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Do Warrants Show Up on Background Checks? What Employers Need to Know

do warrants show up on a background check

As an employer, it can be startling to discover that an applicant you’re considering has a warrant.

However, warrants don’t always show up on background checks.

At iprospectcheck, we have extensive experience conducting employment background checks for employers in all 50 states.

Here’s important information to know about warrants and whether they might appear on background checks for employment.

What Is a Warrant?

A warrant is a legal authorization that is normally issued by a magistrate or judge for an officer to take the subject into custody or to search a specific area.

Both civil and criminal warrants can be issued.

Civil warrants generally deal with failures to comply with court orders, pay fines, or appear in court.

Criminal warrants include arrest warrants based on probable cause that an individual has committed a crime and search warrants based on probable cause that evidence of a crime might be located in a specific area, including a house or car.

Do Warrants Show Up on Background Checks?

Standard criminal background checks typically will not show outstanding warrants such as an open warrant or a bench warrant.

An open warrant for someone’s arrest is a warrant that has been issued by a magistrate or judge but has not been executed. This means that the target has not yet been taken into custody.

Once an open warrant has been executed, it will become a part of the person’s criminal history and might appear on a background check.

In-depth background checks might be performed for positions requiring security clearances, and these checks might find warrants that others will not.

Comprehensive background checks for the following types of jobs might reveal warrants:

  • Police or other law enforcement officers
  • Jobs involving federal contracts
  • Positions requiring security clearances for access to classified information
  • U.S. military or intelligence positions
  • Security professionals

Certain states also restrict access to warrant information, meaning that there might be some geographic barriers to the appearance of warrants on background checks.

Certain types of warrants might show up, while others are less likely to appear.

Let’s take a look at the different types of warrants and whether they might appear on a background check.

Warrants That Might Show Up

1. Executed Arrest Warrants

Executed arrest warrants become a part of a person’s criminal record and are the most likely type of warrant to appear on an employment criminal background check.

These are warrants for arrest based on probable cause to believe the subjects have committed crimes.

They are executed when the target of the arrest warrant is placed under arrest and taken into custody to face the criminal charges.

For example, if someone is arrested on a felony warrant for allegedly committing a robbery, their warrant would be executed and likely to appear on a background check as a part of the pending case’s record.

2. Bench Warrants

Bench warrants are issued by a judge when an individual fails to appear in court for a required court appearance.

For example, a warrant might be issued for a person’s arrest when they fail to show up for their initial appearance in court after posting a bond to get out of jail or receiving a criminal summons in the mail.

The court might also issue a probation warrant for an individual whose probation officer has filed an affidavit with the court for the individual’s failure to comply with the terms of probation.

When a bench warrant is issued for a criminal defendant’s arrest following their failure to appear in court, it is also called an alias warrant in some jurisdictions.

A bench warrant might appear on a background check when it is issued while a criminal case is still pending.

It might also show up on a background check for a position requiring a security clearance or a position in law enforcement.

3. Civil Warrants

Civil warrants are issued by courts when people violate a court’s orders in a civil case.

For example, if someone fails to make their court-ordered child support payments, the court might issue a warrant for contempt of court.

Since civil warrants are issued in civil cases, they might not show up in standard criminal background checks.

However, since they are issued as a part of the court process, they are included in the court’s records. This means that a county court records search might reveal a civil warrant.

Warrants That Might Not Show Up

1. Search Warrants

A search warrant is issued by a judge to grant the authority to a law enforcement agency to search a home or vehicle when there is probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime will be found there.

For example, a search warrant might be issued to search someone’s home after a confidential informant has completed controlled buys of drugs there.

Since search warrants are issued as part of a police investigation, they are generally not available to the public and are unlikely to appear on a background check.

2. Open Warrants

Open arrest warrants might or might not appear on an employment background check.

An open warrant is based on probable cause to believe the subject has committed a crime. The warrant remains open until the person is taken into custody and charged with the offense.

For example, someone might have an open warrant when there is probable cause to believe they committed a crime based on surveillance video but have not been caught yet.

In some states, only law enforcement agencies have access to records of open warrants, so they might not appear on background checks.

3. Traffic Warrants

A traffic warrant might be issued by a court when someone fails to pay a traffic fine or appear in court for it.

