If Criminal Offense Records are Public Records, Why Do I Need to Obtain a Disclosure and Authorization?

In a previous article, we addressed the Disclosure and Authorization. In particular, the requirement to provide disclosure and obtain authorization and to pay particular attention to keeping them simple, without extraneous language. And yet, criminal records are public records. The accusation, trial, and sentencing are public records.

There is a move to suppress identifiers on criminal records or seal or expunge criminal records to protect consumers, but interestingly, the original purpose of making them public was to protect citizens. A federal, state or local government should not have the ability to secretly charge, convict, and send away a citizen.

Consider the former Soviet Union. Now there was a place where the citizens had some privacy. The people could be abducted, accused, convicted, sentenced, and shipped to places where they needed a big coat in complete privacy. That was the fate of millions.

So, given that transparency in this process is a good thing and the records are public records, why must you obtain (and certify to VICTIG) that you have provided disclosure and obtained authorization before you order any information on a consumer from us?

The reason is that it is federal law. The law is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (which would more accurately be named the Fair Credit and Employment Reporting Act.).

Again, the goal is transparency. When an individual applies for credit, a job, insurance (and other things) and is turned down, the consumer should know what derogatory information out there may
have affected the decision. And if that information is wrong, incomplete, out-of-date, or otherwise does not have “maximum possible accuracy,” they can address it.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) attempts to strike a balance between allowing access to needed information by users, protecting consumers, and setting requirements and protections for companies such as VICTIG (consumer reporting agencies or “CRAs”). In practice, the FCRA imposes obligations on all three parties (consumer, user, and CRA) but it also offers some protections for all three parties. The FCRA acknowledges that mistakes can be made and sets forth processes for correction. As an example, when an employer does a “do-it-yourself” internet search and doesn’t hire an applicant, and the record is wrong or they bungle the search, the FCRA protections for correction processes are not in place and the consumer is going to deal directly with the employer—not the CRA.