Does First Offender Show Up on Background Check? (Bad News)

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Background Checks | September 14, 2022

Man holding up a phone on the right, with a projection of his screen on the left showing a background check that has a convertible car speeding and the driver throwing a beer bottle as he drives, while the man wonders does first offender show up on background check reports for employment.

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When someone has a run-in with law enforcement, it’s common to wonder, does first offender show up on background check, especially if the incident might impact a job or other opportunities.

The bad news is that even first offenses will likely be present on most background checks. However, it’s easy to find out for sure what shows up on a background check, simply run your own free criminal background check first.

Once you know whether the first offense will show up, then you can take steps to fix your background check before it stops you from getting hired, purchasing a firearm, or passing a rental background check.

In fact, individuals who are first time offenders will likely have more options when trying to expunge a criminal record because a number of states have passed laws simplifying the process.

Will a Background Check Show First Offenders? Easy Way To Check

There are almost always dozens of factors to consider when trying to figure out if something will show up on a background check. This can range anywhere from the type of check being performed, how long it has been since the crime was committed, the job duties, state laws, local laws, and more.

Rather than trying to navigate overlapping laws and unclear company policies, individuals who wonder, Does first offender show up on background check, should simply perform a background check on themselves.

By taking just a few minutes to perform a background check on yourself, all of the guesses of what will and won’t show up on a background check are removed, and individuals are able to see the exact same information that a potential employer is likely to see when performing a criminal history check.

Not only will it allow individuals to know what to expect in terms of questions that a hiring manager may have about their criminal history, but it is also the best way to fix any mistakes that may appear on the background check. Although rare, mistakes on background checks do happen, so knowing about them ahead of time will clear any potential issues that would come up as a result of incorrect information.

Related Reading: How to Do a Background Check on Yourself (Method for Each State)

Performing a background check, specifically, a criminal history check can be performed in a few different ways. In general, there are two main ways that give accurate information in a timely fashion with minimal effort.

The first and easiest is to go through a private background check service. Many of these companies operate completely online and there are tons of options to choose from. Despite the options, most of the companies will operate the same way: A name is entered in by the user and the background check service will run the name through dozens of different public databases.

These will include: Police databases, court records, sex offender registries, etc. All the information found in these databases that involve the individual’s name will appear on the background check which should be returned in a matter of minutes.

Colorado Gneral Assembly screenshot explaining name based criminal history record checks and background check laws with yellow arrows pointing to headings.
Another option, and the more ‘official,’ method, is to access the information directly through the local courts. Local courts would be the criminal courts of anywhere the individual has lived in the last several years. All criminal history information is considered public information (with a few exceptions) so it is fairly easy to request information.

Simply access the website of the local courts and see if they have an online searchable database. If not, contact the county court clerk directly to find out the best way to make a records request. In most cases, the clerk will only need the name of the individual and a small search fee.

First Time Offender Laws

First time offender laws will vary from state to state. Many individuals are familiar with some first time offender laws, mainly that first time offenders tend to get less severe sentences for crimes. However, many states also have laws that make it easier for first time offenders to seal or expunge records. Sealing or expunging a record is the ideal way to ensure that certain criminal history information doesn’t show up on a background check.

Screenshot with laws about sealing and expunging criminal records in Colorado.
Once again laws vary by state but many states will allow crimes to be expunged or sealed if certain criteria are met. Expunging a record means the record will essentially be destroyed and from a legal perspective, it will be like the crime never happened. This is the most thorough and preferred method, however, getting a record expunged is usually quite difficult and even impossible in certain cases.

Related Reading: Sealing Juvenile Records: What Happens When You Turn 18

Getting a record sealed simply means the record still exists but is made invisible to the public. Individuals will not be able to request the records from a courthouse and the records will not be present on a background check. Although expungement is the better option, getting a record sealed is often easier and more likely.

Use the table below to learn about the expungement process for first time offenders in each state.

