Will a DUI show up on a background check?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jun 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

A DUI conviction will show up on a criminal background check unless it has been expunged or sealed. This means that employers, landlords, and others may learn about it.

The most common type of background check is one based on a person's social security number. This is the type used by most employers and landlords. 

In theory, DUI convictions that have been expunged or sealed should not show up on this type of background check in the first place. Unfortunately, in practice, they often do.

However, with few exceptions, employers and landlords may not legally consider a conviction that has been expunged or sealed. (Exceptions include when the person is applying to be a law enforcement officer).

Comprehensive background checks

A more comprehensive type of background check is one based on an applicant's fingerprints. This is the type of background check used by law enforcement and state licensing agencies.

Fingerprint-based background checks are also used by some employers. Employers likely to conduct this type of check include those involved in banking, education, healthcare, security-sensitive fields, etc.

This type of background check will show someone's entire criminal history. It will include all arrests (even those that did not result in a conviction) and a record of all convictions. It should, however, prominently indicate it if a conviction has been sealed, expunged, or pardoned.

"Ban the box” laws

Even if a DUI does show up on a background check, it is not the end of the world. Many employers and landlords are willing to give an applicant a second chance.

And many states have adopted “ban the box” laws. These laws prohibit employers from automatically disqualifying a candidate based on a conviction. Instead, the employer must give the potential employee a chance to explain the circumstances and must consider them in good faith. This is why such laws are also known as "fair chance" laws.

As of this writing, 31 states and over 150 cities and counties have adopted ban the box / fair chance laws in connection with government employment.

And 11 states have "ban the box" laws that apply to private employers. These states are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Who is eligible to expunge a conviction?

The law on sealing or expunging a criminal record differs from state to state. But, at the very least, most states offer a procedure for expunging or sealing a misdemeanor DUI. And many states allow people to petition to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor under some circumstances.

People whose DUI occurred in California, Nevada, or Colorado may wish to read our articles on:

How can I make sure my criminal record is clean after an expungement?

To make sure a sealed or expunged conviction is no longer on a criminal record, people should order a copy and check for themselves.

Criminal records can usually be obtained from the court in which a DUI conviction took place. They can also usually be ordered from a state's Department of Justice or Attorney General.

People convicted of felony DUI may also have an FBI record. To obtain a copy of an FBI record, visit the FBI's webpage on Identity History Summary Checks.

There is usually a fee for obtaining a criminal record from any of the above agencies.

DMV records

Even if a criminal record is sealed or expunged, a DUI may show up on a driver's DMV record.

This is because DMV license suspension hearings are administrative, rather than criminal, in nature. The DMV can suspend or revoke a driver's license even if the driver is never convicted of (or even charged with) a DUI.

Depending on the state, the DUI will then appear on the DMV's records for many years.

For instance, in California, a DUI stays on a driver's DMV record for ten years.

And unlike a criminal record, which can often be expunged or sealed, there is usually no way to get a DUI off of a DMV record.

Fortunately, DMV records are usually only relevant to car insurers. Employers and landlords do not pull DMV records when considering who to hire or rent to.

Need help cleaning up a criminal record? Call us…

If you need help getting a DUI off your criminal record in California, Nevada, or Colorado, we invite you to call us at 855-LAWFIRM for a free consultation.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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