What Does A Criminal Record Mean In A Background Check? Is It Serious?October 15, 2023
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If you decide to run an internet background check on a prospective tenant, a babysitter, or your latest squeeze, part of the report probably includes a criminal records report. When you get back the report and see an entry under the startling words, “criminal history”, should you be alarmed? What does it mean? What should you do?Take a deep breath and notice whether the criminal records include an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony. There is a big difference between the three and what it might mean to you. Let’s look at the difference between the them, starting with the least serious.INFRACTIONSInfractions are the least serious. This a local ordinance violation. Punishment is usually only a fine. Some examples of infractions are jaywalking, littering, housing violations, and some traffic violations. So you can see already that not everyone with a criminal record is a menace to society. Nothing serious enough to call off a wedding or fire your nanny here!MISDEMEANORSNext on the seriousness scale are misdemeanors. They can be punishable by a fine and/or a jail sentence of less than a year. Sometimes a person convicted of a misdemeanor will get off on probation or will have to do put in community service time instead. Examples of misdemeanors are petty theft, public intoxication, vandalism, disorderly conduct, DUI, prostitution, drug possession or disorderly conduct.This is quite a mixed bag. As far as hiring someone or dating someone, I would find a gray area, not an automatic deal breaker. Did your prospective tenant spray paint the playground when he was a teen? Not too awful. But what if your nanny is a drug-taking prostitute? Pretty alarming. Now it’s up to you to make the judgment call and decide what this information means to you and what you will do about it.FELONIESFelonies are the most serious. Punishment for felonies ranges from 1 year to life in prison. The person you are checking has served their term and been released (hopefully). Broadly, felonies are divided into two categories, violent and non-violent. Violent felonies would include arson, assault, murder, and rape. Non-violent felonies would include burglary and drug use or sale.Then felonies are classified as first through fourth degree. First degree means this person committed the crime. Second through fourth mean they assisted in the crime in some way either directly or indirectly. So even being charged with a felony isn’t as black and white as you might expect. In this group the offense could range from loaning your car to a friend who unbeknownst to you robbed a 7-11 (fourth degree) all the way up to the first degree offense of murder.So as you can see, deciding to run a public record background check might uncover a criminal history that could be more or less significant than it seems. You will have to weigh this information against this person’s position in your life and make the best decision you can that you will be comfortable with.