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Why Do Some Convictions Not Show Up On Background Check?

Why Do Some Convictions Not Show Up On Background Check?

Why Do Some Convictions Not Show Up On Background Check? Not all convictions will appear on a background check, even if an applicant has informed you that you should expect to find a misdemeanor conviction. Explore the reasons why a record might not appear on a search.

Background checks are typically a thorough and reliable way to examine someone’s criminal history for red flags and warning signs during the hiring process. However, there may be times when you expect to encounter a criminal record but do not find a misdemeanor conviction on the report. This may be because you’re examining your own report, or an applicant disclosed that you should expect to see it during their background check. When such information is not present, what’s the explanation? 

What Reasons Would Prevent a Record From Appearing in a Search?

Even though “minor” convictions such as misdemeanors typically appear on background checks, there are times when such information may not be available to you. There are several reasons that could make this the case. Let’s look at each one in turn.

  • The record may be under seal. A sealed record still exists, but only those with specific authorization (usually by court order) can review an individual’s sealed criminal records. Otherwise, even for employers, records under seal won’t appear on a background check. Functionally, for public purposes, the conviction does not exist for consideration. 
  • The conviction may have been expunged. Like sealing, expungement permanently removes a criminal conviction from someone’s record. It is as if the conviction never occurred in the first place. Many jurisdictions allow for some form of criminal record expungement based on time and other factors. This is especially true for misdemeanor crimes, which are often easier to expunge than felony convictions.
  • The jurisdiction of the record might have a limited lookback period. Not every state allows for complete insight into every individual’s criminal record. Instead, they place limitations on reporting that can vary from state to state. For example, some states may prohibit reporting of some criminal convictions if they are older than five to seven years. If an applicant had a conviction a decade or more ago, it might not appear on every background check.
  • Some jurisdictions may not classify misdemeanors similarly. In other words, a misdemeanor in one county or state might only be a civil infraction in another. Consider that possession of marijuana in some states is still a misdemeanor, while in areas where it has been “decriminalized,” it is the equivalent of getting a traffic ticket. Civil infractions don’t appear on background checks, even if they would be a misdemeanor or worse in your own jurisdiction.
  • The background check was not extensive enough. Convictions might not appear on a background report if you did not order a report that would include records from the jurisdiction where the conviction occurred. For example, if you only order a single county-level background check but do not check counties where the applicant previously lived, you might receive a report that seems clean but lacks important context.
  • The conviction is so recent that the relevant database systems have not yet received an update. It takes time for criminal history data to percolate throughout the various systems that underpin the process. If a conviction occurred very recently, it might not appear on a third-party background check until the next time records repositories update their information. This possibility is why focused background checks and court record reports are an important asset to employers.

Building an Informative Background Check Process

Although there are times when criminal history information is unavailable for you to consider, there are many other occasions when the problem lies in the process. Choosing the right search products and understanding how to evaluate them are the solutions for creating a vetting procedure that protects your business and helps spotlight the best candidates. With our extensive knowledge base and innovative background checking products, companies can learn all they need to know and equip themselves in the same space—start exploring more about employment screening services today.