Is It Legal to Check Someone’s Criminal Record Without Permission?

Is It Legal to Check Someone’s Criminal RecordMaybe you’re hiring someone or renting an apartment. Maybe you’re curious about a neighbor or coworker. Whatever the situation may be, you want to check someone’s criminal record, and you’re concerned about whether or not you need permission.

Is it legal to check someone’s criminal record without permission? Do you need to request someone’s permission before running a criminal record check?

In some cases, you need to ask permission before checking a criminal record. In other cases, you do not need to request any type of permission.

Confused? We’ll explain how it works below.

You Must Request Permission in Professional Settings

If you’re running a background check in a professional setting, then you may need to request permission.

Employers must request permission before running a background check on a prospective employee, for example. You cannot screen a job candidate without first getting permission from that candidate.

The same rule applies to landlords checking a tenant’s background or criminal history. If you are renting your place to someone, then this is considered a professional setting. You must request the prospective tenant’s permission before running a background check.

You may also require permission in other settings.

Are you using the background check to make an important decision about the person’s future? If so, then you may need to request permission.

If you need to request permission, then you must also comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA requires background check services to abide by specific regulations and requirements. You must use an FCRA-compliant background check service when running a background check in professional settings.

The FCRA also requires you to inform the candidate about the results of the background check in certain situations. If you run a background check on someone, for example, and it reveals information that prevents you from hiring that person, then you may need to inform the candidate of the specific item that prevented the hiring.

Employers and landlords who fail to follow the FCRA may expose themselves to liability. An employer who fails to follow the FCRA then rejects a qualified candidate, for example, could be sued by that candidate.

Permission is Not Required in Personal Settings

If you’re running a background check in a personal setting, then you may not need permission. You can check someone’s background without their permission or knowledge.

If you want to check a co-worker’s divorce certificate, for example, then you may be able to do so without the co-worker’s permission or knowledge. If you’re curious about a neighbor’s criminal record and want to learn more, then you should be able to run a check without the neighbor’s permission.

Similarly, it’s legal to run a background check on a date. If you just met someone and want to learn more before continuing with a second date, for example, then you can run a background check. Dating is a personal reason, and you should be able to legally run a background check without permission.

Personal settings where permission is not required can include:

Background Checks for Personal Relationships or Dating: If you meet someone on Tinder and want to learn more, then you can run a background check on that person. Many people do this to verify someone’s identity, for example, and make sure they are who they claim to be.

Babysitting, Coaching, and Other Casual Jobs: You may not need to run a background check before hiring a babysitter. Running a background check on a babysitter can reveal crucial information about someone who is going to be around your children, and it’s a good idea to run a background check in this situation.

Curiosity or Snooping: Is your boss really divorced? Is your friend’s wife really 35 years old? Did that neighbor really commit a felony? Some people call it curiosity. Others call it snooping. In most cases, you can freely snoop on someone without requesting that person’s permission.

Checking your Own Background: It’s legal to check your own background. In fact, thousands of Americans do this every day. Checking your own background can reveal errors on your history. It could also help explain why you keep getting rejected by landlords or employers. Many people are surprised to discover what appears on a background check.

Generally, if you’re not using background check information to decide someone’s future, then you do not need someone’s permission to run a background check.

Can Someone Tell You Checked Their Background?

If you’re concerned about checking someone’s record without their permission, then you may also be concerned about whether or not they can tell you ran a background check.

If you run a background check on someone, does that person receive a notification of any sort? Can someone tell that you checked their criminal record or pulled certain database files?

With most background check services, the person will not receive any notification that you ran a background check, and there’s no way for someone to tell you ran a background check. Your search should be completely private and anonymous.

Rest assured, snoopers: if running a background check for personal reasons, you should be able to run the check anonymously and without permission.

Final Word

In many cases, it’s legal to check someone’s criminal record without their permission. In other cases, it’s legal to check someone’s criminal record – but you need to ask their permission and use an accredited service.

Run a criminal record check on someone today in just a few minutes online. Enter a first name, last name, and location to start your background check.

What Do Employers Discover on a Background Check?

What Employers Discover on a Background CheckMost employers run a background check before hiring someone new.