Traffic warrants generally will not show up on standard background checks but might appear on comprehensive searches.

4. Fugitive Warrants

A fugitive warrant is a warrant issued by a state when it believes a fugitive from justice might be located in a different state.

This type of warrant is typically only issued for suspects in felony cases for which the state is willing to extradite them.

For example, a fugitive warrant might be issued if someone is suspected of a violent assault in one state but flees to a different one.

A standard background check might not see a fugitive warrant issued by another state since these warrants are transmitted to law enforcement agencies and are not a part of the court record in the receiving state.

However, if the applicant is applying for a job in law enforcement, the prison system, or another position that requires comprehensive background checks, a fugitive warrant might appear.

This type of warrant might also appear when an applicant submits fingerprints for a fingerprint-based FBI or national background check.

The background check provider would then use the information to conduct further searches in the state that issued the warrant.

4. Capias Pro Fine Warrants

Capias pro fine warrants are issued by courts when someone has failed to pay a court-ordered fine.

When these types of warrants are issued in civil cases, they are unlikely to appear on background checks.

However, they might appear on a background check when they are issued in criminal cases for which the individual has been convicted and has failed to pay restitution or other court-ordered fines.

5. Material Witness Warrants

Material witness warrants might be issued by judges when it is necessary to secure a non-cooperating witness’s testimony in a criminal case against someone else.

For example, a court might order a material witness warrant to secure the presence of a witness in a homicide case.

Since the uncooperative witness is not the target of the prosecution, a warrant to secure their appearance and testimony in court is unlikely to appear on an employment background check.

My Applicant Has a Warrant – What Now?

If you learn that a prospective candidate has a warrant for their arrest, take the following steps:

1. Verify the Warrant

You should first verify the warrant is valid and outstanding. The record might be outdated, or the warrant could be for someone with a similar name.

You can check with the issuing jurisdiction to confirm the warrant and to learn whether it is still outstanding.

Check the applicant’s Social Security number, date of birth, and other identifying information against the information listed in the warrant to see if it is for the same person.

1. Ask for an Explanation

Ask the candidate about the warrant, what it is for, and why it hasn’t been cleared.

Courts can issue warrants for a wide variety of reasons, ranging from failing to pay parking tickets to the alleged commission of felony crimes.

Provide the candidate with the opportunity to explain the warrant and present mitigating evidence.

Failing to take care of an outstanding warrant might indicate a candidate’s character flaws, disrespect of the law, criminal behavior, or other serious problems.

Be cautious if the candidate blithely excuses the situation.

If the warrant is for something small, such as an unpaid traffic ticket the candidate simply forgot about, you might consider giving them an opportunity to pay it and clear the situation up.

3. Conduct Additional Checks

When you discover that an applicant has a warrant, you should conduct additional checks beyond your standard searches.

Search other states where an applicant has lived or worked for more information.

4. Assess the Information as It Relates to the Job

Once you’ve learned of the reason for the warrant, you should assess it as it relates to the duties of the job and whether hiring the applicant might pose a risk to the safety of other employees or customers.

Laws About Warrants on Background Checks

Federal Laws

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The FCRA is a law that protects consumers’ privacy in the information reported by consumer reporting agencies (CRAs), including background check providers, on background checks.

The FCRA includes a limitation on how far back certain types of information can be reported on employment background checks when the positions pay less than $75,000 annually.

For those types of jobs, the following information can’t be reported when it is seven or more years old:

  • Arrests in non-pending cases that didn’t lead to convictions
  • Civil judgments
  • Civil lawsuits
  • Paid liens
  • Bankruptcies

The FCRA’s restrictions don’t apply to jobs paying salaries of more than $75,000 per year.

Warrants for pending criminal cases within the past seven years that haven’t been resolved can be reported.

If the individual was convicted, the conviction information can be reported unless it has been expunged even if it occurred more than seven years ago.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on the protected characteristics of employees and applicants.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that enforces Title VII.

Under guidance from the EEOC, employers should assess arrest and conviction information individually as it relates to the jobs for which they are hiring before deciding against hiring the applicant.

State Laws

State background check laws vary broadly. While some states don’t allow the public to access warrant information and have laws that control when in the hiring process employers can conduct criminal background checks, others don’t restrict this information.

