Your Past Is Not Your Past

Background Check

Your past is something most people would like to forget about. We have all made mistakes which have to disrupt our lives.  When it comes to obtaining a job, or a credit line your past may come back to haunt you. There are numerous situations in which people may have to undergo a criminal background check or a credit check. Often, people believe that the bad things they have done in your past will no longer appear because sufficient time has passed. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. What will come up on a background check will depend on a variety of different factors, including:

  • Who conducts the check
  • The type of records that they can access
  • Why they perform a background check

Because police and court records have now been digitized and because it is now often possible to access these records through third party websites, it is possible that anything that happened in someone’s past will be accessible forever. 

 

Your Past Credit History

There are three main credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. The first two play a role when a pre-employment criminal background check occurs, as well as credit and tenant screening. If a background check occurs as part of employment screening, then the prospective employer must notify the applicant of the intention to perform the check and consent in writing. Some of the information contained on a credit report is time-limited, according to FCRA rules. For instance, bankruptcies can only appear for 10 years, paid tax liens and civil judgments can only appear for seven years. However, a criminal conviction is unlimited and will appear on a credit file, potentially for life.

 

Statewide Criminal Background

Individual states collect data from their law enforcement agencies, both at city and county level. Additionally, anyone who is able to access these files can see the results. Sometimes, it is possible to have your past records expunged. In the first case, it means the information and any remaining hard copies are also completely destroyed. You would think anything that happened in your past would be deleted, but not so fast.

 

The National Crime Information Center (NCIC)

The NCIC supervises the FBI and maintains criminal records from across the country for federal law purposes. Information that is on the NCIC database includes all federal crimes and also state information, which they can voluntarily supply. The NCIC is for law enforcement purposes only, however. This means that only the FBI and law enforcement officials are able to access it. It is not possible to have any records contained on the NCIC expunged. Those who wish to remove the information contained on it must seek and obtain a presidential pardon.

 

Differences between States

The FCRA offers people protection but only in relation to their financial records. They do not, therefore, regulate how criminal records are maintained or shared. However, additional protection for people in certain states in order to protect them from credit reporting agencies are available.

 

Working for Law Enforcement

Across the country, those who wish to work for a law enforcement agency must undergo a more specialized criminal background check. This is because those who wish to work in law enforcement will generally be disqualified if they have a criminal past. Exactly what criminal convictions automatically lead to disqualification vary by agency and by state. For instance, someone with a felony conviction may never work for the FBI. In Texas, meanwhile, a Class A misdemeanor will automatically disqualify someone for life from becoming licensed as a peace officer.

 

Juvenile Records

For those who are in the Juvenile Justice System, their records are not automatically expunged. Usually, authorization happens, meaning expungement can occur as soon as someone turns 18. 

How Can They Do That on the Internet?

How Can They Do That on the Internet?

It is highly unregulated, however, which can be a problem. The way the internet operates is mainly based on the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which states that certain popular websites are immune from civil lawsuits resulting from content posted by third parties. Additionally, some of those websites are able to restrict access, edit, and remove third-party content at their discretion as well.

While good on paper, the CDA has actually caused the formation of websites that ask people to pay them in order for the negative material to erased. And, at the same time, it has given rise to websites that purposefully post false and negative information about individuals in an effort to encourage them to make those payments.

Tricks of the Trade

Numerous review websites now exist that do not enable people to get to know individuals or businesses but to make money instead. For instance:

  • 1st website alters complaints and reviews to make them look more favorable – for a payment
  • 2nd website has paid monitoring and brand advocacy programs in place.
  • 3rd website offers an “independent arbitration” service, meaning that those accused of cheating on their partners need to pay to have their information removed.
  • 4th website offers to have criminal records expunged from the internet for a certain fee.

How Can They Do That?

It can appear very unfair to have to pay a business to remove negative information. In fact, some people claim that it is completely illegal and is, in fact, a form of extortion. However, in a recent lawsuit against Yelp!, Inc, it was once again affirmed that it is in fact completely legal to do this. 

