There are many benefits to expunging your criminal record, the most obvious of which is that any potential background checks will come up clean. But is this really a necessary step? Do others care about past arrests, felonies, or convictions? Simply put, yes. You’ll always come across someone who wants to dig into your past and find a reason for mistrust. While this isn’t always a problem on a personal level, there are times when a look back at past mistakes could hinder your future’s success in terms of work, living, and finances. Below are four people you’ll encounter who will likely run a background check on you for one reason or another.
Not all employers are required to run a criminal background check, but most private employers will opt for it (roughly 80% of employers currently conduct criminal background searches). Employers will typically do a background check on you to see your credit history, driving record, criminal record, etc. There are professional reasons behind this—to verify your identity, age, and security clearance—but truth be told, employers typically want to hire trustworthy individuals. They want to feel confident in their hire. Moreover, laws are complicated, so your criminal record can keep you from getting certain positions or licenses.
It’s common for every lease application to come with a tenant background check; most will even charge you for the cost of screening fees. Landlords want to know who they’re handing the keys to— they’ll check for bad credit, eviction and court records, and employment/rental history. They do this for a number of reasons. Most landlords don’t want an unruly tenant; what they do want is to feel confident that they’ll be receiving rent payments, protect themselves from liability, reduce tenant turnover, and keep their community safe.
Lenders and bank professionals
Getting a loan is an extensive process that comes with a hefty stack of paperwork. Because there is a large amount of money exchanging hands, lenders will perform applicant background checks before issuing a loan. Their job is to assess the risk associated with giving a loan to someone. Applicants undergo background checks to determine whether they’ll be approved and what their interest rate will be. While the degree and extent of the background vary on the type of loan, lenders might discriminate based on a criminal record.
Neighbors or friends
While mere acquaintances are less likely to run a background check on you, it’s still a possibility. People tend to choose their company carefully. Some will choose to run a background check on friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and even potential dates. When it comes down to it, people don’t need to justify their reasons for performing these checks because the information they find is part of the public record.
Knowing that a conviction is on your record makes it easier to freely apply for jobs, find a new home, and live with a general peace of mind. One in three Americans run into trouble with the law by age 23; this doesn’t mean that you have to let your history stand in the way of your success. It’s important to know your rights—you don’t have to let your past hold you back if you’re eligible for an expungement. Keep tomorrow in mind by taking those first steps to clear your record today.
It’s no secret that the U.S. needs to fix its broken criminal justice system. Not only does our current system hyper-criminalize citizens, but it also makes it extremely difficult for them to bounce back and become productive members of society. Having an unclean record makes it difficult for people to get back on their feet, and unless they get an expungement, it’s a burden they have to carry with them their whole lives.
That’s where the REDEEM Act comes in. The REDEEM (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment) Act strives to help people break the cycle of criminal activity and give them a second chance. Re-introduced by Senators Rand Paul, Cory Booker, and Elijah Cummings in April of 2017, the purpose of the REDEEM Act is to change the criminal justice system and expunge records after time served. In short, it would prevent non-violent crimes from disrupting people’s futures. This bipartisan bill would put into place seven major reforms that would help people who were convicted of non-violent crimes to more successfully re-enter society. The seven changes would:
- Allow adults who have committed nonviolent crimes to petition to have their records sealed one year after completing their sentence.
- Automatically seal (and, in some cases, expunge) the records of juveniles.
- Incentivize states to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18 years old.
- Significantly restrict room confinement of juveniles.
- Loft the lifetime SNAP and TANF bans on many nonviolent drug offenders.
- Improve the accuracy of the FBI background check system.
Here’s why this bill is extremely important.
As of now, the widespread availability of one’s criminal history renders qualified individuals jobless. If this bill were to pass, it would make it easier for those people to get work, thus lowering the probability of convicted criminals to re-offend. This not only promotes public safety but lowers the cost of crime and unemployment across the country (a report from the Vera Institute recently revealed that if ten states cut their re-offending rates by just ten percent, taxpayers would save $470 million a year).
People make mistakes. We’re only human. It’s unreasonable to deny others the chance to do good with their lives; we can’t turn our back on fellow Americans who have paid their debt to society and are looking for a fresh start. The REDEEM Act would ease the barriers that hold back those looking to move past their criminal record. This bill would correct our misguided criminal justice policies, and be a step in the right direction for our federal system.
