Although nearly all state laws include criminal offense levels divided into two types – felonies and misdemeanors – there are many states with offense levels peculiar to their state law. One such peculiarity is Minnesota’s petty misdemeanor offense level.
In Minnesota, a petty misdemeanor is the lowest level of offense. Many but not all Minnesota traffic violations are petty misdemeanors. The unique aspect of a petty misdemeanor is that it is not considered a crime. (See for yourself here: Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 4a or the accompanying attachment.) A petty misdemeanor does not carry a jail sentence but can result in a fine of up to $300.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), criminal convictions can appear in a background report regardless of when they occurred. It does not matter how old the conviction is. However, some states have passed their own legislation similar to the FCRA that does place restrictions on reporting criminal convictions.
Which states restrict reporting on convictions?
California, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, New York, New Hampshire, Texas, and Washington all have laws that limit the scope of reporting criminal convictions to seven years. In Hawaii, the seven-year limit is for felonies only; the reporting of misdemeanors is limited to five years. The District of Columbia limits the reporting of criminal convictions to 10 years.
All states not listed above follow the FCRA rule that criminal convictions can appear in a background report regardless of when they occurred.
The Salary Exception States
Seven of the states listed above allow an exception to their rule of limiting reporting criminal convictions to seven years. The exception is based on the salary the candidate is expected to make. If the salary exceeds a certain threshold, the seven-year limitation does not apply, and criminal convictions can appear in the candidate’s background report regardless of when they occurred.
Before a background check can be conducted on an applicant or employee, the FCRA requires that an employer (our client) provide a written disclosure form and obtain a signed authorization from the applicant or employee. While these requirements will apply to nearly all background checks, there are two situations in which the FCRA permits an employer to dispense with the disclosure and authorization requirements — an investigation of (1) suspected misconduct relating to employment or (2) compliance with federal, state, or local laws and regulations, the rules of a self-regulatory organization, or any preexisting written policies of the employer.
This alleviates the concern that providing the subject with advance disclosure of the investigation and obtaining the subject’s authorization to conduct the investigation would greatly hamper the investigation itself.
However, the FCRA does impose an obligation on the employer if adverse action, such as termination or suspension, is taken against the employee because of the investigation. In those situations, the FCRA requires the employer to provide the employee with a summary of the nature and substance of the investigation. Although the FCRA does not specify the time period within which the employer must provide the summary, it seems reasonable to provide it just after the adverse action is taken.
The FCRA does not require the employer to provide the employee with a copy of any report prepared for the investigation, nor does the FCRA require the employer to disclose in the summary the sources of the information obtained in the investigation. If co-workers, vendors, customers, or other individuals provided damaging information about the employee, their identities would not need to be disclosed to the employee in the FCRA summary.
On July 12, 2022, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued an advisory opinion regarding the “permissible purpose requirement” of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) as it applies to both a consumer reporting agency (CRA) and a user of consumer reports (e.g., employer).
The CFPB’s position is that name-only matching records in a consumer report violate the permissible purpose requirement in FCRA section 604(a)(3). The CFPB noted that consumer report users must ensure they do not violate a person’s privacy by obtaining or using a report without a permissible purpose, and that a consumer reporting agency should not provide reports with “possible matches” to users.
The CFPB further warned that including a disclaimer in the report, such as “this record was matched to the subject by First Name, Last Name ONLY and may not belong to your subject; your further review of the [source] is required in order to determine if this is your subject” does not adequately address the problem of using name-only matching procedures because the report may include information about a person other than the subject for whom the CRA has a permissible purpose. In the CFPB’s view, a disclaimer “will not change the fact that the consumer reporting company has failed to satisfy the requirements of 604(a)(3) and has provided a consumer report about a person lacking a permissible purpose with respect to that person.”
The CFPB’s advisory opinion raises the possibility that employers, as users of such consumer reports, could be held liable for FCRA permissible purpose violations resulting from a CRA’s matching procedures or mistakes. The opinion emphasized the CFPB’s position that there is strict liability for obtaining or using a consumer report without a permissible purpose and also included a reminder about criminal liability for knowing or willful violations of the FCRA provisions.
A civil judgment and a judgment lien are not the same things, although they do relate to the same debt.
A civil judgment is an official decision by the court regarding a civil lawsuit. If the judgment is in favor of the plaintiff (the party filing the lawsuit), the judgment typically awards the plaintiff a sum of money that must be paid by the defendant (the party sued by the plaintiff). A civil judgment can be located in a search of civil court records.
