Background Check Basics
One of the most cumbersome effects of a criminal conviction is having a criminal record. Long after your sentence is served and your fines are paid, you will face constant reminders of your mistake every time someone runs a criminal background check on you. And that can happen often. Potential employers, volunteer agencies, landlords, and lenders frequently run background checks on all applicants. What they see will depend on a few factors. Not all criminal background checks are equal, and some are more thorough than others.
Knowing just what someone might find if they run a check can alleviate concerns, but how do you know who can access what information? Clients ask me this question all the time. When facing criminal charges, people often want to know how a conviction will affect them down the road. This helps them make the best decision about fighting their charges in the present. Answering these questions is another story. But, to give you an idea of what will show up on your record, let's look at a few factors:
As I stated above, not all background checks are equal. A criminal background check done by the government will pull up way more details than a consumer background check done by a rental agency. Likewise, not all convictions will appear the same on a background check. Certain convictions will not show up on routine background checks done by employers. For example a company cannot access your juvenile records or records of marijuana convictions that are more than two years old. This information will not appear on your consumer background check. And, while many people believe criminal convictions “drop off” your record after a certain period of time, in actuality, your conviction could appear on background checks the rest of your life. Some screening companies only look into your past a certain number of years, and many employers and rental agencies only care about what happened in the last ten years.
Rental agencies and landlords, lenders, and non-governmental employers frequently run consumer background checks. These often include credit checks and other financial assessments as well as character investigations. Employers and Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies must adhere to Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulations when using background checks for employment purposes. This means the information that appears in a background check can only be used against you in certain situations. Law enforcement background checks or checks run by government agencies, however, can include your juvenile records, if they are not sealed, and past convictions that have since been dismissed. You will also have to report all your convictions on applications for government jobs, no matter what.
If you have a criminal record and are worried about what will appear on background checks, you should consider cleaning your record. You can clean your record a few different ways. If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony and were not sentenced to prison, you may be able to have a conviction dismissed through the process of expungement. Expunged convictions will appear on your record as dismissed in the interests of justice. Technically, you can answer “no” when asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime by most employers. You will still have to disclose the dismissed conviction to certain employers, such as government agencies. Dismissing a conviction can go a long way toward improving your chances of getting a job or housing.
Also, consider getting a copy of your own criminal record from the California Department of Justice. Make sure you review the information you see for accuracy. It may contain erroneous information or include information even you didn't know about.
Speak with an experienced California criminal defense attorney if you have concerns about your criminal record. We all make mistakes, but when those mistakes result in a criminal conviction, it is very hard to move on from them. Have an attorney evaluate your case and explain your record cleaning options to you. There may be steps you can take to reduce the negative information on your background checks. This can help you avoid embarrassing disclosures and missed opportunities.
Do you have questions about cleaning your record? California attorney Christopher Martens knows California criminal defense and will work hard to help you get a conviction dismissed so you can regain your dignity and your confidence when in the job market. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Mr. Martens has handled thousands of cases and has helped many Californians move on from their conviction. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert criminal defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.