If you have any type of criminal conviction on your record, you know how difficult it can be to find meaningful employment. You need to be upfront with the prospective employer and be able to show that that past record will have no impact on your ability to be a good employee.
But what happens if the criminal record is not your own? You might be surprised how often this type of mistake happens. Many companies run criminal background checks as a pre-employment screening. Rental companies may also run these checks before renting an apartment or home. What happens when the criminal background check comes back with crimes you did not commit?
In most cases, it will prevent you from getting a job or residence. This is especially true because, to the employer, it looks like you lied on the application by omitting the record. It becomes very difficult to explain errors after the fact and most employers will understandably believe the report.
How Do These Errors Happen?
The truth is that there are currently no regulatory requirements for third party criminal background screening companies. They don't have to pass any certification or hold any licensing to do business. This means that unqualified people and companies can be tasked with intricate searches and they do make mistakes.
According to the National Consumer Law Center, criminal reports can include the following errors:
- Mismatched Records. This happens when one person's criminal record is matched with a completely different person. This is a frequent problem for people with common names or if the names are similar or identical. If there are two John Smiths in the same town and one has a lengthy criminal record, the other may have an issue with this type of error.
- Including Expunged Records. If a record is expunged, it should never be present in a criminal record report.
- Inconclusive Records. Including an arrest record when the case was dropped or dismissed is misleading.
- Misclassifying Charges. Listing misdemeanor charges as more serious in nature, often because the state's laws are not understood by the person compiling the report.
In most, if not all cases, the errors are the result of negligence on the part of the screening company. These errors occur because the data is not checked closely, databases are not updated, or the search criteria are too wide in nature. Criminal records should not be generated by name alone, especially when the name is very common.
How to Correct Your Mistaken Criminal Background
Mistaken criminal background records are becoming more and more common. In some states, third party companies are being denied access to public court records because there is such a high probability of the information being used incorrectly. The companies often cite inaccuracies in the source material, which can mean that information was not inputted correctly in the court records. Another problem is the lack of updating the information.
There have been class-action suits against companies that have been found to generate false records. However, that doesn't do the victims a lot of good if the records are not corrected. Correcting the databases can be a difficult process.