How Do Misdemeanors Affect a Background Report?

Posted on by Dawna M. Roberts in LawApril 26, 2021
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 background information

Any infraction of the law, regardless of how minor, can have far-reaching consequences in your life. If you do something that earns you a misdemeanor, you need to understand how that may affect you going forward. 

What Is a Misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is a crime that is less severe than a felony and more serious than an infraction. The punishments for felonies are usually prison, steep fines, and other court-ordered sentencing. However, you are likely to see either probation or small fines and possibly even some local jail time with a misdemeanor. An infraction would be if you ran a stoplight and the officer gave you a ticket, so you had to pay a $100 fine. Small infractions, although they may end up on your driving record, they will not show anywhere as a criminal record. 

There are three classes for misdemeanors categorized by the punishment time: 

  • Class A misdemeanor - one year or less, but more than six months.

  • Class B misdemeanor - six months or less, but more than thirty days.

  • Class C misdemeanor - thirty days or less, but more than five days.

The punishment is usually a few days or weeks in local county jail, and the offender must also pay a fine. The judge and D.A. typically have a lot of freedom in how they want to structure the punishment. 

How Is a Misdemeanor Different from a Felony or Infraction?

What determines a misdemeanor from a felony? According to FindLaw, “You can be slightly over the limit during a DUI stop and get a misdemeanor, but if you have children in the car or are severely over the blood alcohol limit, you can face a felony charge.”

Various elements affect whether or not your crime shows up as a felony or misdemeanor. You don’t want either one showing up on your permanent record, however. Each individual state determines what constitutes a misdemeanor for its criminal justice system.

Do Misdemeanors Show up on a Background Report?

In most cases, yes. Misdemeanors do show up on background information unless you have requested expungement. The expungement process is not quick, and you must wait a specific amount of time before applying. You may also have to pay a fee to have your misdemeanor records expunged. 

If you were a juvenile when you committed the crime, you might be able to get your records sealed. In some states, juvenile records for minor offenses are automatically sealed. Those would not show up on a background report. However, law enforcement or other government agencies may still be able to see them. 

There are two more instances when a misdemeanor might not show up on your background report. The first is that there are a couple of states that do remove misdemeanors automatically after a certain length of time. Clerical errors might result in your misdemeanors not ending up in public records. Those are the only other two ways a misdemeanor might not show up on your background report. 

background report

Typically, most misdemeanors will show up on your criminal record forever unless you take the steps necessary to remove them. 

What Are Some of the Effects of a Misdemeanor on Your Record?

If you have a misdemeanor on your record, you may be unable to rent housing, apply for a job, get a mortgage or other lines of credit or sign up for education. Felons cannot buy guns or vote, but misdemeanors should not prevent you from those types of things. 

Misdemeanors are much less serious than other crimes, but some types of businesses take them very seriously. If you must submit to a background report, then understand that your entire criminal history will show up unless you have taken steps to remove those items through expungement. 

How Can You Remove a Misdemeanor from Your Criminal Record?

Most U.S. states have a process where offenders (of certain crimes) can petition the court to remove them from their records. This process is usually called expungement or sealing, but it has other names as well. Each jurisdiction will have its own process, which generally involves filling out paperwork, paying a fee, and awaiting a judge’s decision. It makes sense to hire a lawyer to help you with this process because it can be tricky, and you don’t want to make a vital mistake that could ruin your chances for a clean criminal history. 

How to Check Your Own Background Record for any Misdemeanors?

You can quickly and easily use the InfoTracer tool to search for your own name and review your background record. You will see your entire criminal history (felonies, misdemeanors, DUIs, incarcerations, sentencing, convictions, sex crimes, infractions, etc.) along with court cases, police reports, arrests, warrants, and so much more. That is the place to start when deciding to clean up your records. 

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