To ensure your background checks comply with the laws in your state, you should consult your company’s legal counsel.

What Else Show Up on a Background Check?

Employers typically request multiple types of reports on background checks. What might appear will depend on the types of reports you request.

Let’s take a look at what might appear on a few common types of searches.

Criminal History

A criminal background check for employment reveals whether an applicant has any pending criminal cases or convictions on their records.

If an applicant has a pending case or a conviction on their record, you will see the following types of information:

  • Offense date
  • Offense type
  • Severity level (felony or misdemeanor)
  • Disposition (if disposed)
  • Date of disposition (if disposed)
  • Sentence (f disposed)

Employment History

Employers request employment verification to confirm the information applicants have reported on their applications and resumes.

Employment verification discloses the following information about each past job:

  • Name and address of the employer
  • Dates of employment
  • Job title/position held

Education History

Most employers request education verification to verify what applicants have reported about their educational attainment.

Education verification reveals the following data about the applicant’s former schools:

  • Name/address of each school
  • Attendance dates
  • Diplomas, degrees, or certificates awarded

Professional License Verification

Employers that hire applicants for jobs requiring professional licensure or credentials often request professional license verification.

Professional license verification shows the following information about an applicant’s license or certification:

  • License type
  • Issuance date
  • License status
  • Expiration date
  • Disciplinary actions against the license

Pre-Employment Drug Screen

Some employers make employment offers contingent on an applicant’s ability to pass a pre-employment drug screen.

Employment drug tests typically check for recent use of the following substances:

  • Marijuana (THC)
  • Opiates (heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and others)
  • Cocaine
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Amphetamines (methamphetamines or amphetamines)


1. Are warrants public records?

Whether a warrant is a public record depends on the jurisdiction in which it originates and its type.

Civil warrants are typically issued in civil cases and are included in the court’s records.

Arrest warrants become a part of the public criminal court record once they have been executed and charges are filed.

Search warrants are law enforcement investigative tools and are not a part of the public record.

Some states restrict the public’s access to warrant information.

2. What causes a red flag on a background check?

Multiple things can cause red flags on employment background checks.

The following are some of the most common reasons why an employer might decide against hiring someone:

1. Criminal Convictions Related to the Job

An employer might decide against hiring someone if they have a conviction that is too closely related to the duties of the job or that might pose a safety risk to other employees or the public.

2. Failed Pre-Employment Drug Test

Employers that make conditional job offers based on the results of a drug test are likely to withdraw their offers if the applicant tests positive for one or more substances.

3. Lies About Past Employment

If an applicant lies about past employment, an employer that requests employment verification will easily discover their dishonesty.

Many employers choose to turn down applicants who have lied about their employment records.

4. Lies About Education

Similar to lies about employment history, some applicants are dishonest about their educational histories.

Employers that perform education verification checks can see the discrepancies and might turn down applicants who have been dishonest about their education.

3. Do background checks show warrants from other states?

Whether a background check might show a warrant from another state depends on the type of check that is performed.

If you only perform a search of your state, an out-of-state warrant won’t appear.

If you instead perform a search of all the states and counties where an applicant has lived, an out-of-state warrant might appear.

iprospectcheck: Your Employment Screening Partner of Choice

Discovering that an applicant has a warrant can be disconcerting for most employers.

If you learn that a candidate has a warrant, you should treat the information with care and perform additional checks.

At iprospectcheck, we conduct comprehensive background checks for employers across the nation.

To learn more about our background check services or to get a free quote, call us today: (888) 509-1979

DISCLAIMER: The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Consult your counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

Know Before You Hire

About the Author
Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers is a highly accomplished business executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic vision and leadership to companies ranging from the fortune 500 to iprospectcheck, a company which he co-founded over a decade ago. Matthew is a valued consultant who is dedicated to helping companies create and implement efficient, cost effective and compliant employment screening programs. Matt has been a member of the Professional Background Screeners Association since 2009 . When not focused on iprospectcheck, he can be found spending time with his family, fly fishing, or occasionally running the wild rivers of the American west. A lifetime member of American Whitewater, Matt is passionate about protecting and restoring America’s whitewater rivers.