||Expunged Records Expunged Only On
(CBS4 News) MIAMI The internet age might mean more than
just big brother spying on you. It could also mean you’re expunged court
records floating in a permanent state in cyberspace, leaving your identity
vulnerable to anyone with an internet access.
Davie Attorney Ken Hasset has gotten several calls from worried clients who
have found out that their expunged records are on the internet for all to
see. Some have lost job opportunities because employers found court records
that were supposed to be expunged in private online databases. Some expunged
records are for crimes as simple as petty theft. In one case, a client who
stole a shirt at JC Penney when he was 20-years-old got turned down in a
recent job application despite his court record being expunged.
Even though he had committed no other crimes, the unnamed man suspected the
prospective employer ran an internet search for his name and found the
record for that incident. He ran a record check on his own name on Westlaw,
a Minnesota based legal database company. He was instantly able to pull up
the very record that had been expunged.
That is when he called Hasset for help.
With companies such as ChoicePoint, Court Venture and First American
SafeRent, which buy Public Records in bulk, many must revisit the definition
of what an expunged record really means.
These companies have been legally buying court records from clerks’ offices
for years. The loophole lies in that these companies are buying the records
before they are expunged.
For example, if a suspect is tried for theft and he serves time or does
community service in 1999, the respective company will acquire that
information when it obtains court records for that year. If that same
suspect manages to get his record expunged by the court a couple of years
later, the physical file will be sealed and the record will not be
accessible in the court’s electronic database. However, the record that the
private company retrieved in 1999 is still in their database and is not
removed – making the expunged file virtually permanent for all of those
willing to pay the website a fee to see it.
CBS4’S Dave Malkoff spoke to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge
Stanford Blake on the matter. His recommendation for someone in this
situation is to find out which databases are carrying your record. Try
sending them a certified letter requesting the record be removed from their
Some have resorted to lawsuits, but the dispute might one day reach
lawmakers at the state or even federal level.
“And number two there may be someone who may want to introduce some
legislation to keep this from occurring,” said Blake.
Some of the private database companies have been cooperative and removed the
expunged records upon the request of defense attorneys but in the case of
Hassett's 20-year-old client, Westlaw refused to change its record without
getting court verification that the record was expunged.
Some attorneys and clients are considering the possibility of a class action
suit in the matter.
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