The current status of the bill is that it has been read twice to Senate, but not debated or voted on. As is, it probably won’t pass, because Republicans are going to argue that it makes the government look soft on crime. But even Conservatives have agreed that it is certainly a step in the right direction, so certain modifications could be made to help the bill pass.
If you want to do your part to see this bill through, write, call or tweet your Senator with your thoughts on the proposed changes.
It may come as a shock to you to learn that the United States is the world’s leader in incarceration. Or maybe this doesn’t surprise you at all; the rise of mass incarceration over the past three decades has been the subject of some intense scrutiny. We know that hyper-criminalization drives poverty and presents obstacles for those who have to bear the weight of a criminal record. But exactly how many Americans deal with these issues? As many as 100 million Americans have an unclean record; however, the actual number is so high that counting them is nearly impossible. Instead, here are some statistics to put the number into perspective:
- There are currently more Americans with Criminal records than there were American citizens in 1900.
- America has 5% of the world’s population, and 25% of its prisoners.
- One in three Americans has been arrested by the age of 23.
- There is roughly the same amount of college graduates as there are people with criminal records.
- If every arrested American band together to form a nation, they would be the 18th largest nation in the world.
- About 20% of American citizens have criminal records.
- There are more Americans with criminal records than there are people living in France.
- Young adults make up 10% of the American population, and 29% of American arrests.
- If every American with an arrest record held hands, they would circle the earth three times.
- There are more Americans with arrest records than there are American households with a dog.
These statistics are problematic. We’re dealing with an issue that is preventing millions of Americans from becoming productive members of society, which begs the question: Why are there so many Americans with criminal records?
Maybe the issue isn’t that Americans are criminals, but that American politicians are hell bent on criminalizing things. The federal criminal code has a ridiculous amount of laws, not to mention government regulations with criminal penalties. No one even knows how many federal laws there are in America—there are 20,000 laws governing the ownership of guns alone. The problem is that there are so many vague rules to follow that any given American is likely to unknowingly commit crimes every day.
So what can be done about it? Washington seems to recognize the problem, and there’s a general consensus that something has to be done about it; there are several areas of reform that could correct the criminal justice system. On an individual level, there are steps you can take to wipe your criminal history. Call Easy Expunctions at 210) 816-6655 to determine your eligibility and find your path to a clear record today.
Jake Rainey was only twenty years old when he picked up a ticket for possession of a small amount of marijuana. Jake, who was also a student at a Houston university, and an intern at a wealth management agency, had no prior offenses on his record. Before his marijuana ticket, Jake was simply a good kid with ambition and a bright future.
Fast forward one year, and Jake is still bearing the consequences of his ticket. He has graduated college, but his case is still being prosecuted, with charges against him pending. He has had to make appearances in court, in addition to paying hundreds of dollars in legal and court fees.
The charges against Jake can easily be discovered through a basic background check, which means potential employers see Jake’s criminal activity. This has left him with no employment after graduation, and an expensive legal maze to navigate through. He never thought that possession of a small amount of marijuana could change his life in such a drastic way.
Today, cases like Jake are easily prevented, thanks to Harris County District Attorney’s latest moves in deregulating marijuana possession, District Attorney Devon Anderson announced in October last year that Harris County would no longer prosecute non-violent, first-time offenders caught in possession of marijuana under 2 ounces.
Now, this doesn’t mean that marijuana is legal and that Houston is the new Denver. The idea is that marijuana offenders will be punished, but in a manner that reduces the burden on both the offender and the criminal justice system. They will be arrested and finger printed, but no charges will be filed, and the offenders will never enter the legal system.
That’s a big move for Harris County, where someone is arrested for marijuana possession every fifty minutes. A typical marijuana possession case goes through a police officer, a jailer, a prosecutor, a judge, a clerk, a defense lawyer, and a probation officer, and costs the state over $3,000 per case. Even Houston’s police chief Charles McClelland agreed that marijuana violations were creating an overbearing load on the legal system.
Possession of marijuana is still illegal in Harris County, but many offenders will no longer face prosecution or have charges filed against them. In the case of Jake Rainey, that would have meant no court dates and fees, and no blemishes on his record that are holding back his professional career.
