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 backgroundchecks.com.