While recently conducting a background investigation, I was seeking information for a client to determine if a particular applicant had ever been served with a criminal summons, questioned, arrested, taken into custody, indicted, charged with, tried for, pleaded guilty to or been convicted or, or ever been the subject of an investigation concerning the violation of any law, statute, ordinance, rule, regulation, or canon and it references including all incidents, however trivial, whether guilty or not and whether expunged or not.

That is a pretty broad scope to answer for if you are the subject of the background check but these are great things to cover in a background check. The problem is that many applicants are only required to answer about "arrests" or "convictions" and not these other areas.

In reviewing these terms, I wondered if the majority of people knew what they were and how they would come into play in a background check. Here are some things to think about.

A criminal summons is somewhat obvious but I think that sometimes people don't think about how this may apply. You may receive a criminal summons due to a criminal case in court, in a traffic ticket that is criminal, for a municipal or county code violation. Sometimes people don't view these as an arrest, as you are not usually put into custody, but if it is a criminal summons, you may still have been charged with a crime.

When asking about being questioned, or taken into custody, this could apply if someone was a suspect or the "subject" of an investigation. At this point, there may or may not have been enough evidence to arrest and this is typically the first part of an investigation.

If someone has been arrested, indicted, charged with or tried for, then it appears there was pretty good evidence that they were involved with something. After that comes the conviction. Sometimes that original charge was a bigger crime and as part of a plea deal, or based on what the judge or jury found, they would have been convicted of a lesser crime. It is important to understand the nature of both charges so that you know what the facts of the case were. Too, it is important to view the original police report and not just rely on the court entry or docket.

Sometimes folks have had records expunged. That means they don't exist, or shouldn't exist in the system. This poses an issue with disclosure as "supposedly" it has gone away. But, to me, if it ever happened and they are asking if it ever happened, I believe to be truthful, the answer is to tell.

In the example above, there is also language concerning the types of "crimes" or "infractions" that may have taken place. The listing encompasses not only criminal but civil and some administrative types of rules. 

When looking at a background there may be administrative rules that were not followed that may be indicative of issues with authority or lack of competence that would not come into play in the criminal or civil arena.

Okay, if it is still not clear as mud now, please contact us. We can help you make sense of a background check and also ensure that you are checking for the right things - to be safe and not sorry.