Will an Expunged Record Show Up on a Background Check?

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Due to the concern of potential negligent hiring lawsuits and the safety of the workplace, employers are increasingly checking if potential hires have criminal records. However, it can be frustrating for an ex-offender to conduct a job search -- if he's truthful about his criminal history, there's a risk of not getting hired; if he omits a criminal history that later becomes known, he can be fired. Therefore, some ex-offenders choose to legally erase, or expunge, criminal records.


Expungement is the process of getting criminal records judicially erased. The actual terminology, procedure, and effects of expungement vary depending from state to state, although records that can be expunged include arrests, detentions, trials or dispositions of crimes. After receiving orders of expungement from the court, job applicants are not required to divulge criminal convictions for which expungements were granted. The overall effect of an expunged record is that it does not exist.

State Regulations

Each state offers its own definition of expungement, although in general most view expungement as the process to "remove from general review" the records pertaining to a case. Different states have different regulations regarding expunged records -- for example, some states allow people who have only been arrested to expunge their arrest records, while others allow offenders who have completed their sentences to apply for expungements after a specified amount of time.

Time Lag

After the designated police agencies receive the court order for expungement, they each enter it into its own criminal record database. For example, the FBI enters it into the National Crime Information Center database, the state police enter it into that state criminal information database and local police agencies similarly enter the order into their criminal databases. Until these agencies complete this process, which might take several days or weeks, the expunged criminal record can show up in a background check.

Pre-Check for Criminal Records

Because of the time lag between police agencies receiving and entering an expungement into their criminal databases, it's a good idea for the job applicant to conduct a "pre-check" of the criminal record and verify it is not accessible prior to commencing a job search. Because a background screener or employer requests criminal records from any county courts where applicants lived, worked or attended school, a pre-check involves applicants contacting those same courthouses and requesting their criminal records.