There are numerous loopholes that websites rely on, however. Websites do not say that they will post negative content for payment. Rather, they inform someone that the content is there and ask if they would like to remove it. 

Mugshots.com is a clear example of what NOT to do. Read more.

What They Cannot Do – Internet Defamation, Slander, and Libel

Certain things are illegal online:

Defamation, which means that a false negative statement is made about you that harms your reputation. It includes both slander and libel.

  1. Libel, which is defamation posted online, often through blog posts, ratings, reviews, bulletin board posts, comments, and web pages
  2. Slander, which is spoken defamation on audio files, podcasts, or transcribed videos.

It is not unheard of for websites that request payment to have negative information removed, to come up with false and untruthful information. This constitutes defamation. They feel comfortable doing so, however, because they know how difficult it is for you to prove defamation. It is your responsibility to show that:

The statement is false and that it is a representation of fact, rather than opinion. Only facts are true, whereas opinions are not.

  1. The statement has harmed or can harm your reputation.
  2. The statement was made without adequate research or due diligence into its truthfulness. Essentially, you must be able to provide that it was willfully shared with full knowledge of it being a false statement.

Perhaps the greatest loophole, therefore, and the reason why so many companies think nothing of posting negative and/or untruthful things about individuals, is because they know there is very little you will do. Usually, the payment they require for the removal of that information will be far less than the legal fees involved with taking legal action for defamation, libel, or slander, and there are no guarantees that you will win the case because of the complexities involved. Hiring an online reputation management company can improve your positive awareness online.

A Mugshot Doesn’t Make You a Criminal

Do Mugshots Make You A Criminal?

We live in a society that likes to judge people for their mistakes. Unfortunately, it is easy to get arrested for minor charges in the US, however, some states are stricter than others, a minor mistake could lead to a mugshot and the same treatment as a common criminal.

We’re going to explore some of the key differences between crime across the US and the consequences of that.

 

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Some States are Stricter than others about Mugshots

Driving violations are some of the most common offenses across the country. Arizona is an example of a state that treats drivers extremely harshly. In fact, Arizona has some of the strictest DUI laws in the country, with an 83% surcharge applied to speeding tickets.

Take the possession of marijuana as another example. California has completely decriminalized the possession of marijuana. Say you forget to check your car and drive in Arizona, you run the risk of facing criminal charges!

These are just two of the differences that we have between states.

Does it make someone a criminal when the laws differ 2 miles away?

Racial Bias Comes into It

It is a common notion that law enforcement allegedly holds racial bias within certain demographic groups and lower income levels.

Read here on how speeding tickets are issued in Florida. Fines increase from going 9 to 10 mph over the speed limit. Many officers will cut you a break to avoid higher fines.

However, a study indicated that black drivers are 3.8% less likely and Hispanic drivers are 14.8% less likely to be issued a speeding ticket at the 9mph threshold.

Let’s take another example from New York City.

Over a third of the city is made up of whites yet only 9% of them were arrested for low-level marijuana possession. Now compare this with Blacks and Hispanics, which make up 86% of arrests, even though they make up less than half of New York City.

And studies have shown no difference between how much the different races smoke pot.

There’s a serious disparity and it demonstrates how society judges based on stereotypes, particularly in the police force.

 

Last Word – Tread Carefully

We all need to be aware of these perceptions if we’re going to change the way the justice system works in the US.

The Difference Between Expungement and Sealing

What’s the Difference Between Expungement and Sealing

Expungement and sealing records are often confused as meaning the same thing. Most states receive numerous requests every year for both.

For example, in the state of Illinois 7,601 records were successfully expunged in 2016, and 6,660 records were sealed. But it’s important to be aware of what they mean so you can make an informed decision on the best option for you.

 

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Expungement vs Sealing

Expungement is the complete deletion of records from the database of the court. In other words, it’s like the offense never happened in a legal sense.

