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Criminal Records—How long will they follow you?

When I woke up this morning my girlfriend asked me, "Did you sleep good?" I said "No, I made a few mistakes."

---Steven Wright

And most of us have made more mistakes awake than asleep and there always seems to be someone around to keep track of this kind of thing.

One of my recent columns summarized the reasons a felony criminal record might not show up on a pre-employment screening search. The article explained that most private employers do not have access to law enforcement records and must use private sources. When this is the case, there are two primary reasons your record will not show up: The primary reasons, were

You were not convicted in a county or state that makes all records available to database aggregators or,
The prospective employer has not ordered a criminal record on you from the jurisdiction in which you were convicted.

Admittedly, there are two more common questions, usually asked with a sprinkling of speaking in tongues.

“How come you got my Infraction/Misdemeanor/Felony Record scan and the %$#@1 thing shows that I have a criminal record and I don’t!!!” or,
I have a criminal record but how long is that *&^$ going to show up on my report. I was 18 years old when it happened for crying out loud and I can’t seem to get a job because of that &^%#.

When a report shows you have an Infraction/Misdemeanor/Felony Record and you don’t, the reason is usually that companies have created databases containing criminal records that are searched by last name, first name and date of birth. And so, if your name is “John Doe,” chances are there many more “John Doe’s” born on your birthday and a few of them have criminal records. Somebody else’s offense is showing up on your report. At that point, we can work to insure that you are not refused a job because someone else has committed a crime.

If you do have an Infraction/Misdemeanor/Felony Record that is legitimately yours and you were convicted of the crime, that information in many cases will not “fall off” your report. Until the late 1990’s “consumer reporting agencies” i.e., those businesses that provide criminal record information to employers, were restricted to reporting the past 7 years of information in most instances. When the Fair Credit Reporting Act was amended, the 7-year restriction was limited to arrest—not conviction information.

While the Federal limitation on reporting criminal record convictions was lifted, several states still limit consumer reporting agencies from reporting criminal record convictions to 7 years in some instances. For example, California, Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Texas and Washington all restrict vendors from reporting conviction information older than 7 years in some instances.

And so, if your question is how long will that *&^%%$ conviction show up, the answer varies but in general, it may always be reported. Needless to say, if your crime happened when you were a minor, the record was supposed to be sealed if you got into no more trouble for a given time or there were other circumstances present, you can take action. The thing to do is know what your record says, correct it if something is showing that shouldn’t-- and do this before it bites you in the form of being refused a job.

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