Looking to run a background check in Arizona and wondering how it works? Applying for a job where they may run one on you and trying to find out what information your potential employer may gain access to? Then you’ve come to the right place.
We’ll cover everything you need to know: background check laws in Arizona, the process of running a background check on someone or even on yourself, the information included in the results, and much more. Keep reading to find out more.
General and Legal Info on Background Checks in Arizona
In Arizona, as elsewhere, most background checks are conducted for pre-employment, loan or rental applicant, and firearms purchaser screening, though they can also be used for other purposes, as well. There are federal laws that pertain to background checks, but states (and even some cities) have their own relevant laws, too.
It’s important to familiarize yourself with both federal laws on background checks and the specific legislation pertinent to Arizona in order to determine when it is legal to run a background check, what information it will pull up, and how this information can and cannot be used in compliance with the law. Let’s have a look at federal law first.
Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
Arizona law adheres to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA, enacted in 1970. This act dictates that persons seeking to access consumer reports – including background checks – for credit, insurance, or employment purposes must notify the subject of the check if any adverse action is to be taken based on the results obtained in these reports.
When background checks are run for pre-employment screening purposes specifically, the employer must obtain written consent from the subject of the check, as well. They must also inform the person they are screening about what information the report includes and how the results obtained may be used.
In addition, they must provide him or her with a pre-adverse action notice and a copy of any credit report referenced if they do not intend to hire the applicant. Finally, the employer must give the applicant the chance to dispute the report results obtained. This allows the person to ensure the accuracy of any information in the results.
Arizona’s Background Check Laws
In the State of Arizona, there are limitations on who can request a background check, even though their use of the information they access through these reports is restricted depending on the context. For this reason, there is no requirement to provide any sort of official identification or even proof that one is an employer when running these checks.
While the FCRA stipulates that background checks nationwide can only legally check records covering a maximum of the past seven years, it also allows states to enact their own statutes extending this period.
Maricopa County Background Check Laws
In the case of Arizona, for example, background criminal checks run in Maricopa County – home to Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe – examine a subject’s entire lifetime for felony and misdemeanor charges. These checks may also cross-reference Most Wanted and sex offender databases from other states. Arizona courts can also request more extensive information at their own discretion.
Arizona Ban the Box Laws
Even though all Arizona-based employers have the right to make inquiries into an applicant’s criminal history, the state’s adoption of so-called Ban the Box legislation prohibits public sector employers from doing so via questions about criminal history on job applications. It is worth noting that 34 other states have also adopted similar legislation.
Gilbert vs. Cal. Check Cashing Stores Ruling
The Gilbert vs. Cal. Check Cashing Stores ruling, which applies to Arizona (as one of the states under ninth circuit jurisdiction) stipulates further pre-employment screening requirements. Specifically, employers are required to furnish applicants with two disclosure forms, one in accordance with the federal FCRA and a second disclosure and consent form specific to ninth circuit states.
Both of these disclosures essentially inform the applicant, in simple and clear language, of what constitutes a legal background check and legal use of the information it discovers, as well as informing them of any third party that may be involved in conducting the background check.
How Do I Get a Background Check in Arizona?
For Authorized Agencies and Non-Profit Organizations
In Arizona, only authorized agencies and non-profits may access the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s central repository of state criminal records. Once authorized, they may submit a fingerprint-based request for a criminal history check.
For Private Companies or Non-Authorized Non-Profits
Most private companies and some non-profits do not qualify for access to criminal history records through the Arizona Department of Public Safety, though some non-authorized non-profits may be able to gain access to partial records from this department. In light of these restrictions, most employers typically have two options available for running background checks.
The most efficient means is usually outsourcing the background check to an FCRA-compliant investigative reporting agency. These agencies are experts in accessing a broad range of information from an array of databases and tend to do so in a rapid and efficient manner.
The other option is to sift through court records independently, however, this is generally a tedious and inefficient method. This is because the employer would have to search records one-by-one in each and every place the applicant is known to have lived.
Employers could also use the Internet and social media to garner background on an individual, but such information is obviously going to be incomplete and may also be inaccurate.
What Shows Up on a Background Check in Arizona?
There are different kinds of background checks an employer or individual can run, and the results of these checks will vary accordingly. Some of the more common ones are identity or social security verification, criminal background, driving record, or sex offender registry checks. It is also possible to verify other types of information, such as education or work history.
Criminal background checks will show an individual’s name, race, gender, and date of birth, and may include information such as:
- Criminal charges
- The relevant offense level
- The filing date
- The case’s disposition and disposition date
- Sentencing type and length
Arizona law does not allow for the expungement of convictions, though convictions can be set aside. Any convictions set aside by a court will still appear on a background check, but there will appear as set aside, meaning that the court does not recognize the offense any longer.
