Expungement in Tennessee – FAQ
Why Did My Expunged Case Show Up On A Background Check?
In many situations, we are successful at getting a client’s case dismissed and their public record expunged. Unfortunately, the case can still appear on private background checks even years later. This guide explains why this happens, and what you can do about it.
How Are Public Records Created?
When a person is arrested, the government creates various public records that anyone can see. This can include a “mug shot,” the arrest warrant, the name of the charge, and the status of the case. For example, the public would be able to see the particular person was charged with a DUI on January 1, a report of the facts written by the officer, and the fact that the case is “open” or “pending.”
How Are Private Records Created?
While the case is open, private companies can access and save any information that is available to the public. Often this only includes the person’s name, birthday, nature and date of the charge, and the case status. These private companies will save this information in a database so if a background check is later requested, they can easily access that information without having to contact the various court clerk offices across the county. They may even publish the information on the internet.
Does My Dismissed Case Get Automatically Expunged?
Not in Tennessee. You must fill out paperwork with the clerk, may any outstanding court costs, and potentially pay an expungement fee depending on what led the case being dismissed.
What Happens To My Public Record When My Case Gets Expunged?
When a judge orders the case be “expunged” under Tennessee law, all public records must be destroyed. This includes any record of the case kept by the court, police department, and TBI. The FBI is then supposed to clear the arrest from its national NCIC database.
What Happens To The Private Records When My Case Is Expunged?
This is where problems arise down the road. Unfortunately, the private companies who saved the case information usually do not update their records or realize the case has “disappeared.” Thus, when a background check is requested even years later, they will still see the old case they had “saved” before. Often the record will show the case is still “open” or “pending,” even though the case was actually expunged by the clerk.
What Can I Do When My Expunged Case Shows Up In A Background Check?
4 things to do if told by an employer or apartment manager that your old case appeared in a background check:
- Show them a copy of your expungement order
- Get a letter from the clerk showing that no case for you exists
- Ask whoever found the arrest to “run your record” again
- Ask them to follow up with the company who reported the arrest
We often hear from client’s who are told by an employer or apartment manager that their old case has appeared in a background check. The quickest solution is to show them a copy of your expungement order, which proves that the case was dismissed and has been expunged from your record. Hopefully that will clear things up once they understand what happened.
Unfortunately if you no longer have your expungement order, it is impossible to get a new one from the court clerk, because they have already destroyed all records from your case. It may be possible to get a letter from the clerk showing that no case for you exists, which would also prove that the case was expunged.
You can also ask whoever found the arrest to “run your record” again or to specifically contact the court clerk in the county of the arrest for them to see nothing remains from the case.
Remember that the employer/apartment probably did not do the background check on their own, but only requested it from the private company. If they do not understand what happened on their own, you may have to tell them to follow up with the company who reported the arrest.
Can I Stop The Case From Coming Up In The Future?
3 steps you can take to stop private companies from showing your expunged records in background checks:
- Under state civil law and federal Fair Credit Reporting Act you have rights to have your record correctly reported (depending on who it is that is reporting your expunged offense)
- Provide the private company a copy of your expungement order, and demand they update their records
- Hire a company who can pursue this for you
If it has already come up, contact the company who reported the arrest and provide them a copy of your expungement order, and demand they update their records. Unfortunately, there are several different private companies, so clearing the record from one place may not stop the case from being reported by someone else.
You can try doing a background check on yourself to see what comes up. There are companies who you can hire to pursue this for you. You also have rights to have your record correctly reported under state civil law and the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, depending on who it is that is reporting your expunged offense.