A job seeker wrote to me and presented a rather unique problem that required a little thought, and I thought that more people might have need of the advice I gave him.
His original question was: “Over 20 years ago I was arrested on a warrant from ***** County IL but never went to court. I met with the State’s Attorney and thought the matter was dismissed. I recently found out that I have an arrest record and it is affecting a job that I am attempting to secure. They want me to prove that I don’t have a conviction. How can I find out what the outcome of this situation was since all of the records in Chicago were destroyed? I really need a place to start.”
This is of course a different kind of problem, but there are actually quite a few places where one can proceed with obtaining records. The first place I would start of course is the county where your transgression took place. If a background check dredges up records that were supposedly destroyed, they have obviously not been disposed of. Had they been truly destroyed, then they wouldn’t be showing up and biting you in the wrong places every time you try to get a job.
If you can’t go to the county courthouse yourself and have a little money to spare, I would recommend an on-site county records search either by a detective agency or an online background check provider. Currently, the only commercial online service I recommend for this is FindOutTheTruth. While USSearch and Intelius offer such a service, they don’t compete on this particular product.
Another thing you can try is a nationwide criminal records search. This is once again a reference check, and often won’t necessarily turn anything up. There are a number of closed-records states, which means they don’t allow automated indexing of their criminal records. So if you do get a criminal records search, make it a nationwide search as there might be something bogus on your record in a different state from where you reside. As an aside note, do not take any special offers from any background check service. All they do is sign you up to a monthly subscription.
If you are willing to spend the money to check if there are criminal records on file fairly quickly and hassle free, use the ideas above. You can also use the resources offered by the law enforcement in the state where you live, and even the FBI. These types of searches can take weeks, but are the real McCoy as far as your record is concerned.
You can also visit the state criminal justice information authority website for the state you live in. Their websites will usually have everything you need to know. Usually you’ll find information on how to obtain your records and how to get past convictions expunged as well. They should also be able to answer any questions you have about submitting proof of dismissal, acquittal, or whatever else you may need for employment purposes. To get there, just proceed to Google and type the name of your state followed by “criminal records.” For example, if I lived in Texas, I would go to Google and type “texas criminal records”. The url will often include state(two letter state acronym).gov if it’s an official state law enforcement website. WHATEVER you do, do NOT go for the free records offers. I was looking around yesterday in preparation for this article and found myself clicking on such a link being offered by a typical scam site.
The next step, if nothing turns up, is to check your FBI records. There is a chance, however slim, you have a criminal records on file with the FBI. This wasn’t so common years ago, but these days many state law enforcement agencies report felonies to the FBI, as well as putting them on record in the home state. When I say FBI, I’m referring to the NICS. Since it was only started in 1998, there is the possibility that older criminal records might not be included. However, you should be aware that the FBI maintains a number of records databases as well. You can visit the link below at the FBI’s website for instructions on obtaining your own record: www.fbi.gov.
Hopefully these steps help you with clearing up your own records in the event there is some discrepancy that can’t be pinned down. Or, if you just need to check on your personal history, this is also a good way to ensure you don’t have anything negative on your record. Another step you can take is to check and monitor your credit report and score. Millions of Americans have been turning to credit monitoring in this age of massive identity theft to help avoid a personal catastrophe.
Categories: Question and Answer