Understanding Criminal Convictions & Court Records

Criminal Law and Procedural Law can be challenging to understand, especially if you do not have training in these particular areas. The information listed here is a basic guide to help you comprehend Criminal Law and Procedural Law as it pertains to your pre-employment screening needs.

If a criminal conviction is found, ESS will return a conviction report to the client. The conviction report will have information that is provided to ESS by the Court. A typical conviction report may contain the following information:

Classification Of Crimes

Example Of A Conviction Report
Name of the Defendant JOHN DOE
Date of Birth01-01-1901
Case Number 01-12345
Arrest Date02-02-1921
Original ChargesNYS Penal Law 125.25
Murder 2nd
Class A-1 Felony

NYS Penal Law 265.02
Criminal Possession of a Weapon 3rd
Class C Felony

Plea InformationPlea of Guilty on 05-05-1921

NYS Penal Law 125.25
Murder 2nd
Class A-1 Felony

Sentence Information Sentenced on 07-07-1921

25 Years to Life Incarceration
$34,000.00 Restitution
$500.00 Surcharge

Examples of FELONIES include murder, treason, rape, arson, burglary and kidnapping.

In addition to social stigma, long-term consequences may include the loss of the right to vote, ineligibility for elected office or professional licenses, restrictions on the right to possess weapons, ineligibility for housing, public benefits, educational benefits or certain jobs, immigration problems, loss of the right to serve as a juror, negative impact on parental rights or divorce proceedings, or the requirement to register with certain criminal registries.

Examples of MISDEMEANORS include Driving While Intoxicated, Harassment 1st, Endangering the Welfare of a Child, Assault 3rd, Loitering 1st and Resisting Arrest.

Generally, misdemeanors are crimes that are less violent or involve lower levels of harm than felonies do. The legal procedures for misdemeanors are usually simpler than for felonies, the penalties less severe and the long-term consequences less harsh.

Examples of VIOLATIONS include Disorderly Conduct, Minor Traffic Offenses and Violations of Local Law (loud music – disturbing the peace).

Often the only penalty is a fine and sometimes the infraction may not even be considered a crime.

Classification of Crimes Conclusion

It is important to keep in mind that crime classifications vary by jurisdiction and that ESS is providing general information. To understand the details of a criminal charge in your jurisdiction, we recommend you contact an attorney.

Restricted Access to Criminal Records

Certain criminal cases cannot be viewed or accessed by the public. Examples of these are:

Youthful Offender

When an accusatory instrument against an apparently eligible youth is filed with a court, it shall be filed as a sealed instrument, though only with respect to the public.

Sealed Record

Upon the termination of a criminal action or proceeding against a person in favor of such person, his or her attorney determines that the interests of justice require otherwise and states the reasons for such determination on the record, the record of such action or proceeding shall be sealed and the clerk of the court wherein such criminal action or proceeding was terminated shall immediately notify the commissioner of the division of criminal justice services and the heads of all appropriate police departments and other law enforcement agencies that the action has been terminated in favor of the accused.

Expunge/Expunged

When a record of an offense is expunged it will not appear on a released criminal history. The record may be destroyed or sealed after a certain period of time. Records may be expunged in juvenile cases, or upon satisfactory completion of a court-ordered probation and/or class(s).

Admission of a Criminal Conviction by an Applicant

An applicant may inform their perspective employer they have been convicted of a crime when in fact they have not been convicted. Frequently an applicant will list a criminal conviction on their consent form only to find out they were not convicted of a crime. Many applicants do not understand the difference between an ARREST and a CONVICTION. Just because an individual was arrested does not guarantee a conviction.

The Law enforcement agency making the arrest may have arrested the wrong person. There may not be sufficient evidence to proceed with the case. The Grand Jury did not return a true bill.

Understanding the Accuracy of Criminal Records

Keep in mind that a real human has to enter information into an online storage area or hand file records and mistakes can be made.

Many states do not report information concerning dispositions, declinations to prosecute, failure to charge after fingerprinting, and expungements.

Inconsistency in the reporting requirements and criminal codes in various states impacts the completeness and accuracy of the records.

There are significant time lapses between when information is transmitted to the state repository and actual entry into the criminal history records.

The format and terminology used by various states creates problems of interpretation for individuals in other states using the information.

These are just a few examples of why searching for criminal records can be meticulous work. Just remember the system is not infallible.

ESS assures you of due diligence. ESS goes to every means necessary to give our clients the most up-to-date, reliable information available.

Do you have any questions?

Contact ESS to learn more