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Will a Pending Court Case Show Up on a Background Check?

When you’re conducting a criminal background check on a prospective or current employee, you’ll receive information on any past criminal convictions, including misdemeanors, felonies, and incarcerations. But what about charges that aren’t in the past? It’s possible that still-pending charges are linked to a candidate, too, which can have a significant impact on your hiring decision.  

What are pending charges, exactly? Will they show up on background checks? And if they do, what course of action do you take? Keep reading to learn more about pending court cases and how they relate to background checks. 

What is a pending charge?

A pending charge is exactly what it sounds like: A criminal charge that is still under review in the court system, whether that’s a local court system, a state system, or the federal system. In a pending case, the prosecutor(s) are still in the process of deciding what to do, and it’s possible for charges to be maintained, added to, reduced, or discarded completely. Essentially, the court case is in limbo.  

But the question still remains: Will those pending charges show up when you run a background check on a candidate? Or will you only be able to see past convictions? 

Will pending court cases appear on a background check?

In most cases, the answer is yes – pending court cases will usually appear on the criminal background checks you run on prospective or current employees. Criminal record checks typically include records of convicted felonies, misdemeanors, incarceration history, and pending cases. However, it’s important to realize that the state you do business in can affect whether certain pending charges will show up on a background check. 

Different states have varying laws regarding the reporting of pending charges. For example, in Arkansas, pending felonies will appear on a criminal check, but pending misdemeanors will not. And the law sometimes extends beyond whether the pending charges show up on a background check and actually influences what employers are allowed to do with the information if it does appear. In Wisconsin, employers have the right to refuse employment to a candidate who is subject to a pending charge – unless the circumstances of the charge don’t relate directly to the circumstances of the job.  

What if a pending charge appears on a background check I’ve run?

As you can see, there are some gray areas open to interpretation in cases of pending charges, like in the case of Wisconsin described above. What if you run a criminal background check on a candidate and pending charges show up? You may really want to hire the candidate, but not if they get convicted of a felony. On the other hand, there’s a chance the court case could be dismissed entirely, and you’ve missed out on a great candidate.  

Most companies choose to delay the hiring decision until the pending charge is resolved. This is usually the safest way to ensure you’re not hiring someone you don’t want on your team – and that you’re not violating any state or federal laws regarding the consideration of pending charges. 

A final tip: It’s a good idea to consult your legal team and have an experienced, PBSA-accredited screening provider like Metrodata Services on your side when running background checks. That way, you can rest assured you know everything you need to know about your state’s regulations regarding pending charges and avoid running afoul of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) or any other regulations about this matter. 

Do I need a federal, state, or local background check?

While every situation is slightly different, in most cases you’ll want to run all three – federal, state, and local background checks. This is a good idea because government entities tend to move slowly. It can take time – weeks, months, even longer – for records and information to make its way from the local level to the state or federal levels, which means a state background check could miss pending county charges, for example.  

It also works the other way around. If records are slow to be updated, pending charges that have already been dismissed might still show up on another level even though they shouldn’t. This is why the best course of action is to run all three checks – it’s your best shot at getting all the information available about a candidate, including any charges pending at the local, state, or federal level.  

You Don’t Have to Tackle Background Checks Alone 

Metrodata Services is here to help with all your local, state, and federal background check needs. Outsource it to us and we’ll handle your screenings so you can get the right candidates while focusing on what really matters: core business objectives and growth. Contact our team today to get started. 

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