My case was supposed to have been expunged why does it show up on my background check?

I often get calls from former clients whose criminal charges were dismissed and the record of the arrest and court case were expunged but they have had a background check done for a job or for a lease and the former arrest and court documents show up on the back ground check.

There are three reasons a prior arrest or court case may show up after the criminal charges have been expunged.

Private Company Data Mining

The most common problem is that private companies who sell public records over the internet or who do background checks for companies mine the data from the courthouse while the case is pending or before it can be expunged. Then when the Court expunges the case that expungement does not get erased from the records in possession of the private company.

The best way to find out if this has happened is to go to the Court where your case was at and ask to see the documents. If they do not have them the case was expunged and some private company has the records and provided them when the background check was done.

Therefore, if you ever apply for a job or a lease or do anything else where a background check locates a prior arrest or court case that was supposed to have been expunged find out what company did the record check and find out where they got the records and make sure they destroy the record of your arrest or court case so that the problem does not happen again. That may or may not help you with the current job you had applied for. However, if you lost that job or lease because of that company failing to expunge records that the court has expunged you may have a law suit against the private company that failed to expunge your records.

You Have Applied for a Job That Requires a Check of Confidential Law Enforcement and FBI Records

Expungement of public court records is only one step in the expungement process and is good enough for most people. To expunge private confidential law enforcement and FBI arrest records you or your lawyer need to file a special request with the FBI after the Court expunges the case. Therefore if you have had a criminal case or arrest dismissed and have any plans of someday joining law enforcement, the military, or any other job that would require a background check that includes a search of non-public arrest records be sure to ask you lawyer to make the expungement request to the FBI after the Court records are expunges.

Error by You or a Bureaucrat or the Attorney Filing the Expungement Documents

Expungement is not automatic. Paperwork must be filed. I often have people who thought the case would automatically be expunged after the case was dismissed. Not true. You or your lawyer must file the paperwork. Sometimes the court clerk or the attorney filing the paperwork may make a mistake. These mistakes can be corrected easily enough and the case can still be expunged if eligible — it just needs to be filed and processed correctly.

I hope this helps. Good luck. Brent Horst, Attorney Criminal Law.
Licensed in Tennessee and Florida.