Do Warrants Show Up on Background Checks? (Only If This Happens)

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Background Checks | May 10, 2022

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Many people wonder, ‘do warrants show up on background checks,’ and usually a warrant will not show up on a typical search. As a general rule, they can only appear on a screening once they have been officially executed, and carried out, therefore becoming part of the criminal record.

However, this is not always the case. There is an instance of when a warrant will be a result of a background check, and knowing when it will happen can eliminate some of the confusion and save your record.

Essentially, it depends on the type of warrant, whether it is civil, bench, search or for arrest. Sometimes, warrants can be shown on a background check, if the screening request is sent directly to the law enforcement department that is serving the particular warrant. Due to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), law enforcement agencies cannot deny this information when directly asked. There are also other scenarios when warrants may appear on a background check, for special cases in certain states.

It is important to know what information may come up when applying to a new job, apartment, or other opportunity, so if you’ve been asking “do warrants show up on background checks,” the following guide includes everything you need to know.

When Will Warrants Show Up on a Background Check? (If So, What Kind Of Warrant?)

As stated, warrants usually only come up on a background check once they have been carried out. For instance, you would not typically see a warrant for an arrest on criminal background checks. Instead, you would see the arrest record once the warrant was executed and the individual was arrested. You would also see resulting criminal charges, if applicable.1

Before diving deeper into this subject, it is important to note that there are several types of warrants. The type of warrant may determine whether or not it appears on a background check.

First, an arrest warrant is issued when you are the suspect in a crime. This occurs when there is evidence of a person being involved in said crime. An arrest warrant is only issued by a judge if there is a showing of probable cause, meaning that there is sufficient evidence to be used in a court of law. An investigator or police officer will typically show this to a judge to request a warrant.

Next, a civil warrant occurs when an individual does not comply with a court order. For instance, a civil warrant could be issued if a court ordered you to pay child support after a divorce or separation, and you did not comply. In this case, a civil warrant will allow local law enforcement, or another unit enforcing the court order, to arrest you.2

Additionally, a bench warrant is issued when you fail to appear in criminal or civil court, when it is required that you appear for a scheduled court hearing. A bench warrant will be issued so that law enforcement can arrest you, and bring you to court to attend the initial hearing you were summoned to.2

When someone is conducting a background check, bench and civil warrants are likely to appear, since they are included in court records and hearing reports. In the US, court records are typically public information, meaning they can be accessed by anyone.3 However, this is typically true for court background checks, or general background checks, and not criminal background checks. If an employer conducts a criminal background check, it is unlikely that a bench or civil warrant will appear on the report. (You can learn more if you’ve been asking, “How do I know if I have a misdemeanor on my record?”)

Finally, a search warrant is when the police are given permission by the court to search an individual’s property for evidence that they are involved in a crime. This type of warrant will only be issued by a judge when there is probable cause that the evidence exists. This could give police permission to search a home, vehicle, business, or virtually any other place specified in the warrant. Since these are usually part of active investigations, and do not mean that the individual involved in the search is guilty of a crime, search warrants will usually not show up on a typical background check. Instead, if a search warrant leads to an arrest, then there is the possibility that the arrest will appear on a background check.

For example, a search warrant may be issued for an investigation related to drug trafficking or drug possession. However, if you are driving and suspected to be under the influence, a police officer does not need a search warrant to check your vehicle, due to probable cause. (Do police reports show up on background checks? Sometimes.)

Even without a search warrant, this could result in being issued a DUI, which will definitely show up on any background check.4

The Disctrict of Columbia active warrant search website screenshot with yellow arrows showing where to enter information to find out do warrants show up on a background check.

Does a Warrant Show You Are Guilty on Your Record? Will This Warrant Show Up on All Types of Checks?

Remember that all of these types of warrants do not necessarily mean you have been found guilty of a criminal offense, which impacts the answer to the question: do warrants show up on background checks. Essentially, a warrant is just used to bring you into police custody for further questioning, bring you to a scheduled court session, or to bring you to jail to await trial for a criminal charge.2

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) ensures that citizens have free access to information. If you cannot find public information that you are entitled to, you can file a FOIA request to obtain the information you are looking for. For instance, you can file a FOIA request to find out if there are any warrants against a potential job applicant, a romantic partner, a housing applicant, or another person. This act allows for more comprehensive checks done by the general public.

Keep in mind that if you are conducting any type of background check for professional reasons, including filing a FOIA request for a job applicant, you have to first receive consent.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) states that individuals conducting a background check for any professional reason need to first seek permission from the individual, before commencing the screening. If a check is related to personal reasons, such as dating, permission isn’t required. Overall, the Fair Credit Reporting Act helps provide protections for job candidates during a pre-employment background check.

While the FOIA allows citizens to request information that may be needed to conduct a background check, there are some limitations to the legal act. For instance, Exemption 7A to the Freedom of Information Guide states that if releasing information, such as a warrant, could cause harm to an individual or impede an investigation, the enforcement agency has the right to deny access to this certain information. However, there has to be certainty that disclosing the information could harm an active investigation.

