The Law Firm of Higbee & Associates, the nation’s leading criminal record clearing law firm, has partnered with The Foundation for Continuing Justice, a non-profit law firm, to prevent the dispersion of outdated records, save members of society countless dollars and allow rehabilitated former offenders to progress in society the way the judicial system intended.
Almost every state allows for some form of criminal record clearing providing offenders meet legal requirements and can demonstrate they are rehabilitated. Such laws recognize that it does not make moral or economic sense to brand every former offender for life. Once a criminal record is cleared on the court level, state agencies are given proper notice and update their records to reflect these changes.
The problem lies in the fact that while most courts will clear a criminal record, they do not notify background check companies that the record has been updated. This means that outdated data will remain in circulation until the background check company purchases updated data from the court— and that might be a year or more.
The collateral damage in this communication breakdown are thousands of people who go back into the job market believing that they should now be able to clear a background check and start working. Too often they are shocked and disappointed to be denied a job because the employer purchased and used a background check that reported the expunged or sealed record. It is impossible to count the number of people who are denied jobs and, as a result, continue to require government assistance, but attorney Mathew Higbee says the anecdotal evidence suggest the number is very large.
“We get calls every day from people who thought they were going to be able to take a big step back into the mainstream only to find out that the benefit the court gave them for demonstrating rehabilitation was denied by an employer who received outdated data. The system is failing to fully fix the problem it was trying to fix,” says Higbee.
The state and federal laws designed to safeguard against this type of scenario are ineffective. Background check companies are required by law to provide applicants with a copy of any report that has negative information on it in order to give them a chance to dispute the accuracy. However, most applicants do not understand how to assert that right or believe that there is no point in pursuing the job further if the potential employer has already seen the incriminating information.
The Foundation for Continuing Justice has partnered with leading commercial background check companies to form the Expungement Clearinghouse. The Foundation allows individuals to request their outdated records removed from databases used by background check companies. Higbee & Associates will be playing a critical roll.
Once Higbee & Associates verifies that the record has been expunged or sealed, the Foundation distributes it to the Clearinghouse for removal. The Clearinghouse, which is a joint effort involving leading background check companies, will ensure that more than 800 background check companies.
According to Clifford J. Williams, Vice President of Innovative Inc, one of the participating background check companies, “This service is a proactive effort on the part of the background screening community to help job applicants who have obtained valid expungement orders for past criminal records as they seek to rebuild their lives and secure meaningful employment.”