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Do Sealed or Expunged Records Show Up on a Background Check?

If you have had a criminal record sealed or expunged, you might be wondering if it will appear on any future background check. In this article, we will explain what happens when you have a sealed or expunged criminal record and also tell you what you can do to clear your background check.

Sealed or Expunged Records Show on Background Checks

If you have been convicted of a crime, you might have heard that your criminal record can be sealed or expunged. It is true that for some misdemeanors and even some felonies, it is possible to get your record either deleted or hidden.

But does that mean it won’t show up on a background check? In this article, we will give you a clear answer and also offer some advice on how to keep criminal records off your background check for good.

What are sealed and expunged records?

There is a significant difference between a criminal record that has been sealed and one that has been expunged and it is important to be clear about how they differ.

If you want to get a criminal record removed from your files, you will need to apply to a court. They will consider a number of different factors to decide what to do. This differs by state but a more detailed outline of what courts will consider can be found in this article.

If a court agrees to seal your record, this means that it will remain on file but are no longer part of the public record. If you commit another offense, the records can be unsealed but as far as a background check is concerned, a sealed record should no longer be traceable.

If your record is expunged, that means it is erased. The court has ruled that your record should be deleted from all public and court files. Your criminal record, in effect, ceases to exist.

Can a background check find a sealed or expunged record?

The simple answer to this question should be no. If your criminal record is sealed or expunged, it should be completely removed from all public records. No background checking site should be able to find it even if they are very thorough and send runners to the court to look through hard-copy files.

But the truth is that it doesn’t always work this way. Even when a court rules that your files should be sealed or expunged, it does not always take all necessary steps to inform the various public records and criminal database sites that a lot of background checking sites will use.

As a result, even though your criminal record has been sealed or expunged, it can still show up on some background checks. To find out of this is the case with your own records, the best advice is to run a background check on yourself to see what comes back.

How to check for sealed records?

Running a background check on yourself to see if your sealed or expunged records are still showing is a very good idea. Before we go into more detail about what happens when your records are sealed or expunged, and how this affects the results of a background check, we are going to quickly outline the top two background checking sites to use for such a check.

Our list of the top background checking services is based on our extensive research of all the top sites, which included specific tests on whether sealed or expunged records appeared.

1. TruthFinder

TruthFinder - Editors choice

TruthFinder is one of the most accurate and detailed background checking sites around. It delivers astonishingly accurate results even if you feed it information that is wrong or misleading. Its algorithms can cut out incorrect data and still deliver results that are consistently accurate and impressive. It also performed well in digging out any sealed or expunged records that might still be accessible

TruthFinder delivers its results in detailed but accessible reports that look great. It also offers subscribers one of the best-designed desktop dashboards around and apps for iOS and Android devices that performed really well too. You won’t pay a ton for this service either, as TruthFinder is competitively priced at $27.78 a month/$23.02 per month if you sign up for 2 months at a time.

The TruthFinder customer support is another hugely impressive feature. It is available on a 24/7 toll-free number and staff by a really friendly and helpful team. With competitive prices too, TruthFinder is another great choice.

EXCLUSIVE DEAL: Looking for deep insight into your own public record? Try TruthFinder, one of the industry titans. Get the service with our generous reader discount.

2. Instant CheckMate

Instant Checkmate - Editors choice

Instant CheckMate delivers accurate and detailed results fast. It can turn around most requests in no more than a few minutes. These super-fast speeds don’t come at the expense of quality either. Instant CheckMate’s results are impressively accurate and detailed and in our tests, if sealed records were still accessible, Instant CheckMate had a good record of finding them.

There is a dedicated Instant CheckMate desktop dashboard that is well-designed and easy-to-use. You can use either this or the dedicated iOS and Android apps to manage your searches and access your reports which are also very accessible and look great.

There is a great customer support staff on hand if you encounter any problems and all this is available for $34.78 per month or $27.82 a month if you sign up for three months. There are cheaper background checking sites around but there are none that deliver faster results than Instant CheckMate.

Does a sealed record appear on a background check?

It shouldn’t. If a court agrees to seal a criminal record, this means it should be removed from all criminal and court records. It does still exist and if you commit a further offense, it can be unsealed again. As a result, it shouldn’t appear on any background check.

But be aware this cannot be guaranteed. Sometimes databases are not updated, human error means records aren’t amended, or other sources can reveal a crime that isn’t on your criminal record. If you have a sealed record, it is always worth checking your own record to be absolutely sure it isn’t showing.

