to the CJIS Division. The channeler can then hand the record check results to the person who requested them.

Can I Have My Record Cleared?

Clearing or sealing a criminal record is sometimes an option. People who have been processed through some phase of either a state criminal justice system or the federal criminal justice system may think that since they were never convicted of a crime, they have no record. This is not always true. The first thing a person must do is find out if they have a criminal record and what it shows, whether arrests, prosecutions, convictions, sentences, and the like.

Clearing or sealing a criminal record is, in effect, closing the record to the public so that it cannot be accessed by prospective employers, landlords, or other people. It might still be available to the courts in the event a person should have another encounter with the criminal justice system. So, if a record is sealed, it is not completely and forever destroyed. Whether a person’s record can be sealed is a matter of state law. Every person with a record will not be able to seal it.

Another option is “expungement.” Expungement means that a criminal record will be permanently destroyed, so it is no longer available to be reviewed by any court or government agency. It is completely wiped out.

Whether a person can get a record expunged again depends on the state law in which the person seeks expungement. There are likely to be several requirements. For example, in the state of Massachusetts, there is a list of about eleven requirements for expunging a criminal record. They include such things as that none of the 2 records on a person’s record (and there can be no more than 2) cannot have been an offense that resulted in death or serious bodily injury.

In addition, the offense cannot have been committed while the perpetrator was armed or carrying a dangerous weapon. The offense must not have been a sex offense, a firearms violation, or an assault or battery on a household member. If the offense was a felony, the sentence must have been completed at least 7 years before the request for expungement.

These are not all the requirements, but it can be seen that if a person has been convicted of many types of criminal offenses, they would not be able to expunge their record in Massachusetts. The law regarding expungement is similar in other states. Not every person’s criminal record can be expunged.

Crimes committed by minors are usually recorded in the person’s record. However, they can usually be cleared or sealed when the person reaches the age of majority, which is usually 18. This must be requested specifically, as record sealing is not an automatic process.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Criminal Record Issues?

If you have any questions or concerns regarding a criminal record, you may need to consult a lawyer for help.

An expungement lawyer can access your criminal record, review it and tell you if it can be expunged under the law in your state. Your lawyer would also be able to advise you regarding the sealing of the record if expungement is not available.

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