Do Warrants Show Up on a Background Check?
There are multiple types of warrants, including criminal warrants, bench warrants, search warrants, and civil warrants. An arrest warrant indicates that someone is under open investigation by law enforcement. A bench warrant indicates that someone has failed to appear in court after being ordered to do so. No warrants are proof of guilt, but they can raise red flags about a candidate’s past—particularly their criminal or civil history.
Below, we explain how to find the most common kinds of warrants using background checks.
Do Arrest Warrants Show Up on Background Checks?
When individuals ask this question, they often mean, “Do arrest warrants show up on standard criminal background checks?”
Typically, the answer is no. States have different laws about access to arrest warrants, and arrest warrants don’t usually become a part of the criminal record until they are executed. As such, warrants rarely show up on a criminal background screening—be it a county search, a state repository check, or a multi-jurisdictional screening.
Some background check companies, including backgroundchecks.com, have services that search for warrants. Our Nationwide Wants and Warrants search identifies outstanding criminal warrants at the state and federal levels. This search will identify the agencies that issued those warrants. We can communicate with an issuing agency to learn more about the warrant.
If an arrest warrant has been executed—if police have used the warrant to place someone under arrest on suspicion of a crime—that information can show as part of a criminal background check. Whether employers can use arrest histories as a factor in hiring decisions is another matter.
Many states ban this practice, including California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania. Some states have restrictions on the use of arrest records for employment purposes, while others have no restrictions at all. For a detailed explanation of how different states restrict (or do not restrict) the use of arrest records for employment purposes, read our white paper on the subject.
Does a Bench Warrant Show on a Background Check?
A bench warrant is technically a type of arrest warrant. Issued by a court, a bench warrant grants police the right to arrest an individual immediately—usually because they failed to appear in civil or criminal court.
As with an arrest warrant, a bench warrant is not a part of a criminal record and will not show up on a criminal background check. However, since these warrants are issued by the court, they are a part of court records. As such, they can typically be found in court record background searches.
Do Civil Warrants Show on a Background Check?
A civil warrant is typically issued when a subject has failed to follow orders issued by a civil court. For instance, if a parent fails to pay child support as ordered by the court, a judge may issue a civil warrant for their arrest.
Similar to bench warrants, civil warrants are not a part of the criminal record—though the associated arrests may be. As such, a civil warrant will not appear on a criminal background check. Civil warrants are, however, a part of an individual’s civil court history, so they will usually show up on background searches that examine civil court records.
Finding Details about Warrants
It is possible to find details about most warrants through background checks. Search warrants are the exception, as they do not usually appear in criminal history or court record searches. If a search warrant leads to a discovery that triggers an arrest, that information will likely appear in a criminal records search. On their own, search warrants are difficult to find through background checks.
Warrants will not show up in most standard criminal history checks. If you are curious about warrants, you will have to run an additional search or two: usually, county or federal civil searches are the most reliable options in this situation.
What shows up on a background check?
What shows up on a background check will always depend on the type of background check. A criminal background search, for instance, will show criminal history details, including felony or misdemeanor convictions and, sometimes, arrest records. Driving history checks will show details about a subject’s motor vehicle record, including speeding tickets, other moving violations, license suspensions, and more.
Most warrants will not appear on a criminal records search but will show up on a civil history background check. Law enforcement doesn’t issue warrants; courts do. As a result, even a warrant for an arrest based on suspicion of a crime won’t show up on that individual’s criminal background screening. A search of court records will usually show warrants for a subject’s arrests as well as bench warrants and civil warrants.
Does a misdemeanor show up on a background check after seven years?
A misdemeanor is a criminal conviction, which means that it will show up on the average criminal history check. However, even if you have a misdemeanor on your record, that doesn’t mean that it will always come up on a background search of your criminal record.
Most states have laws that only allow for criminal background checks to look back seven years. Older convictions may not appear on your background check. These convictions are still on your record, and law enforcement agencies can view them, but employers are not permitted to consider them for hiring purposes.
Do pending charges show up on a background check?
The fact that arrest records do not typically appear on a criminal history background search leads many individuals to assume that pending criminal charges also won’t show up on a background report. In truth, pending charges usually do show on criminal background checks. By this point in criminal investigative proceedings, police have typically executed the arrest record, arrested the subject, and filed formal criminal charges against them. These criminal charges will appear on a background check.
Similar to arrest records, there is debate over whether pending charges should be used against a job candidate during the hiring process. Employers deserve to know if they are considering a candidate who is facing charges for a crime—especially a serious one. However, pending charges, including arrest records, are not proof of guilt.
Employers should decide what to do with pending charges on a case-by-case basis. Learn more by reading our blog post about pending charges and background checks.
Criminal charges stay on a subject’s record even if the charges are dropped or dismissed. While this information may appear on a candidate’s background report, employers should not consider it as a factor for employment decisions. Dropped or dismissed charges usually indicate that an individual was either found not guilty of a crime or that there wasn’t enough evidence to find them guilty. In either case, there is little reason for employers to hold this information against a prospective hire.
Do background checks show offenses out-of-state?
Warrants can appear on civil history checks, but since those checks are usually conducted at the county court level, individuals may wonder whether a background search can show out-of-state warrants. The answer to this question will depend on the type of check.
A county civil history check will usually only show local warrant activity. However, there are tools—such as backgroundchecks.com’s Nationwide Wants and Warrants search—that employers can use to find any in-state or out-of-state warrants that have been issued for a prospective hire.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is Chief Marketing Technologist at EY-VODW.com and has over two decades of experience in digital consulting, online product management, and technology innovation. He is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments.