My criminal charges were expunged, why did they appear on a background search?

Expungement Limited to Government Records

A person that successfully completes ARD is normally given the ability to seek the dismissal and then expungement of the charges.  The expungement does not generally occur automatically but instead requires the person to go through the expungement process.  The expungement process will remove most information about the case from the government’s systems.  The government is permitted to retain some records, primarily for future ARD consideration purposes, meaning the government is permitted to retain some records so that a person does not repeatedly receive an ARD resolution.

While the government records are destroyed through the expungement process, the process does not destroy records or information that is possessed by private people or companies.  The government lacks the legal authority to force private entities to expunge.  For example, if a criminal case is referenced in a newspaper article or is posted online, the person cannot use the expungement order issued by the court to demand that the online or newspaper article is removed.  Normally, when people contact the newspaper, the newspaper may update the online article, but the article is rarely removed.

More troubling is a recent trend in which private companies pay for access to the government records, and the private companies uploads or stores case information and criminal histories.  Private employers and landlords may hire a background search company that pays to search the private database instead of the government records.  This means that the employer may receive information from the private database company that is not available on the government records because the records were expunged.  While the private databases are not required to expunge their records, they often will if they are provided with a copy of the expungement order.  The problem that arises is trying to identify the companies that have a record of the charges. The number of Internet companies seems to be increasing and ever changing.

Free Initial Consultation

If you have questions about an expungement, contact the experienced expungement lawyers at the State College criminal defense firm of JD Law for a free initial consultation at (814) 954-7622 or email us.