Do Background Checks Show Warrants?

By Michael Klazema on 2/18/2020

Usually, when employers are running background checks to look for criminal history, they are looking for past convictions. They want to know if the person who they are thinking of hiring has ever been found guilty of a crime, and if so, which one—but criminal history concerns more than just convictions.

Other details, including arrest histories and arrest warrants, are also part of a person’s criminal record. In this post, we will delve into a frequently asked question about criminal background screenings: do background checks show warrants?

The simple answer is, yes: background checks do show warrants. That doesn’t mean every background check will show every warrant: as with criminal records, warrants are issued in specific areas and aren’t necessarily reflected in each county court record or criminal history database.

Beyond geography, there is variation in the type of warrant that shows up on a background check. Here are a few types of warrants that may be reflected on a person’s criminal background check report:

  • Arrest warrants. An arrest warrant is a criminal warrant, signed by a judge, that gives law enforcement officials the authority to arrest and detain the person named on the warrant. A judge can’t issue an arrest warrant without probable cause that points to an individual’s involvement in criminal activity. An arrest warrant is typically the type of warrant that an employer will be most interested in discovering.

  • Bench warrant. A bench warrant is a type of arrest warrant. These warrants are issued by a court and authorize law enforcement to arrest an individual. The difference between an arrest warrant and a bench warrant is that while an arrest warrant involves knowledge or suspicion of criminal activity, a bench warrant involves a breach of court-required behavior. The most common bench warrant applies when an individual fails to make a mandated appearance in civil or criminal court. A sub-category of the bench warrant is a “witness warrant,” issued for an individual who fails to obey a subpoena that requires him or her to serve as a witness in a court case.
  • Civil warrant. If a person fails to follow the orders of a civil court, he or she will likely be subject to a civil warrant. This warrant goes beyond required court appearances to include individuals who do not abide by court orders. The most common examples tend to occur in family law, such as cases involving parents who fail to pay child support.
  • Search warrant. If the police have probable cause to search an individual’s property for evidence —be it a residence, a business, or a vehicle—they will apply for a search warrant. This warrant is typically part of an investigation, which means that it generally won’t show up on a background check.

Within each of these categories, the answers to “Do background checks show warrants?” may vary. Search warrants typically will not appear on a background check. Warrants calling for someone’s arrest—including arrest warrants, bench warrants, and civil warrants—may be a part of the public record and therefore a part of a person’s background check. In some states, only law enforcement officials have access to arrest records.

If you want to see if there are any warrants on your background check, run a self-check with



Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • April 02 Advocates of fair hiring say that "ban the box" laws aid individuals with criminal records in finding work. Some studies suggest that they may have the opposite effect.
  • March 31 Georgia is one step closer to rewriting its expungement laws thanks to the State Senate’s unanimous approval of a piece of reform legislation. The law, if passed, would make more ex-offenders in the state eligible to petition for expungement.
  • March 26 Advocacy for "second chance" policies have led to broad changes for employers, but landlords could see fundamental shifts, too. Is there a developing trend of disallowing tenant background checks? 
  • March 24

    Devising an internal policy for employee background checks is a hurdle that all organizations must face. Here’s how to balance your employment process with legal requirements.

  • March 24 Regarding background checks for actors, the process varies by production company, film, or even role. Lesser-known actors filling supporting roles or stepping in as extras may be subject to standard temporary worker background checks.
  • March 19

    With the growth of "ban the box" laws and the contraction of the labor pool, the modern workforce has changed. Ongoing monitoring solutions are a vital tool in this new environment.

  • March 17 Every organization must provide a safe environment for the people it employs and serves. One West Virginia church's extensive efforts showcase the importance of well-defined protocols in creating safer spaces.
  • March 17 Landlords use a variety of tools to vet rental applicants before offering them a lease agreement. We explore whether evictions appear on the criminal history reports often used by property managers.
  • March 12 Choosing to go beyond its legal requirements, UMD may soon require background checks for all positions in the university. Some opponents question the necessity for such a policy. 
  • March 10 Handing over your passport at United States border crossing is a standard part of entry procedures, but what can border agents do with that info? We investigate background checks at border control.