State First Time OffenderState Expungement for First Offense
Alabama (AL) First Offender Act RulesAlabama Law Enforcement Agency Petition for Expungement of Records
Alaska (AK) First Offender Act RulesAlaska Department of Public Safety Request to Seal Criminal Justice Information
Arizona (AZ) First Offender Act RulesArizona State Legislature Vacating a Misdemeanor or Felony Conviction
Arkansas (AR) First Offender Act RulesArkansas Department of Public Safety Petition to Dismiss and Seal First Offenders
California (CA)  First Offender Act RulesCalifornia State Courts Clearing your Adult Criminal Record in California
Colorado (CO) First Offender Act RulesColorado State Legislature Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records
Connecticut (CT) First Offender Act RulesConnecticut General Assembly Erasure of Criminal Records
Delaware (DE) First Offender Act RulesDelaware Courts Expungement or Pardon of Criminal Records
Florida (FL) First Offender Act RulesFlorida Department of Law Enforcement Seal and Expunge Process
Georgia (GA) First Offender Act RulesGeorgia Bureau of Investigation File Request to Expunge a Criminal Record
Hawaii (HI) First Offender Act RulesHawaii Criminal Justice Data Center Expungement Information
Idaho (ID) First Offender Act RulesIdaho Bureau of Criminal Identification Expungement Application
Illinois (IL) First Offender Act RulesIllinois State Appellate Defender Adult Expungement and Sealing Information
Indiana (IN) First Offender Act RulesIndiana Courts Detailed Information on Criminal Case Expungement
Iowa (IA) First Offender Act RulesIowa State Legislature Expungement of Criminal Records
Kansas (KS) First Offender Act RulesKansas Expungement of Criminal History Records
Kentucky (KY) First Offender Act RulesKentucky Court of Justice Expungement Certification Process
Louisiana (LA) First Offender Act RulesLouisiana State Legislature Motion to Expunge Record of Arrest and Conviction
Maine (ME) First Offender Act RulesMaine Department of Public Safety Criminal Record Challenge Process
Massachusetts (MA) First Offender Act RulesMassachusetts Find out if you can expunge your criminal record
Maryland (MD) First Offender Act RulesMaryland Courts Adult Expungement Information
Michigan (MI) First Offender Act RulesMichigan Department of Attorney General Expungement Assistance
Minnesota (MN) First Offender Act RulesMinnesota Judicial Branch Criminal Expungement
Mississippi (MS) First Offender Act RulesMississippi State Legislature Mississippi expungement law
Missouri (MO) First Offender Act RulesMissouri Courts Criminal Expungement Information
Montana (MN) First Offender Act RulesMontana Department of Justice Conviction Expungement Process
Nebraska (NE) First Offender Act RulesNebraska Supreme Court Petition to Set Aside a Criminal ConvictionNew Jersey Expungement System
Nevada (NV) First Offender Act RulesNevada State Police Information on the Sealing of Nevada Criminal History Records
New Hampshire (NH) First Offender Act RulesNew Hampshire Courts Annulment of Criminal Records
New Jersey (NJ) First Offender Act RulesNew Jersey Expungement System
New Mexico (NM) First Offender Act RulesNew Mexico State Legislature Criminal Record Expungement Act
New York (NY) First Offender Act RulesNew York State Courts Sealed Criminal Records
North Carolina (NC) First Offender Act RulesNorth Carolina Judicial Branch Expunctions
North Dakota (ND) First Offender Act RulesNorth Dakota Courts Expungement of Criminal Records
Ohio (OH) First Offender Act RulesOhio Public Defender Commission Expungement
Oklahoma (OK) First Offender Act RulesOklahoma State Bureau of Investigations Criminal Record Expungements
Oregon (OR) First Offender Act RulesOregon Judicial Department Expungement
Pennsylvania (PA) First Offender Act RulesPennsylvania State Police Criminal Expungement Process
Rhode Island (RI) First Offender Act RulesRhode Island State Legislature Expungement of Criminal Records
South Carolina (SC) First Offender Act RulesSouth Carolina Legislature Expungement
South Dakota (SD) First Offender Act RulesSouth Dakota Unified Judicial System Motion For Expungement
Tennessee (TN) First Offender Act RulesTennessee Expunction Eligibility
Texas (TX) First Offender Act RulesTexas Statutes Expunction of Criminal Records
Utah (UT) First Offender Act RulesExpunging Adult Criminal Records Utah Courts
Vermont (VT) First Offender Act RulesVermont Legislature Expungement and Sealing of Criminal History Records
Virginia (VI) First Offender Act RulesVirginia Legislature Expungement of Criminal Records
Washington (WA) First Offender Act RulesWashington State Courts Sealing and Destroying Court Records
West Virginia (WV) First Offender Act RulesWest Virginia Judiciary Expungement Instructions
Wisconsin (WI) First Offender Act RulesWisconsin State Legislature Expungement Statutes
Wyoming  (WY) First Offender Act RulesEqual Justice Wyoming Expungement of Criminal Records

First Time Offender Diversion Programs (First Offender Act Early Termination)

Although getting a record sealed or expunged is a great option for individuals who already have a crime on their record, avoiding a conviction altogether is an even better option. First time offender diversion programs offer exactly that, a chance to avoid a conviction by completing a specific program. First time offender programs are not always available and will depend largely on the state and the specific crime. For example, more serious crimes such as homicide are usually not eligible for first time offender diversion programs.

Juvenile records laws in Colorado screenshot of diversion programs with arrows pointing to title and legal statues.
By avoiding a conviction entirely then there would likely be a record of the charge being filed on most background checks. Although many employers may still have questions about these charges, being able to explain the nature of the charges and the diversion program is far better than explaining a conviction as part of a pre-employment background check.

There is also the chance that anti discrimination laws2 may come into play if there was never a conviction

First Time Offender Felony

First time offender felonies are usually still quite serious. In most states, the best that individuals can hope for as far as their background check is concerned is serving the sentence and seeing if expungement is possible.

This will depend largely on state laws regarding felony sentencing and first time offenders. It’s easy to know how long does a felony stay on your record, it’s forever unless you have it expunged.

First Time Misdemeanor

Many individuals with the question of “does first offender show up on background check?” will be concerned about a misdemeanor conviction. Although under normal circumstances a misdemeanor will still be present on a background check, first time offenders usually have a few options available when it comes to committing a misdemeanor. More serious crimes will still warrant jail time and hopefully expungement, less serious crimes will often be eligible for programs like first time offender diversion programs.

First Time Offender Drug Charges

What will happen as a result of a first time offender drug charges will vary widely based on the state. Although some states will see possession of class 1 drugs as a misdemeanor,1 in other states it may be a serious felony with significant jail time at a minimum. Compared to other serious crimes like violent crimes or drug distribution charges, there is normally a better possibility of expungement with drug possession charges.

Related Reading: Will I Pass A Background Check With A Misdemeanor?

First-Time Felony Waiver

First time felony waivers won’t help an individual’s background check too much but can often be a great legal option when available.

Most felonies will have specific minimum sentencing and punishments in each state, regardless of how many times the offense has been committed. However, some states offer first-time felony waivers to alleviate these punishments. If the individual lives in a state that offers first-time felony waivers and has never been convicted of a felony before, a felony waiver may be used which would allow the judge to give a sentence that is lower than what is normally required for that crime.

Does a Background Check Only Show Convictions? (If First Offense Was Removed)

If an individual went through a first offender program they may be wondering does first offender show up on background check? When a first offense is removed from an individual’s record, both the charges and conviction are normally removed. This means there should be no evidence of the crime has occurred on a background check.

Colorado law about use of criminal convictions in employment screenshot wit yellow arrows pointing to legal statues.
However, in most cases, a background check will show both convictions and changes. Even if an individual was charged with a crime but not convicted, a typical criminal history check will include records of charges being filed against the individual. This is not always a deal-breaker for most employers, having a prepared response when asked about the charges will greatly increase an individual’s chances of still passing the background check.

Does a Pardon Show Up on a Background Check?

A pardon will show up on a background check. Unlike sealed or expunged records, a pardon does not simply make a record disappear. A pardon basically means the crime still happened but has been forgiven.

Does Parole Show Up on a Background Check?

The vast majority of background checks will show that someone was on parole. These days, criminal history checks tend to show every part of a crime including arrest records, charges, conviction, sentencing, and parole information.

Does Jail Time Show Up on a Background Check?

The same as charges and arrest records are returned as part of a background check, sentencing information will also be present on most criminal history checks.

Getting charged with a crime for the first time can be a scary situation and one with long-term consequences. Luckily, most states have options available to minimize the long-term effects of a single crime. Knowing the options available for your state and being able to answer questions like: Does first offender show up on background check? Will go a long way in minimizing the impact of a criminal charge.

Frequently Asked Questions About Does First Offender Show Up on a Background Check

Are Background Checks Public Records?

The information returned as part of a background check is mostly public records. Certain background checks may ask for information that is not public record, such as credit information. However, these checks will require special permission from the individual and have strict laws regarding how they conduct such checks.3

Do Pending Investigations Show Up on Background Checks?

If charges have been filed or an arrest has been made, this information will show up on most background checks. However if no formal action has been taken, then there will be no information about the pending investigation present on a background check.

What Happens to Your Criminal Record if You Complete the First Offenders Program?

After completing a first offender program, the charges for the crime that was committed will still be present. Without a conviction, many states will not allow employers to discriminate against an individual over charges that did not result in conviction.

Do Judges Go Easy on First-Time Offenders?

Depending on the crime, many judges will be likely to go easy on first time offenders. Many first time offenders will have a chance to expunge their record after serving a sentence, or going through a first offender program to avoid conviction altogether.


References

1State of Colorado. (2022). Offense Level For Controlled Substance Possession. Colorado General Assembly. Retrieved July 27, 2022, from <https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1263>

2United States Government. (2022). Arrest and Conviction Records: Resources for Job Seekers, Workers and Employers. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Retrieved July 27, 2022, from <https://www.eeoc.gov/arrestandconviction>

3United States Government. (2022). Fair Credit Reporting Act. Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved July 27, 2022, from <https://www.ftc.gov/legal-library/browse/statutes/fair-credit-reporting-act>

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