Massive data sharing is made possible with the growth of computerized record-keeping by government agencies. In the last several years we have seen municipal convictions that never affected a client suddenly show up on a background check or prevent them from purchasing a firearm.
We regularly receive phone calls from people with long-forgotten convictions from the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s, that came up for the first time during a recent background check. The reason is computerized data sharing. Municipal court records used to live in the municipal court and were not accessed by the outside world unless a records request was made of that particular court. With hundreds of potential courts to search, municipal records were relatively hard to discover.
It is no longer difficult to find municipal court records. Arrest and conviction records are generally shared with centralized databases maintained by state police and the FBI. The information is not confidential and is therefore disseminated further to civilian background check agencies that make their money selling information.
Because no conviction is forgotten, it is important to clear up entire criminal histories, including old convictions and municipal court convictions that have not affected you in the past.