Will A Possession Charge Show Up On A Background Check?

You’ve been arrested and charged with drug possession. Now you’re wondering how your charge is going to affect your employment prospects. Will a possession charge show up on a background check?

When you’re charged with an offense, you haven’t been found guilty. But receiving a charge means you already have a criminal record.

Will A Possession Charge Show Up On A Background Check?

Will A Possession Charge Show Up On A Background Check?

Background checks show a full record of your criminal history and include arrest records, charges, and convictions.

Reporting rules vary depending on the state you’re in. But in the majority of states, background checks will reveal the possession charge.

Federal law places a seven-year limit on some background check reporting. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) does not allow background checks to report non-convictions over seven years old.

Non-convictions include:

  • Not-guilty verdicts
  • Dismissed cases
  • Diversions
  • Formal abandonment of prosecution
  • Arrests not resulting in charges

Depending on the state involved, a diversion may be referred to as deferred adjudication; deferred sentence; diversion program; conditional probation; or a stay of disposition.

Whatever the terminology used, after seven years, the non-conviction cannot appear on your background check report.

In some states, employers are not allowed to deny employment to candidates when their background check reveals a more recent non-conviction.

Will A Pending Possession Charge Show Up On A Background Check?

Will A Pending Possession Charge Show Up On A Background Check?

Yes, pending charges also appear on background reports, unless state law has ruled otherwise. For example, in Arkansas, pending felony charges will appear on background checks while pending misdemeanor charges will not.

In California, pending charges can be reported on a background check, but employers cannot deny you employment because of pending charges.

For a brief summary of background check law in your state visit the Restoration Of Rights Project at https://ccresourcecenter.org/state-restoration-profiles/50-state-comparisoncomparison-of-criminal-records-in-licensing-and-employment/

Can You Get Charges Removed From Your Criminal Record?

Even though charges resulting in a non-conviction can’t be reported after seven years, what can you do in the meantime? Seven years is a long time to have a criminal record hanging over you.

Your best course of action is to contact an attorney to get your record sealed or expunged.

Once again, the ability (and procedure) to seal or expunge non-conviction records depends on state rules. In some states, this relief will only be available for a first offense or after a certain waiting period.

Check the law in your state at the Restoration Of Rights Project website. This link takes you to a 50-state comparison of current expungement and record-sealing rules (go to section 3):

Can You Be Denied Employment Because Of A Possession Charge?

Yes, it’s possible. Whether your possession charge will have an impact on your job opportunities depends on several factors.

  • Can the charge be included in your background check under state law?
  • Can employers consider the charge under state employment law?
  • Is the employer concerned about charges, or do they only care about convictions?
  • Does the employer only care about charges directly relating to the job?

Good to know: A charge for drug possession is often less concerning for employers than charges relating to theft or violent crime.

Next Steps

Follow the first link above to find out (a) if your possession charge will show on your background check, and (b) if employers can legally base employment decisions on charges or pending charges.

Use the second link to find out if your state offers expungement or record sealing for non-convictions.

Contact an attorney to get your charges expunged or sealed so you don’t have to worry about your criminal record affecting your future employment opportunities.

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