If the judgment debtor (the defendant who lost the lawsuit) fails to voluntarily pay or “satisfy the judgment,” it is up to the judgment creditor (the plaintiff who won the lawsuit) to enforce or collect the judgment.
There are a variety of ways to enforce a civil judgment. A common method of enforcing a judgment is for the judgment creditor to file a judgment lien, which is also often referred to as an “abstract of judgment.” This is an involuntary lien that the judgment creditor files to attach to the judgment debtor’s property in the jurisdiction where the judgment lien is filed. The judgment lien is typically filed in the county recorder’s office but may also be filed at the courthouse in some jurisdictions. In general, the lien is satisfied from the sale proceeds when the judgment debtor sells the property or when a refinance occurs.
The U.S. has a dual court system — state courts and federal courts. State courts are established by state law and have broad jurisdiction, which means they handle many types of cases. Federal courts are established under the U.S. Constitution and have a limited jurisdiction, typically limited to cases involving the Constitution and laws passed by Congress.
In some cases, the parties may disagree about whether the case should be heard in state or federal court. When this occurs, your court searches may locate state cases that have been “removed to federal court” or federal cases that have been “remanded back to state court” – and sometimes both procedures will happen to the same case.
“Removal” is when a defendant takes a case that was filed by the plaintiff in state court and then brings it to federal court. A defendant can remove a case from state court to federal court if the case originally could have been brought in federal court. The plaintiff can challenge the removal to federal court and, if the challenge is successful, the federal court will “remand” the case back to state court.
Every business has a “legal” or “true name.” When researching a company, it is important to identify its legal name. In the case of a corporation or limited liability company, the legal name is the one on its formation document — e.g., the articles of incorporation or articles of organization. As an example, Scherzer International’s legal name is Scherzer International Corporation.
If the company does business under another name, it is commonly referred to as a DBA – which stands for “doing business as.” DBAs are also sometimes referred to as an “assumed name,” “fictitious business name,” or “trade name.” State and local laws generally require a company to register a DBA it is using; however, it is important to note that registering and doing business under a DBA name is not the same as forming a business or a business entity.
Almost everyone has heard the terms DWI and DUI, and many think that both are interchangeable. New York law uses a third term – DWAI. None of these terms are interchangeable and New York law does not use the term DUI or driving under the influence.
In New York, there are two main “drunk driving offenses” – DWI and DWAI. DWI stands for “driving while intoxicated,” while DWAI stands for “driving while ability impaired.” A DWI means that the driver is legally intoxicated, with a blood alcohol content of at least 0.08 percent. A DWAI involving alcohol means the driver’s blood alcohol content is between 0.05 and 0.07 percent.
Although the penalties for a New York DWI and DWAI are nearly the same, there is a big difference between them regarding the offense level. A DWI conviction is a criminal offence, while a DWAI conviction is a violation – which in New York is a non-criminal offence.
The practical effect of this distinction is that a DWAI conviction will appear on a New York driving record (usually stated as “driving while impaired”), but the court conviction will not appear on a New York Statewide CHRS report because these reports do not include non-criminal offenses such as violations.
Although several states have laws analogous to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the District of Columbia does not. As a rule, the District of Columbia follows the federal FCRA regarding the limitations on reporting negative information in background check reports used for employment purposes. However, there are three notable exceptions where district law differs from the FCRA regarding reporting criminal records:
(1) Records of arrests or criminal accusations that did not result in a conviction cannot be reported (unless the charges are pending);
(2) Inquiries about criminal convictions cannot be made unless a conditional offer of employment is made; and
(3) Convictions with a completed sentence that is more than 10 years old cannot be reported.
The first two exceptions are found in the district’s Fair Criminal Record Screening Amendment Act of 2014 codified at Sections 32-1341 – 32-1346 of the Code of District of Columbia, and the third exception is found in Section 2–1402.66 of the district’s Human Rights Law.
If the IRS wants to file a statewide tax lien against a taxpayer’s personal property, the document evidencing the lien will be filed with the secretary of state’s office. Most states (if not all) index the IRS liens along with the UCC-1 financing statement liens. Although the tax lien is indexed with the UCC filings, the tax lien is not a UCC filing.
The reasoning for indexing the federal tax liens with the UCC-1 filings has to do with a potential bankruptcy filing by the debtor/taxpayer. In most cases, there will be an issue of which lien takes priority in the bankruptcy case. The date of filing with the secretary of state usually decides the issue of priority.