Do expunged records show up on background checks?

No. If your criminal record has been expunged by the court, this means that you have fulfilled all court-mandated requirements and the Judge is happy to wipe the crime from your record.

This means it shouldn’t show up on a background check. But be aware that mistakes can happen. If a court administrator makes a mistake, or a database is not updated, a record that should have been expunged can still remain.

This is why we always recommend checking your own record just to be sure that your expunged record has definitely been removed from your file.

How can I stop a sealed record appearing on my background check?

The honest truth is that it can be very hard to get these public databases updated.

You could go back to the court that agreed to seal your record and ask them to ensure they have passed that on to all relevant agencies. Some courts will be amenable to this sort of request while others will not.

If your background check comes back with a record, you could use their customer support team to find out the source of that data and then contact them directly to request that they update their records. This often works but, of course, there is no guarantee that an employer or landlord background check will use the same sources. Getting a record removed from all data sources is an almost impossible job.

Often, the best bet is to be honest with a potential landlord or employer. Explain that you did have a record, the court has now sealed or expunged it, and show them evidence of why they made that decision. A lot of employers will accept that if the court felt you warranted having your record sealed or expunged, there is no reason for them not to hire you.

How else might a sealed record be uncovered?

Even if you have a criminal record sealed or expunged and it doesn’t show up on a background check, it is still possible that a landlord or employer might find out in other ways.

If your crime attracted any media attention, it is quite likely that this will still be available online or on social media. Tracking this down is not terribly difficult, particularly if you have an unusual name. Some background checks will even show it up.

In some parts of the world, there are ‘right to be forgotten’ laws that empower you to have such reports removed from search engines like Google. But such laws do not currently exist in the USA.

There are some other ways you can hide these results. Google is sometimes amenable to helping people although jumping through all the necessary hoops with them is quite a challenge. There are also companies that make a living from hiding such content online but these often charge large fees for their services.

Even if you do hide such content, the chances of every social media post and link relating to it also being hidden are also extremely low.

What are background checks, actually

There are two main different types of background check but they both essentially do the same thing. They will search through all publicly available records about a subject and compile the information they find there into a simple report.

The sort of information a typical background check will reveal includes:

  • Criminal records (state, county, and city)
  • Financial records
  • Credit history
  • Employment history
  • Work authorization
  • Education history (high school and college)
  • Driving record
  • License details, including weapons permits
  • Social media profiles

These individual records do not reveal a lot about a person. But when the information is compiled together, it can give a compelling, highly accurate profile of a person.

When are background checks used?

Most people come across background checks when they apply for a job or try to rent a flat. A background check is something anyone can do but different types of background checks are regulated differently.

Employers and landlords are restricted by law as to what information they can and cannot consider. They will often use specialist consumer background checking services to run their checks. But public background checking sites can access much of the same information and in some cases more.

As a result, background checks these days can be used for all sorts of things including:

  • Criminal checks – Anyone can run a background check on a person in their neighborhood or at their place of work if they think that person might be hiding a secret criminal past.
  • Tracking down a lost family member or friend – We all have that one person in our lives that we have lost touch with over the years, whether it is a relative, ex-partner, or long-lost school friend. A background check offers a quick and easy way to track them down, find out what they are up to, and re-establish contact.
  • Looking into someone’s past – If there is a strange new neighbor in your street or your daughter has started dating a guy you have a bad feeling about; you can find out if your suspicions are right or not easily and quickly. A background check will give you a comprehensive snapshot of their life so you can find out for sure whether or not they are bad news.
  • Checking your own records – It is actually a really good idea to run a background check on yourself. It is a smart way to see if your sealed or expunged criminal records are showing up on a background check. It also gives you an idea of what information about yourself a prospective employer or landlord will see when they run a check.


Sealed records and expunged records shouldn’t show up on a background check but unfortunately, they sometimes do. In this article, we have explained how you can run your own background check to see what is showing and we have recommended the best sites to use to do it.

We have also given you a few tips on how to try and ensure your sealed and expunged records are not discovered. But as we have explained, it is often easier to be upfront about the fact and show your future employer or landlord proof of why your record is now hidden or erased.

Have you had problems with sealed records appearing on your background check? How did you deal with the issue? Do you have any other tips for our readers that we haven’t offered in this article? It is always helpful for readers to learn about real-life situations and how they were dealt with so please do share your experiences with us using the comment box below.

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