Previously, expungement was a fresh start. Unfortunately, the cyber age has changed that, which we’ll discuss in the following sections.

Sealing one’s records is an automatic process for juveniles in many states. When the juvenile turns 18 the records are sealed. However, the records are never deleted. They can be still reopened if a court order is presented.

That isn’t possible if a conviction has been expunged from the records.

 

Why Expungement has Changed in the Digital Age

Expungement is a procedure well worth using so that nobody can find your name in the public records any longer. However, there are still problems with expungement because of the way the Internet works.

What it doesn’t cover are mentions of the record online. For example, if the story in question was published on a local news site or on social media the expungement doesn’t force the original author to take anything down.

So, a juvenile criminal could still have their story published online, despite expungement removing their name from the public records or even if their records are sealed once they become an adult.

Furthermore, private background check companies regularly download court records, so if they have your court record before it was expunged it hasn’t disappeared from the public view.

 

Should You Seal Your Records?

You may live in a state where the sealing of records isn’t automatic. In this case, you may be wondering whether you should have the records sealed or expunged.

In all cases, it’s best to have your records expunged. Sometimes your request may be rejected. For example, maybe not enough time has passed in the eyes of the court.

However, if your criminal record is from your juvenile years once you become an adult you should have no problem submitting a request.  It’s the initial step on the way towards expungement.

Expungement is generally harder to obtain, so a lawyer may suggest sealing the records instead.

It all depends on the specific situation because every offense is different. Legal outcomes get confusing when sites are reporting conflicting information.

 

Last Word – Know the Difference

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that expungement is just a fancy way of talking about sealing one’s records. It is the deletion order of the record, so in the eyes of the court, it never happened. Sealing the records doesn’t delete the records but they’re not accessible to the general public.

But keep in mind that it is limited to what it covers in the digital age.

If you are struggling to remove your mugshot from mug shot websites please contact us today!

 

Expunction Does Not Mean You are in the Clear

An Expunction of a Criminal Record

Expunctions often seem like the silver bullet you need to erase a criminal record from the public record. With almost a third of adults being arrested by the age of 23, a lot of people are finding it hard to find a job and to rent a home.

The expungement process is quite a simple thing to understand. It means that your criminal records are no longer accessible to the public via the courts.

But expunction doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.

 

What Does Expunction Actually Cover?

 

Once you have had your criminal record successfully expunged, nobody can go to the courts and find out that you have received a conviction for the offense in question.

Previously, this meant that you were essentially completely clean and a background check would reveal no criminal convictions. The problem is that this process has failed to keep up with the digital age.

 

It Doesn’t Cover Online Articles and Blogs

 

For example, you live in a small town and you got a misdemeanor a few years back. It naturally made a random local news page online. Years later you had that conviction expunged from your record.

The problem is that the local news page that originally published the story is under no obligation to remove their story or any of the details.

Someone performing a background check can simply look up the story and find out that you were convicted, despite the expunction.

 

Private Background Check Companies have a Way Around Expunction

 

It’s also true that expunction only determines the result of a background check in the future. Employers that enlist a private background check company to look up a prospective hire and still see that expunged record.

Why is this the case?

Court records are downloadable and these companies periodically download the latest records.  Performing a background check will uncover all personal pieces of information about someone. 

 

What Can You Do About It?

 

In the cyber age, the role of the expunction is nowhere near as powerful as it once was. It doesn’t apply to people talking online or records that were downloaded before the expunction became active. That’s why you’re not in the clear just because you were successful.

So what can you do about it?

 Most employers will appreciate the honesty and may still decide to not hold it against you.

 

Last Word – Is an Expungement Still Worth It?

 

The expungement is still worth it because it reduces the chances of any future damage by having your name appear in the records of the court.

Plus an expungement is far more respectable than having an active criminal record that anyone can access. But there’s no doubt that expungement still has its flaws.

Have you applied for an expungement of your criminal records?