Do Arrests Without Conviction Show Up on Background Check?

Search For Public & Criminal Records

Employers can conduct many types of background checks on potential hires, and each type reveals a different set of information.

Criminal history checks are a type of background check that highlights run-ins with the law, from misdemeanor and felony convictions to pending cases and incarceration history.

Do arrests without conviction show up on background checks, though? If so, what else does a criminal history check reveal? Read on to find out!

Does a Background Check Reveal Arrests With No Conviction?

Arrests without conviction do appear on criminal background checks, unfortunately. To be clear, all arrests can be revealed by a criminal background check, including the ones that result in a conviction, plea bargain, dismissal, or acquittal.

The good news is that, in addition to revealing arrests, criminal background checks also disclose the disposition of each case. So, if a case was dropped, the background check will indicate so using the term “Dismissed” or “Nolle Prossed.” Similarly, if a case’s disposition or outcome is a conviction, the word “Guilty” will be used.

It’s worth noting that some background screening companies tend to exclude arrests that weren’t followed by a conviction. This conforms with the EEOC’s guidelines.

Regarding juvenile detention and convictions, court-sealed cases won’t usually appear in a background check. All other convictions can, though! The only exception is if the conviction occurred in a state that doesn’t allow the disclosure of convictions after a given period (usually 7 years).

States that forbid the disclosure of convictions after 7 years include Kansas, Maryland, California, Montana, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, and Washington.

Note: Hawaii doesn’t allow the disclosure of felonies after a 7-year period and misdemeanors after a 5-year period.

What Other Information Does a Criminal Check Reveal?

Along with the charges and their disposition, a criminal background check can reveal a wide range of information, including:

  • Date of the offense
  • Date of the court’s decision
  • Name of the defense attorney
  • Name of the presiding judge
  • Bond amount
  • Other related court dates
  • Docket information

Clearly, criminal background checks are comprehensive and detailed. Other types of background checks can reveal things like traffic citations, bankruptcies, divorces, and more. After all, these are all public records.

Can You Expunge Dismissed or Not Guilty Cases?

If you were arrested and your case got dismissed, or if you were found not guilty, you can go through a court-ordered legal process known as expungement—also known as expunction—to remove the arrest from your record.

Having expunged your record, arrests that didn’t lead to a conviction will no longer appear on background checks. This, in turn, increases your chances of employment.

It’s worth noting that after expunging your record, no one will be able to learn about your prior arrests, not even the police or any prosecutors. It will be like your prior arrests never happened!

What About Record Sealing Via Non-Disclosure Orders?

You may be eligible to seal your record through a non-disclosure order if you have a misdemeanor-level offense that resulted in a conviction or a deferred adjudication.

An example of such offenses is a first-time misdemeanor DWI, where a collision didn’t take place, and your blood alcohol concentration was under 0.15.

Note: Record sealing via non-disclosure orders isn’t possible if your offense involves family violence.

While a non-disclosure order may not be as powerful as an expungement, it will help seal your record from public viewing. So, private screening companies won’t be able to see your non-disclosed arrest and conviction.

The primary difference between a non-disclosure record sealing order and an expungement, though, is that with the former, law enforcement, prosecutors, and licensing agencies will still be able to see your entire record.

Dealing With Unsealable Convictions

If a conviction cannot be sealed on your record, and you believe it’s a false conviction, there are a couple of ways to overturn the situation: an appeal or a writ of habeas corpus.

An appeal or a writ of habeas corpus enables you to argue your conviction, assuming they’re unjust. Note, however, that appeals must take place directly after a trial, whereas writs of habeas corpus aren’t as time-sensitive.

“What if I’ve already pled guilty?”

You can still overturn your conviction with an appeal or a writ of habeas corpus, especially if you didn’t have the best legal counsel at the time of pleading guilty.

You should keep in mind, however, that going through an appeal or a writ takes a considerable deal of time. It’s also an exhaustive process, so don’t attempt to go through with it unless it’s worth it.

What Effect Can a Stained Criminal Record Have on One’s Life?

Unfortunately, having a stained criminal record can take away from the quality of your life in quite a few aspects.

For instance, if you’re in college or a higher education facility, you might get kicked out of any student club or association with which you might be involved. You might also be expelled or even denied entry if you’re trying to apply.

A stained criminal record can also hinder or completely impede your professional career. For example, if you’re seeking employment, potential employers might deny your application. And if you’re already employed, you might get fired. Further, if you’re a member of a professional organization, your membership can come to an end.

You should also remember that a stained criminal record can negatively affect your lending and housing options. Lenders and landlords tend to be wary of people with a serious criminal record.

On top of that, a stained criminal record can affect your personal, public, and professional reputation. Not to mention that any charge can be used against you regardless of how minute.

