Criminal Background Check: What Shows Up On It?

Criminal Background Check: What Shows Up On It?


A criminal background check is a search for past convictions or arrests of individuals.  

If you are an employer, you must conduct a criminal background check, but it is up to you to ensure that your state laws allow you to do so.

If you are an employee, it is significant to learn more about what shows up on a criminal background check, benefits, and how long the background check will take.

Table Of Contents:

What Is A Criminal Background Check?

Criminal background check is a search of an individual's past criminal history. A criminal background check is performed on all employees, volunteers, board members, and contractors. 

When done correctly and at the proper cost, a criminal background check can accurately and efficiently weed out those who pose a risk to your personal or property security. 

A criminal background check is essential during the pre-employment of new employees or board members who will be around your property regularly and serve as an asset as far as company credibility is concerned. 

Depending on the state of your residence, a criminal background check may also be referred to as fingerprinting or a "Live Scan" of an individual's fingerprints. A criminal background may search national, state, county, and court databases.

Different types of criminal record checks may show different information. Some states also allow you to search local databases for traffic violations. It should be discussed with your state's law enforcement agency.

However, criminal background checks can be circumvented by hiring individuals with false names, addresses, etc. The laws surrounding criminal background checks vary by state, so do several searches to ensure accuracy. 

A criminal background check does not tell you everything that an employer will find out about you. Most employers are only interested in the consumer report about criminal history for most employment purposes.

To supplement a criminal background check, an employer can also conduct interviews with the individual, references, and a search of court records. An employer may ask you to voluntarily provide your fingerprints for a national or "global" background check.

Depending on the search cost, you will probably have different options for what you want to accomplish.

Some facts about criminal background checks

  • Insurance companies claim that people with a criminal record commit 92% of all property crimes.
  • 60% of U.S. employers conduct background checks on new hires in 2014, up from 40% in 2002, according to an SHRM study in 2004.
  • Accurint reports that convicted felons who have been convicted of sex offenses work in childcare and medical facilities.
  • The SHRM reported that 53% of employers must do background checks under federal law.
  • The Dallas Morning News reports that only about 10% of current employees will admit to a previous arrest or conviction if asked during an interview.

Henceforth, criminal background checks have become a standard part of the hiring process. In fact, 50% of employers who performed a background check on a new hire claimed to find something that made them not hire the person.

Benefits Of Checking Employees Criminal Records

  1. Safety: Checks can help ensure that those who work closely with vulnerable people such as children, the elderly, or the disabled do not have any past convictions that could put them at risk of harm from their work environment. 
  2. Company image: Checks can help ensure that staff and board members do not have any past convictions that show they may be a risk to the company's safety or property security.
  3. Employment law: Checking staff and board members' criminal records can help protect your company from the risk of employment law violations, such as hiring people with convictions for offenses that could constitute a disability such as drug use, theft, or fraud.
  4. Risk assessment: Checks can help identify staff and board members whose personal history shows they may be prone to theft or fraud, putting the company at risk financially.

What Information Will Employers Check?

The most commonly searched items on a criminal background check are arrests and convictions for felonies, misdemeanors, or special conditions that may have been placed against a person. 

Typically, an employer will judge the person's honesty by checking their response to any prior arrest or conviction. It is essential to be aware of this from a legal standpoint; it is equally as important from your company's image standpoint. 

However, the following are different types of criminal record checks that an employer may include in an employment background check:

  1. State criminal record checks: This search will cover all incidents and convictions in the state you are looking to hire from. It is often the default option for those who don't know which database they need to search.
  2. National criminal record checks: This search covers all arrests and convictions nationwide, including federal records, for any offense that is serious enough to be punishable by more than one year of incarceration or more than one year of supervised probation or parole.
  3. Federal criminal record checks: This searches federal records for any punishable offense by more than one year of incarceration or supervised probation.
  4. County criminal record checks: This is a search of county records for any arrest, including parking tickets.
  5. Sex offender registry searches: The sex offender registry search checks several databases to determine if anyone has registered as a sex offender, including the national sex offender registry.
  6. International criminal record checks: This search includes all records for any arrest or conviction outside the United States.

What Shows Up On A Criminal Background Check?

The information that shows up on a criminal background check will depend on the type of background check you are subject to. A "criminal history" background check only checks records within the United States, while a "national" or "global" background check can show records from other countries as well.