Whether it’s a minimum wage job or a top secret position, you may need to undergo a background check to get hired.

But what do employers discover on a background check? How far back does an employer background check go? Should you be worried about an employer background check? Today, we’re explaining what employers see on a background check.

Employment Verification

First, most employers will use a background check to verify your employment history. Maybe you claim to have worked at the CIA for 20 years. The employer could trust you. Or, they could run a background check to verify your employment history.

A background check can identify the names of previous employees, your job title, your salary, and other information about previous professional positions. Sometimes, employers check this information automatically. In most cases, however, the employer will contact previous employers to request this information.

Credit Checks

Employers may check your credit. A credit check can reveal personal information like your address, previous addresses, social security number, financial picture, debt, car payments, credit history, and more.

Why does your employer care about this information? Well, if you are in charge of finances for a company, then your employer may want to verify you have a good financial picture. An employer may not want to hire someone with debt problems to handle a multi-million dollar budget, for example.

Curious about what’s on your credit report? You can obtain a free copy of your report once per year from each of the three major credit bureaus in the United States. Request a report from Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion to discover what employers see on your credit check.

Running credit checks on employees is controversial. 11 states have prohibited employers from checking your credit during an employment screening. States where the practice is prohibited or limited include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Additionally, New York City has passed legislation preventing employers from running a credit check on prospective employees.

Criminal Record

The criminal record check is the most important part of an average background check. The employer can see any major offenses on your criminal record, including felonies and convictions.

The details of a criminal record check vary depending on your state, the background check service, and your employer. If you’re applying for a job with the federal government, for example, then you might undergo an extensive criminal record check, and years of criminal history might appear on this check.

Generally, you can expect an employer’s criminal record check to reveal seven years of criminal convictions, including minor and major offenses. However, more serious convictions – like felonies – may appear on a criminal record check for life.

Why Do Employers Run Background Checks?

Employers interview candidates to ensure they’re qualified. So why do employers also run background checks? Background checks give employers crucial information about the candidate.

Reasons to run a background check include:

Job Competency: If you’re hired to be a rocket scientist, then your employer might want to verify your educational and professional qualifications. They want to check your school and work history to verify you can perform your job effectively.

Workplace Safety: Employers have a certain responsibility for protecting employees and customers. Employers run a background check to protect themselves from dangerous employees – like people with a history of violent crimes or someone who has previously attacked a coworker. If an employer hires a dangerous person, and that person attacks an employee or customer, then the employer may be liable because the employer did not conduct an adequate background check.

Workplace Theft: Someone might apply to a job specifically because they want to steal. Someone might request a job at a bank, for example, to identify the inner security systems of a bank. Or, someone might attempt to get hired a tech company to install a tracking system or hack a database. Employers have a responsibility to protect themselves from theft performed by insiders, and background checks deter workplace theft.

Verify Honesty: An employer background check verifies a new employee’s honesty. Was the prospective employee honest about their educational and professional experience? Did the employee try to hide a previous conviction? Lying about information on a background check could cast doubts on the employee’s honesty and integrity.

Other Things to Know About Employer Background Checks

Confused about employer background checks? That’s okay. Here are other things you need to know about employer background checks.

Be Aware of Ban the Box Laws

Many states have passed ‘ban the box’ laws that prevent employers from asking about your criminal record until the later stages of the hiring process. Employers cannot screen candidates immediately by forcing them to check a ‘box’ confirming their criminal record. Instead, employers must assess each candidate fairly, then only perform a criminal record check during the later stages of the interview process.

Your Employer Must Use an FCRA Compliant Service

Employers cannot use free background check websites or similar sources to verify your information. Instead, they need to use a background check service that’s compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). These background check services must abide by specific legal standards and follow rules. Free background check reporting websites often have no regulation.

Your Employer Must Inform You of the Background Check

Employers cannot check your background without your permission. Employers must request your permission before running the background check. If the employer takes action against you because of your report, the employer must notify you in writing and provide a copy of the report, giving you the right to dispute inaccurate information.

Final Word

An employment background check reveals crucial information about the candidate. It can reveal the candidate’s professional and educational background, for example. It can protect employers and their employees from danger, theft, or liability. It ensures a safe and effective workplace for everyone.

