Expunged Criminal Records and Job Applications: How Should You Answer?

In most states, once your record is expunged, you can act as if those convictions never happened. The record is sealed and won't be released in response to, for example, a criminal background check by a prospective employer.

By , J.D.

If you're filling out a job application that asks whether you've ever been convicted of a crime or have a criminal record, you have to tell the truth. But how should you answer if your criminal conviction has been expunged?

Here's what you need to know.

Getting Your Criminal Record Expunged Can Clear Your Convictions in Most States

In most states, once a criminal conviction is expunged, you can act as if that conviction never happened. The record is sealed and won't be released in response to, for example, a criminal background check by a prospective employer. And, the law allows you to say you do not have a criminal record, if that record has been expunged.

When Can I Get a Criminal Conviction Expunged?

Not every offense is eligible for expungement. In most states, however, if your offenses were minor, the crimes took place when you were a juvenile, and you have no subsequent adult convictions, you will be able to expunge your records by filing a petition asking the court to seal your record. (You may also have to pay a fee.)

Once you start your job search, you'll be able to check the "no" box on applications that ask if you have a criminal record or if you have ever been convicted of a crime. This is perfectly legal: In fact, it's the whole purpose of allowing someone to expunge a record. If your record is sealed, a court has determined that you are entitled to a fresh start.

This right isn't absolute, however. For example, if you apply for a job in law enforcement, the public employer may be able to see your record. Similarly, if you are convicted of a later crime, your earlier convictions may be taken into account when you are sentenced. But for most civil purposes, including dealing with employers and landlords, you can deny that you have a criminal record once that record is expunged.

Do Expunged Criminal Records Show Up on Background Checks?

If you have a criminal conviction that's been expunged, it generally won't show up on a background check. The exception is if you're applying for a job in law enforcement or a similar public-safety-related job that requires a robust vetting process.

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