Employers and others running background checks are legally required to regard any such crime or conviction as stricken from an individual’s record.
What Do Employers in Arizona Look for When Running Background Checks?
Arizona employers are likely to run criminal background checks and may also wish to verify educational and other job-related qualifications a candidate lists in his or her application information. They can also look into things like an applicant’s driving records if the job involves travel or financial records if the job is at a bank, for instance.
Some employers may also require a pre-employment drug screening in addition to a background check.
How Far Back do Background Checks Go in Arizona?
As mentioned, Arizona state law adheres to the FCRA, meaning background checks can only report criminal records up to seven years old, including any arrests, indictments, convictions, misdemeanors, and complaints on an individual’s record.
Keep in mind, however, that Maricopa County and other parts of Arizona State have their own statutes extending this period for criminal background checks, so it is always best to check up on local legislation for your city and county.
How Long do Background Checks Take in Arizona?
Most background checks in Arizona run through an investigative reporting agency take less than a week, though they may be prone to additional delays if they involve any court procedures.
Background checks through the Arizona Department of Public Safety for authorized agencies and non-profit organizations typically will take around two weeks.
And if you go the route of investigating an individual on your own, rather than through any professional agency, there is virtually no limit on how long it may take you to put together all the information you are looking for.
It is also worth noting that the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to cause additional delays to background check processing times.
How Long do Background Checks for a Gun Take in Arizona?
Individuals seeking to purchase a firearm in Arizona are subject to a number of restrictions. Aside from being of legal age (18 for rifles, 21 for handguns) and presenting approved identification, they must fill out Form 4473 to apply for the purchase to be authorized.
The firearms dealer will then run two checks on the applicant, an Arizona Firearms Clearance Center check as well as a federal-level National Instant Criminal Background Check System check. If both are approved, the sale can proceed then and there. If, however, it comes back as delayed, the FBI has three days to clear the check.
If three days transpire with no denial response from the FBI, the sale is automatically cleared.
What is an FBI background check?
Some federal agencies or companies that work with or for the federal government may require an FBI background check on top of or instead of a standard background check.
These checks look into similar information as standard criminal background checks but are more comprehensive. This is because they review any interactions the person screened has had with all law enforcement agencies that share their information with the FBI.
FBI background checks require that an individual has his or her fingerprints taken by an agency recognized by the FBI, which will then check them against its Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). This system pools prints taken in both criminal and non-criminal contexts from multiple law enforcement and immigration agencies, and may even cross-reference previous pre-employment screens.
What are Some Common Red Flags on Arizona Background Checks?
Whether you are a job applicant likely to be subject to a background test or an employer requesting background checks for potential employees, it is wise to familiarize yourself with some of the red flags likely to show up when the results come in.
Obviously, a criminal record can easily be an instant deal-breaker. It is also worth noting that a company that hires a known criminal who subsequently commits a crime may be held liable in legal proceedings related to the crime.
If you have a criminal history, you should do your best to find out what your potential employer may see if they run a criminal background check on you depending on the factors we saw previously, such as when the crime was committed, whether it was set aside, whether the employer is authorized to access the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s repository, etc.
If you think the employer is likely to discover criminal activity from your past, you have a number of choices. You could either disclose this information willingly if you think there is a chance to clear the air, or you may simply wish to apply elsewhere if the crime is particularly egregious.
If you do choose to go ahead with the application, there is no use trying to cover up criminal activity the employer is going to find out in any case, as deception is obviously a poor way to try to start a professional relationship.
You should also take into consideration how the criminal history relates to the specific industry and job you are applying to. For example, a pizza parlor may take a particular issue with a history of arson, and a school is not going to hire someone with a known history of a sexual offense.
Extended and/or multiple periods of unemployment
It is only common sense that most employers will pay close attention to the job experience an applicant submits. If your employment history includes long lapses between one job to the next, it can definitely be a red flag for a potential employer. This is especially true when you have multiple gaps between gainful employer and/or gaps over extended periods of time
If this is true for you, it is a good idea to offer a solid and legitimate explanation for your periods of unemployment. This can include illnesses, relocations, or personal or family emergencies, including those related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Missing or irrelevant experience
You will always want to do a fair amount of research regarding the job you are applying to and prepare your application accordingly. When employers see irrelevant work history on a resumé or job application, it is unlikely to leave a good impression.
Inconsistent and/or dishonest information
By the same token, you definitely will want to avoid any inconsistent information on your application, not to mention any falsified details. Be honest about your credentials and experience, especially since you know that, thanks to background checks, employers are likely to catch you in a lie if you are dishonest.
Finally, be sure to choose your references carefully, as well. This means listing real past employers or others who are truly positioned to vouch for you professionally and personally. Employers can look into and contact your references as part of a background check, so there is no use making up fake ones or listing your friends or family.