Do Misdemeanors Show Up on Background Checks?

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While misdemeanors are seen by many people as no big deal, something that maybe points to a youthful indiscretion or something that can happen during a bad day – a potential employer might not view things the same way.

While there’s little argument that a misdemeanor charge is far less life-affecting than a felony on a criminal record, that doesn’t mean it won’t affect how a potential employer looks at your job application.

Many people wonder if someone convicted of a misdemeanor has to worry about a criminal background check like someone who committed (or at least was convicted of) a felony.

Read on to learn all you need to know about how a criminal conviction can show up on a background check, how that affects the hiring process, and if a misdemeanor criminal offense is still something you need to be worried about.

Let’s dive in!

When Do Misdemeanors Show on Pre-Employment Background Checks?

Generally speaking, if you were convicted of a misdemeanor offense in court then you have a criminal record and that will show up on background checks. The same is true of a pending misdemeanor charge as it is public record when someone is facing trial.

It’s best to be upfront with a potential employer as they may allow you to still pass a background check with a minor misdemeanor, especially if it was many years ago and you were straight up honest with them.

In some cases that might not be enough for certain jobs that require a clean record or a certain level of security clearance – but you’re not going to get that job from lying, so why not give yourself the best chance?

There are two main exceptions when it comes to misdemeanors showing up on a background check

  • When they were part of a juvenile record, which generally are sealed once you turn 18
  • If you were charged/convicted of the misdemeanor in a “Clean Slate State” – states that have laws that clear away misdemeanors off the record similar to how bankruptcy works on credit scores

We will go into each of these a bit more further down the article.

When Do Misdemeanors Leave Your Record?

Misdemeanors and felonies are both crimes, so even though the latter is much more serious than the former, both of them stay on your record. That means both will show up on most types of background checks.

The only two conditions when misdemeanors would be expunged from a record would be if you were a juvenile or the misdemeanor was done in a state with Clean Slate laws and enough time had passed for those to kick into effect.

Otherwise those misdemeanors are there to stay.

How Long Does a Misdemeanor Stay on Your Record?

Unless one of the two previous situations is up, or a rare occurrence where many cases and convictions are overturned years later due to factors usually involving corrupt law enforcement, judges, or attorneys, the misdemeanors are there to stay.

For many jobs time and number of occurrences do matter. Many employers look at one public intoxication misdemeanor from 30 years ago a lot differently than say a dozen DUIs over two decades when they see criminal history information.

But since criminal activities are just that: they are going to stay on your record and thus show up on background checks.

Can You Be Fired for a Misdemeanor Conviction?

Yes, in most cases you can be fired for a misdemeanor conviction. If you’re in a Right to Work state, you can be fired for any reason, including a misdemeanor.

An employer almost always has the right to rescind a job offer if they find out you lied about a misdemeanor crime or in some cases from you simply having one that you didn’t mention.

Whether being charged with a misdemeanor is enough to be fired or not will depend on the state, the crime, and the employer. There might be some protections, but there also may not.

That is a question that can only be properly answered situation by situation.

Background Check FAQ

Here are the most common questions regarding how background check laws, misdemeanor crime, and employment all intersect.

Do misdemeanors show up on a California background check?

Yes. I’m not sure why there’s a rumor that California doesn’t allow misdemeanors to show on a standard pre-employment check, but misdemeanors do indeed show up on background checks run on California residents.

When are misdemeanors expunged from your record?

If you were a juvenile they are expunged at the age of 18. If you live in a Clean Slate state it depends on the state and number of years, with most ranging in the 8-10 year range.

Do misdemeanors show up on a criminal background check?

Yes. Since they are a crime misdemeanors do show up on any regular criminal background check that would be used for employment screening, security screening, and more.

Which states have clean state laws?

As of when this article was written there are 12 clean slate states where a misdemeanor will show only until a certain number of years pass, and then those minor parts of any criminal pass will be expunged from a person’s permanent record.

Those stats are Pennsylvania, Utah, New Jersey, Michigan, Connecticut, Delaware, Virginia, Oklahoma, Colorado, California, Minnesota, & New York.

Does an arrest that did not lead to jail affect your employment chances?

This depends. Was there a record of a trial? Did the resume ask if you’ve ever been convicted or just arrested? How thorough is the employer background check that you’re under?

These all affect whether or not an arrest can affect your job chances – but undeniably getting convicted is worse than not.

Final Thoughts

Just because you have a criminal record doesn’t mean that you need to be afraid every single time someone conducts a background check on you. Especially when you’re talking about a misdemeanor level offense.

While this can make things harder, and there’s no getting around the fact that a conditional offer of employment is just that: conditional, there are still many opportunities for people who have had misdemeanors in the past.

The more time that passes without a repeat, the less likely that past indiscretion is to matter.

Written by Shane Dayton

Shane, an MFA grad and seasoned online writer, specializes in security and privacy, using his vast state-to-state travel experiences to guide readers through the complexities of information safety in a digital world. Read more of Shane's articles.