Curious about what employers are seeing on your background check? Run a background check on yourself. You may be surprised what’s out there.


Top 13 FAQs About Criminal Record Checks

FAQs About Criminal Record ChecksChecking a criminal record can be confusing. Each state has different rules. Certain information can appear on one background check – but not others.

We get a lot of questions about criminal record checks. Today, we’re highlighting some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about criminal record checks and background searches.

Q: How far back does a background check go?

A: Most background check companies allow employers to customize the date range and choose how far back they want to go. Additionally, some states have rules regarding background checks. In some states, employers are allowed to check decades of criminal history to verify a record, for example. In other states, employers can only check seven years of criminal history. If an employer is running a background check on you, your employer should tell you how far the background check goes.

Q: Will I pass a background check with a misdemeanor?

A: Again, rules vary by state, case, and background check. Some employers run a thorough background check that reveals everything from speeding tickets to parking tickets. Other background checks only report major offenses. Generally, any incidents within the past seven years will appear on a background check. However, minor incidents are typically reported in minor courts, and background check services may not check smaller court databases for infractions.

Q: How do background check companies run a criminal history search?

A: Background check companies use local, county, state, and federal databases to verify someone’s history. Depending on where the person lived, and where the person has committed crimes, information about that person may be stored across the country. A background check website takes someone’s name, then checks millions of records for any entries involving that person.

Q: What else will appear on a background check?

A: Most people associate background checks with a criminal record. However, background checks can reveal plenty of other information about someone, including a date of birth, aliases, marriage certificates, divorce certificates, and more. Even if someone has no criminal record, a background check can reveal surprising information about that person.

Q: I was convicted of an offense a long time ago. Will it still show up on a background check?

A: It depends. Some states prevent employers from checking an offense that’s more than seven years old for an employment screening. Other states have no rules preventing someone from checking your entire criminal history.

Q: I have a criminal record. Can I still get a job?

A: Yes! Many states give employers incentive to hire people with a criminal record. Having a criminal record does not prevent you from getting a job. In fact, many states now have ‘ban the box’ laws that prevent employers from asking about your criminal record until the later stages of the interview process. That makes it easier for people with criminal records to compete against other qualified candidates.

Q: Do pending charges appear on a background check?

A: Pending charges could appear on a background check, or they could not. It depends on the background check service, the type of pending charges, and the jurisdiction in which those charges were recorded.

Q: What does my employer learn on a background check?

A: An employer background check can verify your educational background and professional background. Most employers also check your criminal background back 7 years. However, background checks vary between employers and states.

Q: Why do I have to pay for a background check?

A: You have to pay for a background check because it’s a professional service. Most background check companies provide a professional service, and they provide that service for a fee. In many cases, background check companies have to pay to access information. They might pay a fee to access certain data, for example, or a court fee for specific jurisdictions.

Q: Do any free background check tools exist?

A: There are plenty of free background check tools. You can use Facebook or Instagram to run a free background check, for example. Most formal background checks, however, including criminal record checks, come with a fee. Some background check companies provide basic information – like a name, date of birth, and aliases – for free, then charge a small fee for detailed background information like a criminal record.

Q: Is it legal to run a background check on someone?

A: Generally, it’s legal to run a background check on someone for personal reasons. However, if you are checking someone’s background for reasons that affect their future, then you may need to get the person’s permission and use an accredited background check service.

If running a background check on someone for employment reasons, for example, then you must use a background check provider that is compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). You must abide by similar requirements when running a background check for a property rental – say, if checking a potential tenant.

Q: Can someone notice I checked their background?

A: Most background check services are anonymous, and nobody can tell that you ran a background check. If running a background for employment purposes or similar reasons, however, then you may need to request the person’s permission to run a background check. As long as you’re running a background check for personal reasons (say, because you’re curious about a coworker), you should be able to check someone’s background with no permission required.

Q: Can I delete information on my background check?

A: It may be possible to remove certain information from your background check. In most cases, however, this information is on your background report forever. Some companies may claim to remove information from your record in exchange for a fee, although this may or may not be possible. Contact a lawyer to ask about removing criminal records from your background.

Curious about checking a criminal record? Use our online form to discover surprising information about anyone in your life.