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Can you please let me know why my felony is not showing?

I poured spot remover on my dog. Now he's gone.

—Steven Wright

A typical question from drivers is “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!!!”

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.

For whatever reason though, in the past month I’ve gotten two questions that were the opposite: “I have a criminal record, but the Infraction/Misdemeanor/Felony record scan you ran does not show it and the employer who ordered a criminal record on me did not get it. Why?”

Well, there could be a few reasons. First, private employers and companies do not have access to the FBI national file (unless they have been granted statutory access). So, employers must use what is available. There are several companies that create databases of criminal records by obtaining and combining all the records from available county and state sources. However, these databases do not contain all criminal records—just those that occurred in a jurisdiction that makes its database available.

There are also services that allow a employer to pick a county or state and order the record from that specific jurisdiction. If you were convicted in a different jurisdiction, it won't show up in the jurisdiction that was ordered.

So, briefly, if your criminal record is not showing, it is most likely because:

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.

So does this mean that you’re home free and there is no record of your past? No. There are a couple of reasons why:

If you did not disclose the felony or misdemeanor on your application for employment and the employer finds out about it after you are hired, you may be summarily dismissed with a notation on your employment file that you lied on your application. Your employer may get a criminal search on you at anytime while you are an employee.
Counties and states are increasingly making their records available to database aggregators. Records that in the past were hidden may have been added and may show up in the next search another employer does or in a search while you are an employee.
An employer may later decide to order a criminal record from the jurisdiction in which you were convicted, e.g., a different county or different state.

And one more word of caution: if your driving job (or the one to which you are applying) may require entry into Canada, you should know that the Canada Immigration Act of 1976 considers individuals who have been convicted of a “crime or offense” are considered “inadmissible” and precluded from entering Canada. U.S. Workers are subject to random criminal record checks by Canadian authorities—and these authorities DO have access to the FBI criminal record database. If you will need to get into Canada, you should look into getting a “Minister’s Permit” from the Canadian Consulate.

In general, if you have not been convicted of a crime, you should make sure your record reflects that—before you are turned down for jobs. If you have been convicted of a crime, you should know what the record shows and react according to your situation. In either case, the key is to be proactive and deal from a position of knowledge.

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