Do arrests show up on background checks? What will a background check reveal?
Understanding what shows up on background checks can provide people with the must-know information regarding past arrests, convictions, charges, and employment history.
Steps To See If An Arrest Will Show Up On A Background Check
Some various characteristics and stipulations can impact whether or not an arrest will show up on a background check. What does a background check show? Will it show prior arrest records?
If a person is worried about a pending arrest showing up on a background check, prior conviction, or dropped court case, the rule will all differ depending on the details of the case, the arrest details, and the state in which the arrest occurred.
Do arrests show up on background checks? Maybe, but first, it is vital to know what a background check entails.
What’s on a background check? During a criminal background check, the court system in the state will provide arrest records along with the convictions. If a person hires a professional background check company that can perform these services, they will be able to use this pertinent information. In this case, it is up to the specific background check company to analyze the information, determine the sentencing, and gather the required information.
Before anyone can analyze the arrest records or the background check, there are a few things to keep an eye out for:
Step 1. Has There Been A Conviction?
The process of finding out if an arrest is on the background check will depend on whether the person was convicted or charged with a crime. If they were charged, it could seem like a for-sure guilty sentence — however, the ‘charging’ of the crime is much more pertinent and indicative of what will be on the background check than just the charges.
If an individual was arrested but found not to be guilty, they are considered not guilty, and the charges were dropped. If the individual was arrested and convicted of a crime, the crime will be on their permanent record since they were guilty of the offense.
Step 2. Is The Arrest Pending?
Do pending court cases show up on a background check? How long does it take for a pending charge to show up on a background check?
A pending case means the person was arrested for the crime committed. However, they have not yet been convicted of a crime since the trial is still pending. The pending court case can be due to a plea bargain in the works, motions during trial, issues with witnesses, and gathering the correct jurors.
Step 3. Is It A Felony?
A misdemeanor, also known as a felony conviction, will show up on the background check if an employer is requesting criminal history or background information on a potential employee 1. A felony is considered the most drastic type of crime, since it involves violence, and is taken more seriously in the court of law. Some of the most common felonies involve fraud, armed robbery, or murder.
If someone was convicted of a felony, this DOES show up on a background check and can indicate a permanent marker on their record. Unfortunately, this can hamper this individual from applying for housing loans, renting an apartment, getting a loan from a bank, and getting a job at a new place of employment.
Although some individuals may think their felony convictions are not applicable after seven years of being on their record, this is not true. Instead, employers typically focus on the most relevant time before hiring someone, meaning that if there is a felony conviction of 7+ years in the past, employers MAY be more likely to hire a past felony.
Furthermore, some states have limits on how long permanent records can be reported and used for job hiring searches. In these states, many employers try to limit the use of older records when hiring personnel 2.
Step 4. Has It Been 7 Year In Certain Jurisdictions?
How long do arrests stay on an arrest record? Does a misdemeanor show up on a background check after seven years?
Just like we mentioned, there is a 7-year background check limit in certain states. The topic of how long criminal activity or a permanent record may hold will depend on the specific state in which the crime occurred. Some states may look at pertinent information in the last seven years, whereas others do not use a time limit.
These states use seven-year background check information when it comes to arrest records:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- New York
However, the seven years is a confusing time limit that can vary depending on the specific state. For example, the “seven-year limit “can refer to the time of disposition, the last day of someone’s parole, or when the individual in question was released from prison. A disposition is the result of the arrest and what happens afterwards.3
Keep in mind that the 7-year rule does not apply to how far back an FBI background check goes (a Federal Bureau of Investigation check will show records permanently).
Step 5. Was The Case Dismissed?
If a case was dismissed, this might not get a person off scot-free. In some cases, if the charge is not expunged from someone’s records, it can remain on the court’s docket sheets. When an individual runs a background check on a person, the dismissed case and the charge may still show up on the background check.
In most dismissed cases, dismissals of the charge and not guilty verdicts can show on the background check and the arrest record. However, if a person’s case has gone as far as trial, the outcome can be very different. Even so, in many states, employers are not legally allowed to ask about arrest records or use the arrest records in their hiring process for potential candidates.
