What Shows Up on a Criminal Record Check?

We’ve all heard of background checks. However, many people don’t understand the difference between criminal record checks and background checks.

What type of information shows up on a criminal record check versus a background check? Which check should you perform? Is it legal to run a criminal background check?

Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about what shows up on a criminal record check.

What Shows With Criminal Record Check

What’s on a Criminal History Check?

A criminal background check or criminal records search reveals all of the following information:

Criminal Convictions: If a person has committed a felony or misdemeanor, then this information should appear on a criminal record check.

Arrest Records: Some states have laws prohibiting employers from asking about arrest records or using them for employment-related decisions. That’s because arrest records are not a proof of guilt. Someone could be arrested and then released without being charged, for example. If you are running a criminal record check for non-employment reasons, however, then it’s generally legal to check arrest records.

Dismissed Cases: Dismissed cases may appear on a person’s background check. A criminal charge could stay on a person’s record even if the charges are later dismissed or if the person is declared not guilty.

Seven Years of Data: There is no federal law stipulating how far back a criminal record must go. Each state mandates this on a state level. On average, however, a criminal background check goes back seven years. In California, for example, arrest and conviction records more than seven years old cannot be included on a background check report by law.

What Is Not on a Criminal Background Check?

Certain things will never (or rarely) appear on a criminal background check, including all of the following:

Expunged or Sealed Records: Someone might petition to have a criminal record sealed or expunged. If this petition is successful, then this record will not appear on any background check. The record has been removed from existence. In this case, the candidate can even answer “no” to the question, “have you ever been convicted of a crime?”.

Traffic Tickets, Speeding Tickets, and Other Citations: Traffic tickets are civil citations. They’re not misdemeanors or felonies. They will not show up on a criminal background check. However, certain serious driving violations are considered misdemeanors or felonies, including reckless driving offenses and DUIs. These convictions may appear on a criminal background check. Traffic citations are kept, however, by your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

Previous Employment or Education: A criminal background check is exactly what it sounds like. You’re checking someone’s background for any criminal activities. A criminal background check will not reveal anything about a person’s past employment or education.

Is It Legal to Run a Criminal Background Check?

It’s legal and common for an average person to run a criminal background check on another person in most situations.

In general, it’s legal for an ordinary person to run a background check if they’re not planning on hiring the person being checked. If you don’t plan on paying or hiring the individual, then you should be able to run a background check without the other person’s consent.

If you’re running the background check in a professional setting, however, then you will require the consent of the person being screened. A landlord doing a background check on a tenant, for example, needs the permission of the tenant, and an employer checking the criminal record of a potential future employee needs consent.