Awhile ago I was charged with a misdemeanor that ended up with me paying a fine and doing community service. I searched my name on Google the other day and so far only saw my charge on one public records website. I'm currently working on getting my record expunged. After I get it expunged will it be removed from public records websites or do I have to show them proof of the expungement so it won't affect me in the future?
Your question (when read with your follow-up comments) is somewhat complex, so I am going to make a few assumptions and break it down into several sub parts.
- The conviction occurred in a state where the expungement statute allows you to tell employers that you were never arrested and convicted.
- When you say “public records websites” you’re asking about sites like atlaspublicrecords.com.
- That atlaspublicrecords.com is a US based company. They don’t list an address and the website used a private registration services, so can’t easily determine that they are US-based.
Your questions and follow-up Considerations
After I get it expunged, will it be removed from public records websites . . . .
No. Websites like atlaspublicrecords.com do not link to actual public records. I searched a couple of common names and feel safe in assuming that it only collects and publishes the information—it does not actually link to court records. Nevertheless, it would not be available from the actual government agencies that keep those records. By getting your records expunged the convictions and arrest would no longer be available as public records that someone could request from the courthouse, police department, or whatever state agency does criminal history in your jurisdiction.
do I have to show them proof of the expungement . . . .
Yes, if you believe what the website claims. I can’t find a physical address for the website and don’t know if they are real or a scam, so understand that when you give them information about your expungement—or pay their silly fee, they might collect the money and do nothing. My opinion is that the company is shady and seems to operate in a gray area of the law that I will explain below.
Options if they don’t remove the post:
You could try to sue them for some type of secondary dignitary tort like defamation or false light. But these would have some significant legal hurdles. See G.D. v. Kenny, 15 A.3d 300 (N.J. 2011), where the New Jersey Supreme Court held that commenting on an expunged criminal records was not defamation or invasion of privacy because it was the truth.
You could try to argue that they are a consumer reporting agency under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”). If they're governed by the FCRA, you have some additional legal remedies (like civil penalties/fines) if they don't remove/clarify an expunged record. The Fair Credit Reporting Act applies to credit reporting agencies, like Experian & Equifax but also covers companies that compile and sell information for background checks. This includes criminal records. See the Federal Trade Commission’s Advisory Opinion to LeBlanc (06-09-98).
But . . . this website is operating in a gray area that appears to comply with the law. The FCRA only applies to consumer reporting agencies, which are defined as:
Any person which, for monetary fees, dues, or on a cooperative nonprofit basis, regularly engages in whole or in part in the practice of assembling or evaluating consumer credit information or other information on consumers for the purpose of furnishing consumer reports to third parties, and which uses any means or facility of interstate commerce for the purpose of preparing or furnishing consumer reports. 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(f)
Because they’re not charging money or a fee to access the reports and they’re not a nonprofit cooperative, they probably do not meet the definition of a CRA.
Bottom-line is that you're best option is to give them the expungement documents once you obtain them.
No, expungement does not give you rights to have the internet purged of your conviction. Public records sites might be interested in updating their records to reflect the expungement, but any media that reported on the incident will probably decline to remove or modify their records. Internet caches will continue to show whatever was available online in the past.
And if you think that's not fair (which is a reasonable complaint) consider that at least you got a hearing: People defamed by law enforcement officials who never even end up charged with a crime can have their lives ruined, generally with no recourse.