Although employers must not use the arrest records on the background checks against job candidates, individuals should still be prepared for dismissed charges to appear on a background check. Unless the records have been officially expunged or sealed, dismissed cases are still a part of the public court system.
Step 6. Will Expunged Records Show?
Expungement refers to removing criminal records from background checks.
Expunging a felony or another type of crime can influence whether something will show up on a person’s background check. Since felonies are on the record for at least seven years after the crime, there are minimal ways in which criminal vacations can be removed or expunged from a permanent record.
The only exception for notifying an employer or a person of a conviction on the background check is if the records were expunged or sealed at the time of the background check being conducted. If the records are sealed or expunged, the records should not appear. If an individual is wondering ‘do arrests show up on background checks,’ expunged records will not be taken into consideration.
However, individuals must keep in mind that certain crimes cannot be expunged from a permanent record, no matter how long the time frame is after the arrest or the person conducting the background check. The more severe cases of felonies that will always be present on a person’s background check include the following:
- Criminal sodomy
- Aggravated indecent liberties
- Indecent liberties with a minor
- Sexual battery
What States Erase Arrest Records After Seven Years?
What comes up on a background check? In some cases, an arrest that occurred over seven years ago may not appear. The states that arrest records after seven years are the following:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- New York
- *District of Columbia – 10 years
Seven years is the standard rule for convictions and charges on someone’s permanent record. However, the 7-year rule, also known as the lookback rule, can vary from state to state. Therefore, if someone was convicted of a crime in California, the rules can differ from someone who was charged with a crime in Delaware.
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the reporting of any “other adverse item of information other than records of crimes … by more than 7 years” is limited. But what does this mean? Basically, this indicates that states who abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act need to use a running clock to determine when a person’s arrest record on their background check is no longer usable 4.
First thing first when it comes to the seven-year rule — the term ‘adverse’ is essential in the interpretation of this legality. For example, employment hiring and verification are a ‘neutral’ act, making it not an ‘adverse’ action. In this instance, there is no limitation on who can see the person’s arrest record on their background check.
Even if something happens on someone’s arrest record or background check more than seven years ago, the Fair Credit Reporting Act can limit any discrepancies or lack of verification. The same is valid for verifying education through a background check.
On the other hand, the term ‘adverse’ can apply to the information required in the background check. A person’s non-criminal violations, warrants, and extraditions are considered adverse. However, those conducting a background check must keep in mind that automatically excluding information that is not considered a ‘criminal’ charge can still be pertinent to someone’s past.
Those conducting a background check to see someone’s arrest record must define ‘adverse’ information to get a fully comprehensive view of the person’s history.
The second consideration to consider with the 7-year rule is the timing of the beginning of the seven years. Does the seven years start at the time of condition or when the person is released from prison? Do background checks show out-of-state arrests?
In the states that follow the 7-year rule for convictions and arrest records, the date of the ‘adverse’ activity should be the start date of the seven years. Some states may prefer to use the start date of parole as the beginning time period for the running clock. Therefore, the accuracy of the seven years in the states that follow this rule can be complicated due to the discrepancies.
- Non-convictions: The rule for non-convictions and the 7-year rule is to begin the ticking clock by the date of charge
- Convictions: Disposition date
Is 7+ Years Necessary?
The last aspect to consider when it comes to an arrest record is someone’s background check is the requirement — or the necessity — to find out more information about someone’s history beyond the seven years. Background checks are not always comprehensive or accurate — the person who is running the search should be able to see farther back than seven years if they are abiding by state laws.
Some employment sectors, such as education and law enforcement, need a 10-year background check and a criminal history search. In this case, specific job occupations and sectors are exempt from following the 7-year rule, regardless of state laws. The same is true for law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI. This agency can see everything, regardless of state law.
Which Background Checks Show Arrest Records?
The second thing to consider is the type of background check the person is running. Explained above, some checks (such as an FBI check) will find old arrest records regardless of when they happened. Other checks used by most employers are focused on finding recent arrests.
After individuals know what states erase arrest records and what information they can find out, it is imperative to know which background check shows arrest records and which ones do not show any criminal history.
