Employers, apartment owners, and other businesses often conduct criminal background checks. If a conviction, or even an arrest, appears on the report, it can affect your ability to be hired, rent an apartment, or other rights. There may be some confusion about DUI/DWI offenses because driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics may appear on a criminal record and/or a driving record. As a general rule, you should expect that a background check will disclose your DUI/DWI.
In Tennessee, a DUI offense is considered a misdemeanor if the offense is a first, second, or third offense – and no other factors apply such as the death or injury of a victim, or having a child in the car while you drove. Fourth and subsequent DUI convictions are considered felonies. The maximum amount of jail time for a first, second, or third DUI is 11 months and 29 days.
DUI convictions, whether they’re a misdemeanor or a felony, will stay on your criminal record for life.
Employment applications and DUI background checks
As a general rule, a DUI conviction will appear on a pre-employment background check. There is a new exception to the rule called “ban the box.” Tennessee’s public employers must comply with a new law that helps job applicants who have a criminal record including a DUI. The ban the box law requires that public employers hold off on conducting a prospective employee background check until after the initial screening of applicants. This law gives employees a chance to be considered for the job based on their qualifications and provides an opportunity to explain the conviction. There is an exemption for certain jobs based on current federal law – such as law enforcement jobs.
Employers who are subject to the ban the box law must consider:
- The extent to which your criminal history (including a DUI) may, or may not, have on your ability to perform the job
- The amount of time since your conviction or release from prison
- Your age when the conviction occurred
- How often the convictions (such as a DUI) occurred
- Evidence of rehabilitation and good behavior
- Other factors
Generally, if you are asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime and you have a DUI conviction – you will have to say – yes.
In many cases, the DUI will not end your dream of getting a job. In addition to your good conduct record since the conviction, employers will consider other factors. For example, if you can get to the job by public transportation, that helps. If the job requires that you drive a vehicle, a DUI will be a strong strike against you.
Where does the DUI appear on a background check?
Background check companies will normally discover your DUI through:
- Court documents
- Imprisonment records
- Driving records
- Law enforcement records
More and more, states share DUI information with other states which means if you have an out-of-state DUI, a Tennessee background check is likely to disclose the out-of-state DUI.
Rental applications and DUI background checks
Generally, apartment owners conduct background checks to inquire whether you might be a danger to other tenants, and to make sure you can pay the rent in a timely manner. Apartment owners will likely discover that you have a DUI conviction. If you show that you don’t have any other criminal charges and a steady income, the apartment owner will usually (but not always) consider your rental application. The owner may also want to inquire if you have a substance abuse problem.
Other DUI background check considerations
There are a few other factors that affect your ability to find a job or a place to live if you have a DUI arrest or conviction on your record:
- Generally, a DUI arrest or conviction that is more than seven years old will not appear on credit reports – due to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
- If you have a DUI and you’re not applying for a driving job, then a DUI arrest will normally not be a bar to employment. A conviction may be a bar.
- You may have federal or state remedies if you are denied a job or a place to live based on a criminal conviction. For example, you may have the right to file an Equal Employment Opportunity Council (EEOC) complaint.
The best strategy for avoiding a criminal background check for DUI is to hire an experienced DUI lawyer as soon as you’re arrested. Our experienced DUI lawyers have helped numerous drivers obtain dismissals of DUI charges or reductions in the offenses through negotiated plea agreements.
At Delius & McKenzie, PLLC, we’ve been fighting for defendants charged with a DUI for 20 years. We work aggressively on your behalf by contesting the basis for the police stop, challenging the validity of the field sobriety and breath tests, and fighting to show the breath test machinery wasn’t accurate. Call (865) 428-8780 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We represent DUI/DWI defendants – in Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the surrounding Tennessee areas.