Texas Bill Seeks to Prevent Private Criminal History Database Companies from Reporting Expunged Records

Legislation pending in in the state of Texas – Senate Bill 990 (SB 990) – would prevent private companies that compile criminal history information in a database that is available in a searchable format from maintaining or sharing information about expunged records once they have received notice that the record has been expunged. The bill also seeks to create a listing of database companies so that notices of expungements can be directed to those who might have outdated information. More information about Texas Senate Bill 990 is available at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=83R&Bill=SB990.

Introduced by Texas State Senator Royce West, Senate Bill 990 is a response to constituent complaints about being denied employment and housing based upon erroneous criminal history information such as expunged records continuing to be reported by private database companies after the record has been removed from the court’s record. The bill focuses on database companies and any Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) that sell criminal history data without first ensuring the information is accurate and up to date. SB 990 was passed to the House of Representatives Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee in April 2013.

Unless regulated by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. Section 1681 et seq.) or the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (15 U.S.C. Sections 6801 to 6809), SB 990 provides that a private database company that purchases criminal history record information from Department of Public Safety of the State of Texas (DPS) or from another governmental agency or entity in this state:

  • May not report criminal history information older than 60 days.
  • Must notify DPS of other database companies to which they sold the data so if there is an expungement, DPS will have a list of the database companies that have the information so that individuals can contact them to have the record removed.
  • These two rules also apply to database companies who buy criminal history data from other database companies – also known as “database resellers.”

SB 990 states that, on request, private database companies must provide individuals a copy of their file within 30 days. The database company may also not charge for file disclosures, which are limited to one free disclosure per year. In addition, database companies must investigate disputes and correct any errors within 30 days of receipt. Database companies not in compliance with SB 990 are responsible for actual damages, attorney’s fees, and court costs. Database companies must register with DPS and the DPS will publish a list of databases operating in Texas. Databases that fail to register are liable for a $500/day fine.

Mike Coffey, President of Imperative Information Group and Co-Founder of ConcernedCRAs.org, wrote a detailed explanation of Senate Bill 990. According to Coffey: “The only new obligation on end-users who use the information for employment, housing, or licensing is that they must identify to the individual where they received any criminal history information upon which an adverse action is based if they received it directly from a court or government agency. This will point the individual to the source of any incorrect information. Similar disclosure is already a requirement under federal law when the information was received from a background screening company.” The detailed explanation of SB 990 by Coffey is available at http://www.imperativeinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Coffeys-explanation-of-SB-990-04-17-2013.pdf.

“This bill appears to be aimed at firms that offer instant searches or firms that provided criminal database information directly to employers without first re-verifying if it is accurate,” says Attorney Lester Rosen, Founder and CEO of background check firm Employment Screening Resources® (ESR). “In Texas, there is a problem where a consumer may have a conviction, but it has since been made unreportable through a process called ‘deferred adjudication.’ Firms such as ESR that never provide criminal database information unless it has been re-verified to ensure it is accurate and up to date do not appear to be impacted by this law. ESR only uses criminal databases as an in-house research tool and does not ever report a criminal database hit without first checking to see if it is accurate.”

Rosen, author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual,’ adds: “This bill also appears to be aimed at limiting the ability of some internet firms to commercialize Texas criminal records by providing so-called ‘instant background check reports’ based on information that may be incomplete or inaccurate.”

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority®’ – is a nationwide background screening provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®). For more information about background check solutions from ESR, please visit http://www.esrcheck.com or call Toll Free 888.999.4474.

Related Blog: Federal Trade Commission Warns Data Brokers about Possible Fair Credit Reporting Act Violations

Sources:

http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=83R&Bill=SB990

http://www.imperativeinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Coffeys-explanation-of-SB-990-04-17-2013.pdf

About Employment Screening Resources® (ESR):

Founded by safe hiring expert Attorney Les Rosen in 1997, Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority®’– provides accurate and actionable information that empowers employers to make informed hiring decisions for the benefit of their organizations, employees, and the public. CEO Rosen literally wrote the book on background checks with “The Safe Hiring Manual” and ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), a distinction held by a small percent of screening firms. Employers choosing ESR know they have selected an agency meeting the highest industry standards. To learn more about ESR, visit http://www.esrcheck.com or call toll free 888.999.4474.

About ESR News:

The Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) News blog – ESR News – provides employment screening information for employers, recruiters, and jobseekers on a variety of topics including credit reports, criminal records, data privacy, discrimination, E-Verify, jobs reports, legal updates, negligent hiring, workplace violence, and use of search engines and social network sites for background checks. For more information about ESR News or to send comments or questions, please email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at tahearn@esrcheck.com. To subscribe to the ESR News Blog Feed, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/feed/. To subscribe to the complimentary ESRcheck Report monthly newsletter, please visit http://www.esrcheck.com/Newsletter/.

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