What Will an Arrest Record Search Reveal?

Posted by on April 17, 2012 in Employee Background Checks [ 0 Comments ]

employee background checkThe principal purpose of an arrest record search is to help you identify the bad seeds in a sea of candidates. Conducting an employment background check involves searching a person’s criminal and arrest history by accessing numerous sources of information. These criminal histories should return all the information about a person’s interactions with the law, and in most states, you’re entitled to consider this information when making employment decisions about the candidate.

What Arrest Record Searches Will Reveal

You might consider arrest records to be the most revealing of all the public records you can look into when conducting a criminal background search on a potential employee. All arrests and detentions, regardless of the outcome or any clearance of conviction, will be accounted for on an arrest record.

Counties and their courthouses are usually the best source of criminal information on any given individual; they tend to have the most complete and up-to-date history. Reports include information about serious felonies, minor infractions, traffic violations, and criminal misdemeanors. Arrest records will indicate whether the offense was:

  • Violent
  • Traffic-related
  • Related to theft or robbery
  • Business-related
  • Involving drugs and alcohol

These records can go back 20 or 30 years. They also carry details of arrests that didn’t lead to anything, such as cases where charges were dropped or cases that were dismissed. The records are generally available to the public, and therefore you as an employer, though it may be unlawful for you to use all the information available, particularly arrest records. If you’re undertaking the arrest record search yourself (and not through a third party), check with the county clerk to understand your state’s laws about using arrest information to make employment decisions.

What Arrest Record Searches Won’t Reveal

Unlike full criminal records, arrest records only report on arrests and prove no guilt. Because of that, they really don’t present the entire picture. Plea-bargains, dropped charges or any form of judicial compromise or dismissal will still show up when you conduct an arrest record search, so technically record of an arrest is not an indication of guilt. Without detailed context, this information may suggest a more negative picture.

Despite what county courts, federal records databases, and state criminal records might report on, there are restrictions on what you are allowed to consider for employment purposes. These restrictions are driven by your state law. Some states even have laws prohibiting you from using an applicant’s arrest record altogether when making the decision to offer them a job or not. Most states also restrict your use of criminal records that are sealed, annulled, expunged and/or pardoned by the governor.

Using the Information Wisely

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) suggests that the use of criminal records to make employment decisions may have a negative impact on minorities, and recommends that employers not refer to them if it is not an absolute necessity for the position and industry. Because of this, many state agencies have also issued similar guidance in their pre-employment guidelines.

As a good rule of thumb, you should consult a lawyer if you find yourself in the position to use any information found through an arrest record search to make an employment decision (if this is, in fact, allowed in your state). Try to keep from making an “all or nothing” policy against hiring anyone who has ever been arrested. As an employer, you’re better off relying exclusively on actual criminal records that report on convictions when making employment decisions. Evaluate the position carefully by considering three things: the nature of the offense, the length of time since it occurred, and how it relates to the position.

Photo source: sumnerlife.com

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