If you are still wondering, do warrants show up on background checks, remember that the background check laws often differ from state to state. It is important that you do verify if your state has any specific laws concerning warrants showing up on a record check.

While you have to submit a request for warrant information in some states, other states have an open database on individuals who have been convicted of, or are suspected of having committed, a crime, for public usage. Therefore, for these states, a warrant could potentially show up, only if the third-party company conducts their screening using these state resources or databases. As each state is different, make sure you do your research on whether or not your respective state reports warrants regularly.

For instance, in Connecticut, arrest warrants and police mug shots are available to the public instantly, and show up through an online portal. If you want to view warrants in Connecticut, you do not need to request the information via the FOIA, but can do so yourself directly online.

Similarly, in Washington DC, there is an active warrant list  updated regularly. If a background check company runs screenings using these open databases, these warrants will appear.

In New York, you cannot access warrants directly online, but can request them by contacting the Criminal Court’s information line or office of arrest, to receive the warrant records via phone or in person.

In California, you must request to access public information maintained by local and state government agencies, which includes arrest warrants. Since this information is not readily available online, warrants issued in California may not appear on background checks.

Alternatively, in Florida, the Public Access System  allows anyone to search the name of an individual to see if there are any warrants for their arrest. This allows individuals to search quickly and easily, since the information is online. As a result, warrants in Florida could potentially appear on background checks which include state resources, such as the Public Access System, in their screenings.

If you’re still worrying, “do warrants show up on background checks,” verify the answer with your state’s applicable laws.

Florida Crime Information Center Public Access System screenshot with yellow arrow pointing to warrant search process.

Will Warrants Appear on a FBI Background Check? Will a Warrant Show Up on a Fingerprint Background Check or Other Types of Background Checks?

You may also be wondering, does an FBI background check include warrants? This may be relevant if you are running a screening on someone, and you’re unsure how to get a background check.

An FBI check will reveal nationwide arrests, criminal offenses such as felonies and misdemeanors, federal employment background, and more detailed information. This type of check is done by submitting a fingerprint background check request to the FBI, which will show connection to an arrest, but not necessarily a warrant. Typically, FBI background checks are completed for jobs concerning sensitive information, working with vulnerable populations such as children or the elderly, and related reasons.

Keep in mind that if an arrest warrant has not yet been executed, the accused individual will not yet be in police custody. Therefore, the individual has not yet been booked, and the fingerprints of the suspect will not yet be in the system, unless they have a prior record. As a result, an FBI background search will likely not reveal pending warrants for individuals who are new to the criminal justice system, and have never been arrested before.

Can a Background Check Result Threaten a Potential Job Opportunity? Does a Pre-Employment Background Check Have to Use Official Sources or Background Checking Sites?

If you’re wondering, do warrants show up on background checks, it may be because you are worried about passing a background check for a new opportunity.

A background check result, such as a pending warrant, can disqualify you from certain job positions. For instance, if vulnerable populations are involved in the employment, a criminal record on your background does impact your chances of getting the job, and can often disqualify you from the position, especially if the crime is associated with something that would disqualify you.

However, if an employer denies you of an employment opportunity due to a pending warrant on your criminal record, they are required to notify you of why you were disqualified for the position. In fact, they must submit a “Summary of Rights” to explain what was found in the report, and how to contact the company who conducted the background check. Typically, a third-party organization provides services for employers by completing these background checks for them.

Most of the time, an employer will conduct employment background checks using a third-party company that specializes in screenings. Many of these companies use background checking sites. Remember, for this type of check, a warrant will typically not appear.

If you are still wondering, do warrants show up on background checks, it may be wise to conduct a personal background check on yourself, to verify what will appear on the check. In fact, running a level-2 background check on yourself can be helpful in indicating whether or not you will pass a background check, and therefore will qualify for certain opportunities.

Furthermore, a self-check can also allow you to request a correction in any information that may show up erroneously on a background check. You may be wondering, could a background check show inaccurate information? If a warrant shows up on your background check that is false, be sure to contact the background check company to correct this error.

When asking, do warrants show up on background checks, remember that the answer is generally no, unless the warrant has been executed, but there is still the possibility that a background check will include warrants, especially for bench or civil warrants, if a FOIA request has been submitted to the department that served the warrant.


References

1Akin, J. GoodHire. What Shows up on a background check? 9 July 2021. 10 November 2021. Web. <https://www.goodhire.com/blog/what-shows-up-on-a-background-check/>

2Gabriel, B. Law Offices of Gabriel & Gabriel LLC. Do Arrest Warrants Show Up on Background Checks? 11 November 2020. 10 November 2021. Web. <https://www.gabriellawteam.com/do-arrest-warrants-show-up-on-background-checks/>

3Criminal Watch Dog. Will a Warrant Show Up on a Background Check? Nd. 12 November 2021. Web. <https://www.criminalwatchdog.com/faq/do-warrants-show-on-background-check>

4Klazema, M. Do Background Checks Show Warrants? Backgroundchecks.com. 18 February 2020. 12 November 2021. Web. <https://www.backgroundchecks.com/blog/do-background-checks-show-warrants>