Why the Sealing of a Criminal Record Could Help Level the Playing Field in a Tight Job Market
It’s hard enough to find a job during these tough economic times. But for the out-of-work applicant that is also burdened by a criminal record, their job search can be particularly frustrating. In this age of computers, potential employers have an easy method for discovering and separating those applicants with a criminal record from those that are “squeaky clean.” Most employers won’t even consider an application when they have the luxury of picking from an abundant number of prospects who are unburdened by a past record of arrest.
Employers Find It Easy to Access Criminal Records
Just how easy is it for a potential employer to do a background check on a person applying for a job? Well, to start with, all criminal records in Pinellas County are also “public records.” That means that anyone can walk into the Criminal Justice Center and without charge, inquire if a person has a criminal record. Then they can ask the Clerk of Court to provide them with the court file. With the benefit of the court file, the potential employer can then read the facts and circumstances surrounding the original arrest, charge and subsequent prosecution. Oh yes… copies of all documents in criminal court files are available to anyone ready to fork out $1.00 a page.
But what if the employer lacks the time and initiative to visit the Clerk’s Office? No problem, since much of this same information is also available for free online. The Consolidated Justice Information System (CJIS) is provided to the public without charge. Anyone can do a CJIS online inquiry using the job applicant’s name and easily uncover historical information related to their arrest and prosecution. The employer can also secure information related to a record of arrest directly from law enforcement. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement provides this readily accessible public information through the Internet. The FDLE produces a detailed “FCIC report” (Florida Crime Information Center) of arrest information associated with any criminal case arising anywhere within the state of Florida.
“The Deer in the Headlights” – Online Booking Photos
Everyone booked into the Pinellas County Jail is photographed. Within minutes, that unflattering image is published on the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department website. The photograph and other booking information is thereafter accessible world-wide. Potential employers can make a simple inquiry on the PCSO website using just a first and last name. Unlike commercial media services that publish booking photos online for a period of only 60 days, the Sheriff’s Office will never pull the photos off-line unless the criminal record is sealed by court order.
Sealing Expungement Blocks Employer Access to Criminal Records
Florida law permits a person who successfully seals or expunges a criminal record to “lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge” the sealed or expunged case, except in a very few limited circumstances. In addition, sealed or expunged records are no longer accessible to the general public.
Having a record sealed or expunged results in the removal of all information pertaining to an arrest and prosecution, including those records held by the:
- Pinellas County Clerk of Court;
- Online Consolidated Justice Information System (CJIS);
- Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office;
- Arresting law enforcement agency;
- Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FCIC); and
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (NCIC)
The official court order sealing a criminal record likewise directs any other agencies to whom information regarding the arrest was disseminated to remove them from public view. Accordingly, an employer who conducts an official background check would be told that no record of arrest exists.
Watch our video on Sealing Expunging Criminal Records
The Playing Field Now Becomes Even
Practically speaking, a sealed record means that for most employment applications, licensing requests, loan documents, property rental applications, and educational pursuits, the applicant can truthfully deny that they have ever been arrested, charged with a crime, or had to attend court in conjunction with a criminal proceeding. They can truthfully state, under oath, that the entire incident never took place. Such a remedy places them on an “even playing field” with all other job applicants, since the prospective employer will never know of the sealed or expunged record’s existence.
We Believe in Second Chances
When a person makes a mistake or poor choice, we believe that they should not have to bear the consequences forever. Having a criminal record sealed gives them the opportunity to move on in a productive way as a contributing member of society. Eliminating barriers to employment through the sealing of a criminal record can be an effective method of accomplishing just that goal.