Will a DUI Show on a Criminal Background Check?
If you have a DUI arrest or conviction in your past, you may wonder whether it will show up on a criminal background check or as part of your driving record. Since a DUI is a misdemeanour crime or felony depending on the circumstances, it will typically be a part of your criminal record.
The DUI causes some confusion regarding background checks, criminal history exposure, and employment situations. Because driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is an offense that can only occur while driving, many individuals assume that a DUI will show on a driving history check but not on a criminal background check.
A DUI is considered a serious crime—one that can lead to license suspensions, sizable fines, and jail time. In all 50 states, a first-offense will normally be classified as a misdemeanor. Since misdemeanor convictions show up on criminal screenings, a DUI will appear on standard criminal background checks.
Ultimately, a DUI is more severe than most other driving offenses under the law, and it receives a misdemeanor status. As a result, if you have a DUI arrest or conviction (or several) on your record, they will likely appear on pre-employment background checks—even if an employer does not conduct a driving history check. Since a DUI is technically both a criminal offense and a traffic violation, it will also likely appear on any motor vehicle record check that a prospective employer runs.
Complications for the Job Application
The fact that a DUI can appear on criminal background checks creates a dilemma for job seekers who have been convicted of this offense. If the job application includes the common question, “have you ever been convicted of a crime?” then candidates with DUI history might be at a loss for how to answer it accurately.
This criminal history question is slowly disappearing from job applications thanks to the spread of the ban the box movement. If you live in a jurisdiction that has banned the box, you may not have to worry about answering criminal history questions at all with a DUI conviction.
While ban the box policies are spreading, they are still far from universal—especially for private employers. As such, if you have a conviction in your background, you need to have a strategy for how to answer the question without ruining your job chances.
Your first strategy should be to tell the truth. A DUI may be a traffic violation, but it is also a crime in all 50 states. In other words, if you have a conviction on your record, the only honest way to answer a question about criminal convictions is to check the box that says “Yes.” Keep in mind that if you only have a DUI arrest on your record and were never convicted of a crime, then you don’t have to disclose that information.
If given the opportunity, you should set the record straight with potential employers. The reason why so many advocates want to ban the box that requires ex-offenders to reveal their criminal records is because that box offers no opportunity for nuance or explanation.
Having a criminal past can mean different things depending on the nature of the offense, the outcome of the offense, and other factors. When an employer sees that an applicant has checked the “Yes” box on an application, they have no way of knowing whether the candidate’s criminal background includes a single misdemeanor or a series of felonies. All they know is that they will find something to note when they conduct a background check.
DUI as a Felony
The need for nuance is particularly relevant to a DUI conviction since it can be charged in multiple ways depending on the situation.
A DUI is usually considered a misdemeanor for a first-time offender. However, there are always exceptions—for instance, if a DUI leads to a fatality or serious injury, it will likely become a felony, even for a first-time offense. These circumstances can also result in a prosecutor adding extra charges to a case, such as vehicular manslaughter or criminal negligence. These additional charges are also crimes, which means that they will also appear on a background check if they lead to a conviction.
The driver’s BAC, whether there was a child in the car, and the status of the driver’s license at the time of the DUI arrest (restricted, suspended, revoked, etc.) can all impact the severity of the conviction. A third or fourth DUI offense is more likely to be tried as a felony than as a misdemeanor, especially if the offenses occurred close to one another.
As you can see, how a DUI is classified—and what it means for your criminal record—varies considerably. Be prepared to explain the circumstances of your conviction to any prospective employer if you are required to disclose it on a job application. Telling your version of the story honestly will lower the chances of a hiring manager receiving a one-sided picture of your past, and you will avoid a situation in which they are blindsided by a DUI when they perform a background check on you.
Will DUIs show up on background checks of an individual’s DMV records?
The complicated factor is what a DUI can do to your driver’s license. In most states, a DUI will appear on your driving record and stay there for five to 10 years depending on state guidelines. However, in addition to the DUI, law enforcement may assess points on your driver’s license or restrict or revoke your license in the process of reporting the offense.
Points, restrictions, suspensions, or restrictions can all show up on a DMV records check, and they can all hurt your chances of landing a driving-related job. The DMV can also suspend or restrict your license over a DUI arrest even if you aren’t convicted. Because they are not the same as criminal record filings, DMV infractions can remain on your record even if you successfully petition to have a DUI criminal record expunged or sealed.
Many employers never pull DMV records. While these records are highly relevant to employers that are filling driving jobs, they aren’t relevant to most positions. DMV records are typically more significant to insurance providers than to prospective employers.
To see whether a DUI appears on your DMV record, conduct a driving history check on yourself.
Getting Hired with a DUI
If you are applying for a job that involves driving a company vehicle or operating heavy machinery, a prospective employer will notice a DUI. The conviction makes you a hiring risk that most employers will not take.
However, while a DUI will show up on a criminal records search, that doesn’t mean it will always reduce or end your job chances. It is a crime, but employers often treat it the same as a traffic violation. If you are applying for an office job or any other position that involves no driving-related responsibilities, your DUI may carry less weight.
Per the EEOC, employers are expected to weigh criminal convictions based on the open position. Since it is not directly relevant to all positions, most employers can’t ethically disqualify you because of it. Your best bet is to apply for jobs that won’t require you to drive a car or operate heavy machinery or equipment.
Remember the distinction between a DUI arrest and a DUI conviction. Not all arrests or charges lead to a conviction. An arrest without conviction is not something that you need to disclose on a job application, and it is not proof of guilt.
At backgroundchecks.com, we do not include arrest histories on our background checks. Some background check providers do, and some states will allow employers to consider arrests. If you have been arrested for a DUI but never convicted, you may have better chances of disputing an employer’s adverse decision if they decide not to hire you based on that arrest.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I pass a background check with a DUI?
“Passing” a background check depends on multiple factors beyond the conviction. If you have been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, that conviction will likely appear when an employer examines your criminal past. Whether you “fail” your check—in other words, get disqualified from job consideration based on your DUI—will depend on the employer and the position. If you are applying for a driving-related job, a DUI is likely to be a barrier. If you are applying for an office job, your DUI is less likely to be relevant.
Will a DUI prevent you from getting a job?
The EEOC urges employers to consider criminal arrests or convictions based on how much bearing they have on the position. Whether a DUI prevents you from getting a job will usually depend on how much relevance it has to the job in question. If the position does not involve driving a vehicle or operating heavy machinery or equipment, there is little reason for an employer to disqualify you based on that offense.
How does a DUI show on a background check?
A DUI can be classified as a misdemeanor or felony offense depending on several factors. Are you a first offender, or is this your second or third DUI? Was someone killed or severely injured as a result of your actions while driving under the influence? How high was your BAC when you were arrested? The answers to these questions and others will inform how a DUI appears on your background check.
Will my employer find out about a DUI?
Because most employers conduct criminal background checks of the individuals they hire, it is very likely that your employer will learn about a DUI conviction during the process of vetting you.
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.