Criminal history information may include dismissed arrests or charges, convictions that were never sealed or expunged, and charges that were reduced, which can still show up on criminal background checks without being expunged.

However, criminal background checks only show the final disposition of the charge. You may have been found not guilty or had charges dismissed and still show up on the criminal background check even if you were not sentenced to jail or prison time.

A criminal background check does not include juvenile records if you were under 18 years old when an alleged crime occurred, but it will consist of adult records such as misdemeanors and felonies. 

However, some laws govern how agencies disseminate this information. Sometimes, the information on a background check is wrong, incomplete, or out-of-date. 

In addition, criminal records are not erased from public view even if the person has been pardoned or had their civil rights restored.

These laws vary by state, but most states have instituted a procedure whereby a person included in a state agency database can petition to have their records removed from the database after a certain period has passed since the incident(s) were adjudicated.

However, the following are examples of the types of records that may show up on a criminal background check

Felony Criminal Convictions 

Arrests and convictions for felonies can show up on a criminal background check. Examples of such crimes are rape, murder, arson, kidnapping, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, felony welfare fraud, and armed robbery. 

The courts in some states may not seal or expunge a criminal record for a conviction for a felony. However, in most cases, it is not a lifetime bar to sealing or expunging. A pardon can be granted by the governor of the state in which you were convicted. 

Although, a pardon cannot restore your civil rights, such as voting or holding public office. A pardon will not erase or change your criminal record.

Misdemeanor Criminal Convictions 

Arrests and convictions for misdemeanors can show up on a criminal background check. Some examples include domestic violence, driving under the influence, drug possession, vandalism, and shoplifting. 

A conviction for a misdemeanor will not prevent you from obtaining employment in most industries or professions. A conviction for a misdemeanor may be sealed or expunged in most states after some time has passed since the incident(s) were adjudicated.

Infractions or Violations

Arrests and convictions for infractions or violations can show up on a criminal background check. Some examples include driving on a suspended license, parking fines, traffic tickets, curfew violations, jaywalking, drinking in public.

A conviction for an infraction or violation will not prevent you from obtaining employment in most industries or professions. However, you may have to pay fines or perform community service hours.

These are just a few examples of the type of information that may show up on a criminal background check. It may not be the same information for every person, but it might be similar.

How Long Does A Criminal Background Check Take?

The time interval for the criminal background check to process under typical circumstances is three to six weeks, but it could take more or less time, depending on the type of inquiry. 

Most typical inquiries ask for a date range and geographic location, making them relatively straightforward to complete swiftly. The investigation is so dependent on the specific inquiry request; timing can vary greatly. 

A person might typically receive an inquiry for a preliminary check within 48 hours of applying, but it could take longer depending on any incomplete records. Many background checks are completed in under three days. 

But if the request requires more information than what is available in the public domain or simply more time for verification, it may take more than three days. Not all background checks are processed immediately.


A criminal background check is a tool that employers use to protect their business and the customers they serve. It provides a snapshot of your past, which can help an employer determine if you are a good fit for employment. 

Although a background check can be helpful and informative, you should know that background checks are just a snapshot and may not show the complete picture. 

However, a background check can provide employers with a cautionary warning if there is a pattern of repeated offenses that may pose a detriment to the employer's business or the public.

By requesting a criminal background check, an employer can identify traits that might pose an issue for the business regarding hiring someone who has committed certain offenses in the past.


Is a criminal background check required by law?

No, not all employers conduct criminal background checks as part of the hiring process. Some companies conduct criminal background checks on all potential employees, while others may conduct them randomly.

What is the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)?

Congress passed the FCRA to address the harmful or inaccurate credit information used in making hiring decisions. The act helps ensure that an employer does not unlawfully get information about your credit history and make employment decisions.

How do you remove incorrect information from your criminal background check?

You can request corrections to your criminal background check by contacting the credit bureaus. 

How far back do background checks go?

In general, criminal background checks include information from the last seven years. The warrant for this information is based on when you were convicted and how much time has passed since you were convicted.

How much do background checks cost?

It depends on the type of inquiry you request and the length of time it takes to process the request, ranging from $10 to $150 (with some fees). The average cost is around $50 to $100, but you could pay up to $300 or more if it takes longer than 30 days for results to come back after the request has been submitted.

What do Criminal background checks do not include?

Criminal background checks do not show non -criminal issues, expunged or sealed records, or minor infractions. Illegal use of alcohol or drugs while you were under the age of 21, is also not included in a background check.

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