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What Shows Up on a Background Check?

What Can Affect You and What Employers Are Looking for...

Background checks are a common practice when you are applying for a job or housing, but have you wondered what it actually looks like and what information may affect you? Legally, every time your background is checked you have the option of asking for a copy and you can do this for free. However, if you feel like you want to check what your life summary may look like, this is what you can expect to show up. 

Criminal History

This is one of the biggest reasons companies or property managers will run background checks, which is an obvious move, but how do arrests, charges, or misdemeanors show up? This all depends on the state you live in. In California, an arrest will not show up in a background check because that is not a proof of guilt. If charges were dropped or you were found not-guilty, legally, that arrest will not be showing up on a background check. Also, employers can’t see arrests or convictions that are older than seven years.

If you have been arrested or have faced criminal charges, you can also expunge a criminal offense off of your record, but it all depends on the crime.  You cannot, expunge first and second degree felonies, violent misdemeanors for example, domestic violence, rape, sexual battery, or driver's license offenses. As mentioned before, the laws are a little different in each state, so, if you have questions regarding what will show up on your record, check your state laws or with a local criminal law attorney

You also have the option of sealing your criminal records. If you have your criminal record sealed, it will no longer be available to the public. It is however, available to law enforcement if you are ever convicted of another crime.

Sex Offender Registry

This is one aspect of the background check that all states are required to show. If your conviction requires you to register as a sex offender, it will be highlighted in your background check. Even if the charges were expunged, you still have to register as a sex offender. 

Social Security Validation

Another purpose of a background check is to verify that you are legally allowed to work in the U.S. and that your social security number checks out. It’s also to check work history, education history or lack thereof. This information can and will be used to determine eligibility for an employer, so lying about where you went to school or what jobs you had will become apparent.

Credit Report

A credit report in your background can’t be seen by your employer unless you give them written consent. Checking your credit score or credit history only applies if you have dealt with bankruptcy, accounts paid for collection or loan information. California follows the FCRA laws which says employers cannot see bankruptcies after 10 years. In terms of a housing background check, property management companies will check for criminal past, evictions and how your credit stands. 

Driving Records

Some states have different laws in terms of how far back you can check for driving history information. Some can go back up to 10 years and some will only go back three years. A driving record will not show up on a criminal background check because speeding tickets are not criminal offenses, however, if you are applying for a job that involves driving, your driving record will be important. Speeding tickets, parking tickets, or other traffic violations will show up on your record. 

Checking It Yourself

There are many programs online that will allow you to check your background for free, a simple Google search will lead you to a few good choices. You also have the option of getting a copy when one is already being ordered through a new employer. If you have criminal charges or are worried about a possible arrest you had a few years back, you can also order it yourself and check what actually comes up. You can also talk to a legal professional who could check your record and find out if you can expunge or seal a record, depending on the state you live in. 

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