Protecting Your Criminal History In A World of Misinformation

By Tab E. Lawhorn

Last year, I authored an article on how criminal background checks are used and what you can do to make sure yours is as clean as possible. One of the aspects of that article mentioned how third party data collection companies are profiting from selling background checks on individuals to employers, apartment managers, dating sites, and even schools.

Recently, I challenged an old arrest for a client of mine that was unique for one reason: even after getting a signed order from a judge removing the arrest, the old arrest still continued to appear on her criminal history. Not to be defeated, I challenged the Texas Department of Public Safety to properly remove the arrest according to the judge’s order. To my surprise, the TDPS explained that the arrest, in fact, was properly removed from the records of TDPS.

So why was the employer background check still showing an old arrest on my client’s criminal history? The results of my investigation were quite shocking.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, along with many other states, actually sell your information to third party data collection companies. These companies pay a hefty premium to offer “name” based background searches to anyone willing to pay their fee. No new news here. The problem is that if the database that was purchased is an old one, that is, if it doesn’t reflect any new changes to your criminal history, the third party company only has the rights to publish the old criminal history (unless they pay TDPS another fee for an updated database).

TDPS does send orders that expunge or make old arrests/convictions non-disclosable to these third party companies, but it usually takes months or even years for the companies to update their records on their own.

Even more alarming is that if these companies have sold their databases to other companies, there is no guarantee that they have forwarded any orders from the court or DPS to those purchasing companies.

The best way to ensure that an old arrest or conviction is removed from these subsequent third party data collection agencies is to send them each a certified copy of the court’s order directly, either from the clerk’s office or from your attorney’s office. Although it is time consuming and a little more costly, it is the most effective way to clean up your criminal history.

Tab Lawhorn is a criminal lawyer and partner at Derryberry Zips Wade Lawhorn, PLLC.  He lives in Tyler, Texas with his wife Zoe, his two loving dogs, Noodle and Fathead, and Mancat, his not-so-loving cat.  For a decade, he has fought for the rights of those individuals who have needed to clear up their past from criminal arrests and convictions.  He has carried his briefcase into courts from Los Angeles, California to Ben Wheeler, Texas (Population-400)–ensuring that people have clean records so they can live their lives accordingly.  He has founded YOURENOTGUILTY.COM and has been an active donor and community volunteer in East Texas ever since.

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