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Do Misdemeanors Usually Show Up in Background Checks?

By San Diego Attorney on June 30, 2023

Close-up Of Human Hand Filling Criminal Background Check Application Form With Pen

In California, a misdemeanor is more severe than an infraction but not as serious as a felony. If you were convicted of a misdemeanor, you may be curious about the lasting impact it could have on your life. As you move forward and apply for jobs, you may also have concerns about your misdemeanor conviction rearing its ugly head in a background check. The short answer is yes; a misdemeanor conviction would be revealed in a background check unless it was sealed or expunged. If you were only arrested and not convicted, however, it would be unlawful for a company or an employer to access information about your arrest.

Understanding Misdemeanors and Their Classifications

In California, the worst sentence you could receive for a misdemeanor is six months in jail for a standard misdemeanor or 364 days in jail for gross or aggravated misdemeanors. You may also pay up to $1,000 in fines. These are some of the most common misdemeanors in the state:

  • Shoplifting
  • Drug possession
  • Indecent exposure
  • Prostitution
  • Drunk in public

These are common aggravated misdemeanors:

  • Violating a restraining order
  • DUI
  • Domestic battery
  • Driving with a suspended license

Although misdemeanors are generally considered less serious offenses, the presence of a misdemeanor on your record could still have consequences.

The Scope of Background Checks

For those who are earnestly trying to put their past behind them, background checks can seem like a major obstacle in pursuing a fresh start. A background check is meant to give employers and other organizations a better picture of who you are and to reduce violent or criminal behavior in the workplace. In a background check, information could be gathered from a vast range of sources, including:

  • Court records
  • Credit reports
  • Sex offender lists
  • DMV records
  • Education and public records
  • Immigration records
  • State licensing records
  • Insurance claims reports
  • Social security records
  • Tenant history

The depth of a background check could vary depending on the circumstances.

Legal Considerations: Expungement and Record Sealing

In some cases, you may have your misdemeanor conviction expunged. If your request for expungement is granted, it would remove the conviction from your criminal record, and you would not be legally obligated to report it in the future. To be eligible for expungement, you must have successfully completed probation. Not all crimes are eligible for expungement, regardless of if you complete probation. These include:

  • Sexual assault
  • Child pornography
  • Lewd and lascivious acts with minors

If you were arrested for a misdemeanor that did not lead to a conviction, it may be possible to seal your case.

Employer Practices and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), employers have two obligations:

  • They must have an applicant’s consent before conducting a criminal background check.
  • They must provide notice to the applicant if employment is denied based on information discovered during the check.

These obligations only apply to an employer if they choose to hire a third party to conduct an applicant’s background check. If done in-house, the FCRA does not apply.

Reach Out to Our Experienced San Diego Criminal Defense Team Today!

If you were convicted of a misdemeanor and would like to have it expunged, a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney could assist you with this process. At jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys, our San Diego criminal defense lawyers have the skills and experience to advise you on these legal matters. You can rely on us for the guidance you need to assess the impact of a misdemeanor on a background check. Call our law office today at (760) 630-2000 to schedule a case review with a member of our team to get started.

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