For instance, if you’re fighting a custody case, your ex can use your stained criminal record against you to win the case. Many similar scenarios can occur, so you should always try to keep your record crystal clear.

What States Ban the Use of Arrest Records for Hiring?

There’s a handful of states that prohibit the use of arrest records when it comes to hiring. In other words, if you’re job seeking in one of the said states, potential employers cannot inquire about your arrests by law as long as your arrests didn’t result in convictions.

States that ban the use of arrest records for hiring include:

  • California
  • Massachusetts
  • New York
  • Michigan
  • Arizona
  • Pennsylvania
  • Hawaii
  • Wisconsin
  • Montana
  • Maine

You should keep in mind that if you have a charge that’s still pending, your arrest record may be taken into consideration, as an exception, in states like New York, California, and Wisconsin.

What’s more, you can be disqualified if the charge that’s pending against you is perceived as relevant to the job for which you’re applying. Generally speaking, though, most employers in the above-listed states don’t use arrest records for employment purposes.

What States Allow the Use of Arrest Records for Hiring?

Just as there are states that ban the use of arrest records for employment purposes, there are others that allow it. If you’re job seeking in any of said states, your arrest record may be taken into consideration.

States that allow the use of arrest records for hiring include:

  • Arkansas
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Alabama
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Alaska
  • Missouri
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming
  • Idaho
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington, DC

What About Sealed, Expunged, and Dismissed Records?

As you’ve probably guessed, there are quite a few states that have strict laws with regard to inquiring about sealed, expunged, and dismissed records for hiring purposes.

What’s worth noting here is that the laws in said states aren’t specific to arrest records. They encompass a subject’s entire criminal history, from arrests and charges to convictions.

If you are job seeking in one of the states we’re about to list, and you have a sealed, erased, or dismissed record, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. Your record shouldn’t show up on any background check, as it shouldn’t be accessible to the public.

And even if your record somehow shows up on some type of background check, employers can’t use your record to make an employment-related decision.

States that prohibit inquiring about sealed, expunged, or dismissed records include:

  • Illinois
  • Delaware
  • Oklahoma
  • Kansas
  • Mississippi
  • Indiana
  • Connecticut
  • Virginia
  • New Hampshire
  • Utah
  • Nebraska

In any of the above-listed states, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) must be followed to a tee. On that account, an employer cannot ask a potential hire about their sealed, expunged, or dismissed record.

Suppose somehow an employer learns about a subject’s arrest or criminal record. In that case, the employer has to notify the subject in writing so that the latter can clarify that their record is sealed, expunged, or dismissed.

Are There Any Circumstantial Exceptions to Keep in Mind?

Yes, some states can either allow or prohibit arrest record inquiries based on the circumstance at hand. These include:

  • New Jersey

In New Jersey, employers can only inquire about arrests with pending charges. If an arrest didn’t lead to a conviction or if the record has been expunged, employers aren’t allowed to inquire for hiring purposes.

  • Georgia

As long as there isn’t a conviction or a guilty verdict, employers in the state of Georgia cannot consider a subject’s arrest record when trying to make an employment-related decision.

It’s worth noting that Georgia’s. First Offender Act makes it eligible for the state’s residents to discharge their first arrest. That said, if a person who was arrested before gets arrested a second time, employers can take their second arrest into consideration.

  • Washington

In the state of Washington, it’s allowed to inquire about a subject’s arrests as long as questions are asked. In other words, employers inquire about the status of the arrest or charge in question. Is it pending? Is it expunged, sealed, or dismissed?

Employers in the state of Washington are also required to ask about the time of the arrest or charge. If it has taken place more than 10 years ago, it cannot be considered.

  • Maryland

In the state of Maryland, employers are prohibited from inquiring about arrests or convictions that have no direct relationship to the job being applied for. On that account, employers must specify the arrests or charges they’re looking to discuss.

It’s worth noting that even if an arrest or charge has a direct relationship to the job being applied for, an employer cannot consider the arrest or charge if it has been sealed or expunged.

  • Texas

Things are different in Texas compared to the above-listed states. In Texas, it all boils down to the annual salary. If you’re applying for a job with an annual salary of $75,000 or less, employers can only inquire about arrests or convictions that have taken place over the past 7 years.

If the job you’re applying for comes with an annual salary of over $75,000, on the other hand, employers can take into consideration arrests and convictions that are older than 7 years. But, of course, arrests and convictions that have been sealed, expunged, or dismissed are out of the equation.

The Takeaway

So, do arrests without conviction show up on background checks? The answer is yes, unfortunately. All arrests and charges can show up on a criminal history check unless they’re sealed, expunged, or dismissed.

That said, if an arrest doesn’t lead to a conviction, the background check will indicate so using the term “Dismissed” or “Nolle Prossed.” Note also that some background screening companies don’t include arrests that don’t lead to convictions.