Background checks for Arizona criminal or DUI arrest and conviction

Criminal & DUI Lawyer/ Attorney Gordon Thompson
Over the course of more than three decades as a criminal defense attorney, I have made it my business to learn and anticipate possible issues and problems that people facing criminal charges, and particularly DUI charges, might have.  This is certainly true during the case, but I believe it is my duty also to help people through the aftermath of a criminal or DUI conviction, and the many far-reaching consequences of same.  I encourage my clients to contact me at any time in the future if they have questions or issues arising after the case is concluded.


One of the most frequent questions that arise after a case is over is, how to answer questions on an employment application and what might show up in a background check?  Figuring out the first part of that issue is usually straightforward, and starts with a careful and precise reading of the language used to frame the question.  If you were convicted 5 years ago of a misdemeanor DUI charge, and the question is, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”, the answer is “No”; “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”, the answer is “Yes”; “Have you been convicted of a crime within the past 3 years?”,, the answer is “No”; “Have you ever been arrested?”, the answer is “Yes” (and please note, some people charged with DUI in the State of Arizona are cited and released, and not taken to jail, and this sometimes leads to an impression they were not arrested for DUI, when in fact they were).


What might show up on a background check is far more difficult to predict, because “background check” has no precise legal meaning.  If you are interviewing for a position with your local Italian restaurant, a background check may mean nothing more than an informal web search for publicly-available information and arrest records.  If interviewing for a position with the IRS, you can expect to undergo a thorough investigation including fingerprinting, an investigation into your life and person and a background check involving governmental/state/police agency records.  Even then, the exact form an content of the information discovered about criminal convictions is an open question.  For instance if a DUI conviction is returned, whether details beyond Criminal Misdemeanor DUI are included, such as the blood alcohol level or whether there was an accident with restitution ordered, is difficult to predict.


Another point is that with the free availability of information on the internet today, traditional background checks are often being supplemented by more informal web search inquiries.  If you have never done a web search on yourself, you may be appalled to find out how much of your personal information is public.  There are personal information websites which traffic in such things, in addition to the websites available in Arizona which publish case information.  Sites such as:


To name just a few are tools I and my assistant use daily to monitor our cases, and which are freely available to anyone to use, or misuse.  For more than a year, I have received reports from clients who have been upset by receiving solicitations from other attorneys, or interlock companies, by mail to their homes which state their awareness of an arrest for DUI charges.  I have tried to pinpoint the origin of these solicitations (unethical/improper in the case of the outside attorneys, as these are clients who are already represented by an attorney) but have been unable to do so.  My point is, the wide availability of information on the internet increases the chance of a prospective employer finding this information, even without a thorough background check.


Another question I commonly get related to background checks in employment situations is, how to answer the question whether a conviction involved dishonesty.  For a DUI, the answer is no.


One final point relates to the case where a person has applied for and been granted a Motion or Application to Set Aside for a Misdemeanor DUI conviction.  Contrary to what you might expect on its face, the Set Aside does not permit you to answer the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” with a No.  Even though the conviction has nominally been Set Aside by a judge, that person must still say Yes, they have been convicted of that crime if asked.


Gordon Thompson

(602) 467-3680



For more information about Arizona DUI and criminal law issues please contact Gordon Thompson who has used his experience to write a blog on topics of interest. You can also chat with Gordon any time with questions you might have.