That is exactly the purpose of Houston’s new law, according to Anderson. “We are targeting the people we believe are self-correcting and will be ‘scared straight’ by being handcuffed and transported,” Anderson said. “Our goal is to keep these individuals from entering the revolving door of the criminal justice system.”
Harris County is one of the many places across the country getting looser on marijuana laws. While possession is not legalized to the extent of states such as Colorado and Alaska, the new regulations still address a valid concern for many first-time offenders, such as Jake, who don’t want to see their future blown away in a puff of smoke. It ensures that good people who make small mistakes are not harshly punished for their mistakes. Keeping small-time marijuana users out of the legal system helps establish a better use of resources for the criminal justice system, and a brighter future for people like Jake who have ambitions and talents than can contribute to the community, instead of being a burden on it.
Marijuana Legalization: ‘Enforcing Laws Is Waste Of Time,’ Houston Police Chief Says
Mugshot Sites profit through extortion
The consequences of a legal issue can extend beyond the courtroom. There are businesses out there that want to profit off of your legal issues, and it’s important to be fully aware of your rights when dealing with them. Some businesses used to prey on people who had been arrested by uploading their mugshots online and forcing people to pay a fee in order to have their pictures taken down and removed.
Websites like BustedMugshots.com and MugshotsOnline.com attempt to make a profit through extortion, even against people who have had their cases dismissed or expunged. This creates problems for people’s online reputation, which can affect their employment, education, and more. Thankfully, there are regulations in place designed to protect people from these types of predatory businesses.
A federal lawsuit, which started in Ohio courts, established a precedent that if an individual has had their charge dismissed or expunged, businesses cannot force them to pay a fee for removing evidence of their arrest. Essentially, once the court says that there is no longer a case of an individual, these websites must be willing to take down and remove the information about the person without extorting a fee out of them.
Attorneys representing these businesses claim that they are providing a service and have first amendment rights to put these mugshots and profiles up online. These claims, however, do not come before your rights in the legal system. Once your case has been dismissed or expunged, you can deny any evidence of it ever happening.
Despite the lawsuit and new regulations, these websites still attempt to prey on individuals who have been through the legal system. Employers, friends, and the general public can all easily access this information. That’s why it’s critical to know all your options and rights, even after your case is over. Easy Expunctions puts the right tools at your fingertips to help clean your record in just a few clicks.
Truancy is a Class C misdemeanor in Texas
Skipping class is obviously something that students should be dissuaded against, but at what cost? Fort Bend County has recently entered the debate as to what extent truancy should be criminalized. This comes as a huge step for Fort Bend, which is the only other county in Texas besides Dallas that has a court dedicated exclusively to hearing truancy proceedings.
Truancy is a Class C misdemeanor in Texas, carrying fines and a criminal record that often tarnishes a student’s previously clean slate. Many people believe that the measures taken against truant students are more punitive than constructive. By giving kids a criminal record at a young age, more burdens are placed on students going forward in life. It can negatively affect future education and employment opportunities for students, which is counter-productive to the goals of public education.
Texas Chief Justice Nathan Hecht is of the opinion that the current system is too harsh on students. He recently raised his voice in the debate over truancy, questioning whether the act is truly criminal. He notes that often times it is the personal hardships and issues at home that cause students to miss school.
Some students deal with a range of personal issues, including illnesses, abuse, and family problems, and often have no support to guide them through their personal challenges. Hecht believes instead of criminalizing these students, decision-makers need to take more productive measures that help support the student’s academic and personal lives.
Fort Bend has already taken steps towards more productive methods in stopping truancy. The county has started campus-wide Attendance Intervention Team programs that meet with students and parents of truant children before any charges are filed. Fort Bend is also starting several initiatives to provide mental and emotional support for students dealing with personal issues.
“We’re not trying to criminalize anyone,” said Fort Bend Judge Ruby Shaw. “We want to see if there’s anything we can do before a complaint is filed.” Still, Fort Bend is one of the toughest districts in the state on truancy, and some decision-makers believe the current system is just fine.
“If I don’t have a way to coerce them back into school, then anything I tell them is just going to fall on deaf ears,” said Justice of the Peace Gary Janssen. “I’m just hoping that whatever comes out of it, that they don’t take the tools away from us that are working.”