What You Must Know About Background Checks

Office Address:
Law Office of David P. Shapiro
3500 5th Avenue
Suite 304
San Diego, CA 92103

Hi, my name is Ali Keegan, and I’m a criminal defense attorney at the law office of David Shapiro in San Diego, where we help good people regain control of their future when charged with a crime. I am here today with one of our legal assistants, Alyssa Rodriguez. We talk about background checks for employment and all of that. It’s a really common question we get when we get calls to the office, be it from former clients, current clients, or people out of the blue that are just trying to do a number of things and want to know what their background check might show.

And that could be because they’re looking for new employment and applying for new jobs. It could be because they are applying for a professional license, be it a medical license, real estate, insurance, contractors, you name it. If they have to pass a background check with a professional licensing board, they might need to know as well, or just if you need some sort of security clearance for an agency or something, and you might want to know what that background check is going to tell an employer when they pull it.

So, Alyssa, I know one common question we get and one misunderstanding a lot of people have is when the background check actually comes into play during a job application process. So can you tell us a little more about that?

Absolutely. So the first place you do not want to disclose the criminal conviction or your history is during the first interview. You should not ever be asked about your criminal history or any convictions you may or may not have during the first interview. So the most appropriate time to bring up a criminal conviction history or arrest is typically after a conditional offer has been made. And again, you do not want to disclose or should not disclose a criminal conviction or arrest before that time. And that’s something really common where we get a call from someone freaking out because they’re walking into that first interview, thinking the employer’s going to say, “What kind of criminal history do you have?” And they think they’ll have to answer it on the spot.

But the good news is you should not be asked about it right away. It’s not until they determine that you would be qualified for the job and they might offer it to you that then they can go back and check those things. So you might have a little more time, than you realize, on the front end. And I know another misconception is that all background checks are created equal. It’s not like a one size fits all thing, no matter what you’re applying for. So Alyssa, how can those background checks differ based on the type of job you’re trying to get?

Sure. So there are two typical different types of background checks. The first type of background check is typically conducted through a private company. So a couple of examples of private companies would be, for example, Target, Cisco, Ralph’s, Bonds.

Those are private companies, typically on their background checks they have less access to information. Most times they don’t have access to the state records. So they would typically only have a local record that would be completed through the background check. Another important note is that there are… The second type of background check is through a governmental agency. For example, if you are applying for a position in law enforcement or any positions with the County, or the CIA, they are absolutely going to see everything. They will see every arrest, every conviction, every failure to appear. That background check is going to be way more in depth than a private company’s background check would be.

And what about expungement? So basically an expungement, legally, is where you get to withdraw your guilty plea and technically dismiss the case after the fact in the interest of justice. And the reason a lot of people try to get their case expunged is because they want to improve their employment prospects. So let’s say I have a conviction, my case has been expunged. What does that typically look like on the background check?

Sure. So another two important things to note. So with the expungement, it may appear in one of two ways on a criminal history report. So the first scenario is that the expungement may not appear on the criminal history report at all. Secondly, there is a bit of a misconception with expungements and how they appear on the criminal record in regards to them being completely removed. Again, that may be the exception, it’s not always the case, it’s not always by default.

So on a criminal history report, an expungement may be listed as, you may see, under the case number and where the disposition reads, “Dismissed.” It’ll show it was either dismissed in the interest of justice, or it’ll say, “Dismissed under penal section 1203.4.” Those are synonymous. That is the same thing.


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