The groundbreaking record relief legislation trends sweeping the US are bringing hope to millions of justice-involved individuals. From sealing arrests or automatic expungements, Clean Slate laws are opening historically exciting doors to anyone with past arrests or criminal charges.

The Unintended Disruptions

Interestingly, however, Clean Slate will also bring a problem that did not exist before, which is a disruption to the criminal data supply chain.

Why? Because by taking away critical data points, suppliers and distributors may have to choose between under-reporting or over-disclosing.

Some advocates for record relief wouldn’t blink an eye to this kind of issue. However, privacy and data science play an enormous role in criminal record relief. So much so, that the entire background check and personal data industry may find it difficult to achieve high standards of compliance when one of the biggest sources of criminal data (courts) will be yanked away from them by order of the DOJ.

From a privacy attorney’s perspective, this can play out in several ways. From a data engineers point of view, the solutions are hairy.

Here are some of the predictions we at RecordFixer see coming around the horizon as we work on some incredible solutions.

For Background Check Reports, “Old Data” might be all that’s left

Consider the following scenario:

Person A was arrested a few months ago. Charges were filed and Person A got a great deal with just a little bit of probation. Probation expired. Clean Slate law gets triggered and the Department of Justice (DOJ) orders the court to wipe the record clean and hide the case from public view (Even public records researchers may not find it). Powerful stuff.

But Person A has been looking for a job. Maybe they were looking before probation expired. Maybe right after. When Person A fills out a form that authorizes their future employer to conduct a screening (AKA: Background check), all the information above is accessible: from the arrest, to the charges, to the conviction. If the report is generated just before the clean slate trigger, nothing is hidden unless Person A files for a petition early.

If the report is generated afterwards, then thousands of automated systems that monitor criminal history will likely include the arrest and charges without referring back to the final court record. Unless of course, the search started with the courthouse (which Clean Slate bill proponents assumed all along).

The real mechanics of how this will play out is much more complex because many large-scale distributors process reports differently from one another. If you want to see the timeline of how criminal records are captured from the moment of arrest, here’s a short video we made a while back.

Bottom Line: A consumer-generated compliance tool is a must for those sensitive to disclosure and at the same time insure reporting agencies are not exposing themselves to liability.

Misinformed Consumers & Unwilling Justices

court records

That was a cryptic headline; so lets be more clear.

First, millions of individuals with past criminal history have probably already heard of “automatic expungement” laws and government clearance rates. But an alarming number of those same individuals do not know if they are qualified (or even included) in the program. What’s worse–they don’t know how to find out if they are or aren’t.

So what happens when they find out their cases were never touched when they sit in an interview room where a recruiter reads their history out loud to verify if it’s accurate?1

Second, few realize that filing petitions with the court to obtain an expungement or seal an arrest is no walk in the park. In the face of Clean Slate laws giving full authority to a wide range of now qualifying offenses, sitting judges have conservative opinions on what should be “cleared” and who is deserving of that clearance. In other words, they are still denying petitions left and right. The reasons for this are lengthy and may differ from one jurisdiction to the next.2

New Detection Systems on the Horizon

Employers still want to know if they are hiring someone who could be a major liability to the company. They just want to know. And most of the general public can get behind that kind of idea.

Entities in the business of providing information have experimented with some curious methods (like creating “Scoring Systems”) to circumvent generating blank reports for people with extensive histories. After all, producing a product without hit rates and other RDBMS instances that cause a landlord or employer alarm is fatal to sometimes lucrative contracts.

Our answer continues to be focused on providing solutions based on access to technology that supports privacy while continuing to operate within a highly complex data ecosystem. The general public has little interest in engaging topics such as building responsible relational database management systems (for hundreds of obvious reasons). But for those like us, we thrive on building a platform configured the right way to follow data integrity and sound business logic.

Having devoted countless hours to R&D and learning the architecture of criminal database systems, our team and technology stand apart from the nuances of Clean Slate legislation, faulty reporting mechanisms, and noncompliant screening.

To learn more about our platform and incorporate your compliance strategy with ours, reach out to us and join our mission to deliver true data privacy.

  1. Footnote 1: It should be noted this is not a critique of any one particular legislative bill or series of bills. Having reviewed several state statutes that have made overwhelming progress, there remains some intricate issues from a data science perspective. ↩︎
  2. Footnote 2: Similarly, this reality reiterates the reason why such legislation is passed in the first place. One of the biggest criticism of petition-based laws is that it subjects a defendant to the culture of that particular court system or designated judge tasked with deciding who is deserving of such relief and who isnot. ↩︎