Does a Traffic Warrant Show in a Criminal Background Check?

by Bob Haring, Demand Media
    It's best to resolve traffic tickets instead of ignoring them.

    It's best to resolve traffic tickets instead of ignoring them.

    Minor traffic violations can become major problems if you don't take care of them promptly. A traffic ticket for speeding, improper turning, or some similar offense, usually won't show up on your permanent record. If you ignore the ticket, however, it can result in the issuance of an arrest warrant -- and that may show up in a background check because it's escalated to a higher level.

    Warrants Vary

    Whether a traffic warrant will show up on a routine background check will depend in part on where and how the warrant was issued and what the allegation is. A warrant issued by a municipal court for failure to pay a ticket won't show up on most background records. A warrant issued by a county or state court may show up, at least until it's resolved.

    Outstanding Warrants Will Show

    Outstanding warrants are more likely to show up on a background check than those that are resolved. If you were served a warrant for failure to pay a state speeding ticket, then went before the court and paid the fine, it probably won't be part of your permanent record. If the warrant is still outstanding, meaning the court still wants you, it probably will be on a background check.

    Checks Vary

    Background checks, however, can be done at different levels. Not every background check will search for warrants on misdemeanors, which are minor crimes like failure to stop at a stop sign, but will record felony warrants for serious crimes like leaving the scene of a fatality accident or evading an officer.

    State Information Differs

    Background check information varies by the agency checking and by state. Some states, like Texas, have statewide reporting, so a background check may find a traffic warrant in any county. Texas also runs different levels of checks, some only for major crimes, others for traffic violations. Other states, like California, record information only by county and a background check may overlook a traffic warrant if that county's records were not searched.

    National Searches

    Some background check services run nationwide searches, but even then, the recording of data will vary by state or, sometimes, by county. One state may record all warrants issued for any moving violation, for instance, while another will keep an open file only on outstanding warrants. The FBI maintains a criminal database for law enforcement officers but it focuses on serious crimes.

    About the Author

    Bob Haring has been a news writer and editor for more than 50 years, mostly with the Associated Press and then as executive editor of the Tulsa, Okla. "World." Since retiring he has written freelance stories and a weekly computer security column. Haring holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri.

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