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What Shows Up on a Criminal History Check?

By Michael Klazema on 10/3/2018

What shows up on a criminal history check will vary based on the type of background check being used. Of course, all criminal history checks are designed to pull criminal records from public record sources. The specific information these searches yield depends on the source being searched.

For instance, a county criminal history search will only show offenses that have been charged, tried, convicted, and filed in that county. State checks search statewide repositories, but the information reported on these checks will depend on the county courts that have reported to those repositories and the frequency/recency with which they have done so. Federal checks peruse US District Court indices and show crimes that have been federally prosecuted. Searches of criminal history databases can return instant results based on any records that have been added to the database in question.

Bottom line, geography is an important factor when it comes to conducting criminal history searches. Criminal records are scattered across the country in different districts and court houses. There is no comprehensive collection of criminal record information, which is why address history checks are a smart addition to any background screening process. That way, employers can figure out where their candidates have lived over the years and order county, state, or federal checks based on those locations.

While the specific criminal records a background check finds will depend on location factors, most criminal history checks yield the same types of information. If a criminal background check finds a conviction, it will typically provide the following details about the offense:

  • Jurisdiction where the record is located
  • Case number
  • Defendant
  • Charge
  • Verdict
  • Filing date
  • Degree of offense, such as a misdemeanor
  • Disposition
  • Disposition date
  • Sentence

Usually, employers and job seekers alike think of background checks as digging up convictions. However, in some cases, criminal charges that did not result in a formal guilty verdict will show up on the background check as well. Charges that are pending a verdict because the trial is still in progress are an example. Another example is a case where there has been some sort of deferred judgment. In these cases, the defendant has a chance to get the charges against them dismissed by going through some sort of diversion program—be it rehab, community service, or something similar. Even if the defendant is working toward that dismissal, the case will still show on his or her background check.

As for what won’t show up on a background check, there are two major categories.

The first category is expunged cases. Any criminal records that have been formally expunged or sealed by the court should not show on any criminal background check.

The second category is arrest records. While some background checks will include arrest data, the reports we provide at backgroundchecks.com do not. Some states legally bar the use of arrest records in employment situations, while most encourage employers to investigate those arrests more fully. We protect our clients from compliance snafus by eliminating arrest records from our reports entirely.


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