Fingerprint Background Check
If someone is curious, ‘do arrests show up on background checks,’ a fingerprint background check can show all of a person’s past history.5
A fingerprint background check shows arrest records. A fingerprint background check is a history check used to uncover information stored in a database, solely baked off the information from a person’s DNA and fingerprints. Fingerprint data is helped by the FBI and can find those who have arrest records for criminal backgrounds.
The fingerprint background check shows the person’s arrest record, such as the arrest dates, release dates, charges, convictions, and dispositions of the cases. The fingerprints can also show a person’s basic information that can track an individual, such as an individual’s date of birth, home address, past addresses, contact information, current and past employment, and full name.
For searchers looking to do a fingerprint background check, the results can take a few weeks up to a month to receive the results via United States Postal Service. In other instances, the electric online method is faster for processing fingerprinting results to determine a person’s arrest record quicker.
Related Reading: How long does a fingerprint background check take?
FBI Background Check
When applying for certain federal and state positions, government and intelligence careers, an FBI background check examines detailed information about a person. By analyzing and looking at detailed information regarding the person in question, the agency can look at national databases to see the person’s financial, criminal, and employment history, even police reports.
- Citations – The first aspect that shows up on the FBI background check is citations and any fines held by the person. If the person did not pay a hefty fine, this would show up on the report. However, the inclusion of citations and warrants on a background check will depend on the specific type of fines and when the citation was processed. For example, a court-ordered fine, such as not paying overdue child support, will appear on the FBI background check.
- Credit history – If a person did not pay their taxes, owes thousands of dollars on overdue credit cards, and has a low credit rating, this will all show up on the FBI background check. For employers who want to hire irresponsible employees or landlords looking for financially responsible tenants, this type of poor credit history can be a significant deterrent. Credit history is not always guaranteed to show up on the FBI background check, but an employer can run a credit check at the same time as the FBI background check to gather comprehensive information regarding current and past credit reports.
- Criminal convictions – The most prominent reason that someone would run an FBI background check is to find someone’s arrest record and see if they have any past or current criminal convictions. An FBI background check is one of the most detailed types of checks, since it includes all misdemeanor and felony convictions. The FBI background check can consist of information regarding the severity of the charge, details about the incident, the conviction of the person in question, and incarceration or punishments resulting from hate crime.
- Criminal non-convictions – The next piece of information included in the FBI background check are any criminal non-conviction that has occurred in the last seven years. If a person has been charged but not convicted, is it on their record? For those who want to find arrest records, an FBI background check can show arrest records that did not result in conviction. Probation, violation of parole, and non-function are all present on the FBI background check. Therefore, these non-vaccinations are still a part of the person’s history, regardless of if they were charged with a crime.
- Housing information – In addition to arrest records and credit information, hosting history can be included on the FBI background check. Although this type of check is not usually meant for discovering housing and tenant information, the check can consist of contact information regarding where the person has lived in recent years.
- Personal information – The last piece of information included on the FBI background check includes personal information that is related to fingerprints, such as taxes, property owned, legal name, current driver’s license number, date of birth, and marriages or divorces. Employers and other individuals can use this personal information to find a person’s arrest records through local databases.
Keep in mind that the entire process can be sped up through the use of an expedited FBI background check that uses a pre-approved channeler.
Pre-Employment Background Check
Pre-employment background checks are a type of comprehensive check that involves cranial background checks, verification of information, past employment (and where someone works currently), past education, and licenses held. However, the pre-employment background check information depends on the specific job title, duties, and sector.
For example, those in education, law enforcement, or governmental agencies will have to succumb to a higher level of clearance than those going through a pre-employment background check for a non-specific type of job.
Background Check Result
Many individuals wait for their background check results and wonder what they will find with the finished product, wondering will an arrest record show on the background check that an employer carries out during the hiring process?
Typically, background check results will include past employment, criminal history, and credit (financial) history of the person in question. The purpose of using the background check is to make sure the workplace is safe for both the employer and the other employees.
The background check result will depend on the specific state in which the search is being conducted. For example, a Pennsylvania background check can include child abuse history clearance, criminal records, and federal criminal information.6 In other states, the 7-year statute rule may apply to some individuals who may have their previous criminal convictions not included on the check.
Criminal History Background Check
A criminal history record check is a standard part of the background check that employers may use for hiring a new person for a company.7 The criminal record history check can include various crimes or arrest records on local, state, and federal levels. A history check can consist of a wide range of charges and convictions, including even the higher-level crimes, such as felonies or misdemeanors.
Some employers may continue to use background screening companies to find out the arrests, information, and past employment monitored and regulated by the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. Therefore, employers are required to use the proper guidelines only to report and utilize accurate information.
How To Find Out If Arrest Records Will Appear on a Background Check
For those who want to find information regarding themselves or another person, it can be helpful to know if arrest records will show up on databases. Arrest records are considered public records and can be accessed through the jurisdiction court or a background check agency.8 If an individual attempts to destroy public records, this is considered a federal offense.9 Furthermore, individuals can use a county, state, or federal database to find past information.
Find Arrest Records Via County Or State Database
Step 1. Requests public records via the local County Clerk’s office
Step 2. Call the central state repository to find arrest records and convictions.
Step 3. Try looking at the specific state’s online database of arrest records and criminal history information.
Find Arrest Records Via Federal Database
Step 1. Go to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website to find an inmate.
Step 2. The Federal Bureau of Prisons shows all inmates from 1982 until the present. Individuals can search by the BOP Register Number, DCDC Number, FBI number, or INS number.
Step 3. The other way that an individual can search for someone is to search by name (i.e., First, Middle, and Last name, along with Race and Age).
Find Arrest Records Via Reputable Background Check Agency
Step 1. Find the best background check agency to use for any specific needs, such as finding past arrest records and criminal sanctions.
- Accreditation – Only choose a background check agency that is FCRA compliant.
- Accuracy – Background check agencies must provide complete and comprehensive written reports.
- Screenings – Choose a professional background check agency that can perform screenings
- Customization – Only select a background check agency that offers the necessary screenings required for specific needs and flexibility.
Step 2. Pay the background check agency the required fee to begin the search.
Therefore, it is imperative to know whether an arrest record will show up on a background check. For curious individuals who want to find out more about another person, knowing what they can and cannot find via local, state, and federal resources will determine the answer to ‘do arrests show up on background checks?’
Will a police report show up?
Police reports may show up on a background check depending on when the incident occurred and if it resulted in a charge. If charges were not pressed, a police report may not show up.
I'm on probation. Will my background check show this?
Typically, probation itself will not show up–but the original charge and reason for the resulting probation may show up depending on what type of background check was used and when the crime occurred. In short, the answer is it depends.
1Employer Background Checks and Your Rights. Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved from <https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/employer-background-checks-and-your-rights>
2Background Checks: What Job Applicants and Employees Should Know. (2014). U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Retrieved from <https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/background-checks-what-job-applicants-and-employees-should-know>
3Arrest Dispositions. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved from <https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/fingerprints-and-other-biometrics/arrest-disposition-submission>
4The Attorney General’s Report on Criminal History Background Checks. (2006). U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved from <https://bjs.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh236/files/media/document/ag_bgchecks_report.pdf>
5National Fingerprint Based Background Checks Steps for Success. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved from <https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/compact-council/national-fingerprint-based-background-checks-steps-for-success>
6Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) Criminal History Clearance. Department of Human Services. Retrieved from <https://www.dhs.pa.gov/KeepKidsSafe/Clearances/Pages/Criminal-Background-Check.aspx>
7Identity History Summary Checks. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved from <https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks>
8Martin, K & Nissenbaum, H. (2017). Privacy Interests in Public Records: An Empirical Investigation. Harvard Journal of Law & Technology, Forthcoming. Retrieved from <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2875720>
9Protection of Government Property — Protection of Public Records and Documents. (2020). The United States Department of Justice Archives. Retrieved from <https://www.justice.gov/archives/jm/criminal-resource-manual-1663-protection-government-property-protection-public-records-and>