I receive, sometimes on a weekly basis, calls from individuals whose criminal cases have been dismissed as a result of either plea bargaining, tactical courtroom work, pre-filing negotiation or other representation, or acquittals after trial, … but whose criminal histories – on the national data base know as the NCIC System, … fail to reflect the dismissal.
These individuals are often denied employment, housing, financial assistance and many other opportunities to succeed in their lives and find themselves in the untenable situation of trying to explain why the entry on their “rap sheet” is incorrect.
In 2010, in a move to correct for these kinds of errors, Congress introduced a Bill that would have required the FBI to fill in gaps in criminal records database.
The Bill, entitled the 2010 Fairness and Accuracy in Employment Background Checks Act would require the attorney general to find out from court offices, including those in state and local jurisdictions, the outcome of arrests whenever an employer requests a background check, and update that record in the National Crime Information Center database.
In cases where the attorney general discovers an arrest was dismissed in court, he would have 10 days to update the record before responding to the employer’s request.
Employers often consult the NCIC database to conduct background checks on individuals applying for jobs in law enforcement, homeland security or organizations where they’d be working with vulnerable populations, such as children and the elderly. Typically only public sector entities can request FBI background checks, though certain private sector companies — such as those supporting federal homeland security efforts — can as well.
Bobby Scott, D-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, introduced the bill on May 13 in response to a June 2006 report from the attorney general that showed nearly 50 percent of criminal records maintained in the NCIC database failed to note court decisions to dismiss arrests.
The legislation would have given job applicants the opportunity to obtain a copy of records provided to a potential employer and challenge their accuracy and completeness. If the records were challenged, the attorney general would have 30 days to complete an investigation, make changes or deletions, and report those changes to the applicant and the employer.
The Fairness and Accuracy in Employment Background Checks Act of 2010 – which would have required the Attorney General to:
(1) establish and enforce procedures to ensure the prompt release of accurate federal criminal background records and information exchanged for employment-related purposes;
(2) report to Congress on the exchange of records or information for employment-related purposes under this Act and on all federal statutes, regulations, and policies providing employment restrictions and disqualifications based on criminal records.
…. was introduced during the 111th Congress. (2009 -2010) This bill never became law.
Sessions of Congress last two years, and at the end of each session all proposed bills and resolutions that haven’t passed are cleared from the books. However, members can and often do reintroduce bills that did not come up for debate under a new number in the next session.
Contact your Congress man or woman and press for the reintroduction of this bill – many lives will be helped if this bill can make its way to the President’s desk. H. Michael