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What Criminal Records Show Up on a Background Check?

PSI Team | Uncategorized

Checking into a person’s criminal record is a standard part of any background check, no matter what the job in question is. Even though everyone expects this, not many people actually know what law infractions show up in this kind of screening. We’re here today to set the record straight. Not only are we going to cover what criminal records show up on a background check, but we’ll also cover the ones that don’t and where this information comes from. All of this should help give you a better understanding of what these checks entail.

Which Records Are Included

Let’s start with the types of records that will be in your average background check. One thing to note about all these entries is that they will vary a bit from state to state, but these are the ones that most governments generally include.


It should come as no surprise that felonies may appear in background checks. These are the worst crimes that a person can commit. Most forms of murder and sexual assault show up in this category, but other crimes such as armed robbery, drug manufacturing, and aggravated kidnapping are also considered felonies.

These are also the types of crimes that may keep applicants from getting a number of possible jobs. While it’s certainly not impossible for a person to get hired with one of these on their record, some jobs will be completely locked off to them due to the nature of these crimes and the nature of the position they are applying for.


While misdemeanors are not as severe, they’re still crimes that can result in heavy fines or short amounts of jail time. These can be permanent and reportable by federal and state law on a background check. A few common examples are drunk driving, possession of drugs, and vandalism.

Many employers won’t have too big of an issue with these, especially if they are way in the past, but like felonies, it depends on the crime. For example, if a person is applying to be a delivery driver, they likely won’t get hired if they have multiple accounts of drunk driving on their record.

Traffic Violations

We’ll start this one by saying that not all traffic violations will show up on a background check. Minor speeding tickets and instances of blowing through a stop sign might not be on there, but even if they are for some reason, a majority of employers won’t care, depending on the position. Reports of drag racing or general reckless driving might, though, especially if they result in a felony or misdemeanor.

Which Records Are Left Out

Now that you know which criminal records show up on a background check, you should also be aware of the ones that don’t. These will all be records that should never influence an employer’s choice to hire someone anyway, but it’s reassuring to know that they won’t be there.


Some items that show up in a background check are crimes that a person was found guilty of, but what about the ones they’re not found guilty of committing? Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), all non-convictions that are seven years or older cannot legally show up in a background check. While that’s reassuring, that’s still a large window for a future employer to see that a person got unfairly blamed for a crime they didn’t commit.

Since there still might be some bias against innocent people, many local laws block arrests, warrants, and other court records from showing up on a background check at all. It’s not a perfect system, but at least the day will come when all these records will get wiped clean.

Civil Suits

A majority of civil suits, such as divorce proceedings and property disputes, would never show up in a background check, but occasionally these suits deal with criminal activities. While there’s still a bit of a gray area as to whether or not these will appear in a screening, they are also protected under the FCRA. That means after seven years, there’s no chance that they’ll show up on a background check.

Juvenile Records

It’s hard to fault someone for something they did as a kid or troubled teen. That’s why governments also keep juvenile records out of general background checks. If the crime they committed was severe enough, then they would have been tried as an adult, and it may have shown up like any other felony or misdemeanor. Other than that, potential employers should have no right to know of a person’s juvenile charges.

Sealed Records

As we previously alluded to, there are times in which a criminal charge such as a misdemeanor can get taken off someone’s record. Whether it was expunged or sealed for other reasons, a sealed record can never show up on a background check. As far as anyone is concerned, it never happened.

Where These Records Come From

Now that everyone knows what can and can’t show up on a criminal screening, it’s time to talk about where these records come from in the first place. Unfortunately, all these records don’t get stored in one convenient place. Companies that investigate these affairs have to check multiple locations, which is why your company should look into reputable background check services like ours in order to ensure that they get all of the details of a potential new hire’s criminal past.

Here’s a list of all the places companies check for criminal reports:

  • Interpol public records
  • Department of corrections offices
  • State police departments
  • State courts and databases
  • County courts and databases
  • District courts
  • Prison parole and release files
  • Sex offender registries
  • Federal District Courts

Due to the accessibility of the internet, gaining files and records from these places is easier than ever, but it’s still more complicated than it needs to be, which is why companies like ours exist. We do the dirty work so you don’t have to. If an employer tried to look up individual records for every potential future employee they interviewed, they would bog down the hiring process to all new lows.

Nobody wants that, which is why PSI is here to handle this kind of stuff for you. We cover criminal records and any other background information you’re interested in.

What Criminal Records Show Up on a Background Check?