Will Shoplifting Show Up on a Background Check?

Cover graphic for an article on expungement duration, featuring a clock symbolizing time, with bold text asking 'WILL SHOPLIFTING SHOW UP ON A BACKGROUND CHECK' to address the reader's main concern.

If you’re concerned about a past shoplifting charge and how it might impact your future—particularly when it comes to securing a job—you’re not alone. Many people find themselves in a similar situation, wondering if their shoplifting incident will be a red flag on their background check during the job application process. To help you navigate through these concerns, let’s delve deeper into the world of background checks and specifically address the question: “Will shoplifting show up on a background check?”

Understanding Background Checks

Background checks serve as a tool for employers to verify the information provided by job applicants and to ensure they are making informed hiring decisions. These checks can cover a wide range of information, including:

An infographic showing the key components of a background check, including criminal records, court records, credit reports, and employment history.

What’s Included in a Background Check?

  • Criminal Records
    • Convictions: Any legal judgments where the individual was found guilty of a crime.
    • Misdemeanors: Lesser criminal acts that are above infractions but below felonies in terms of severity.
    • Felonies: Serious crimes that often result in harsher penalties.
  • Court Records: Details of any legal proceedings involving the individual, including the nature of the case, the outcome, and any sentences or penalties imposed.
  • Credit Reports: An overview of the individual’s financial history, including debts, loans, payment history, and overall financial responsibility.
  • Employment History: Verification of the individual’s past job positions, durations of employment, and sometimes reasons for leaving.

Will Shoplifting Show Up on a Background Check?An infographic detailing how shoplifting charges, including misdemeanors and felonies, can appear on background checks.


  • Misdemeanors: If you were convicted of a shoplifting misdemeanor, it’s highly likely to appear on a background check. Misdemeanors are considered criminal offenses, and employers typically include this information in their background checks.
  • Felonies: Similarly, if you were convicted of a shoplifting felony, it will almost certainly show up on a background check. Felonies are severe crimes that can significantly impact your employment opportunities.

Arrests Without Conviction

  • State Laws: The appearance of an arrest without conviction on your background check can vary by state law and the specifics of the background check being conducted. Some states have laws that limit the reporting of certain types of criminal records on background checks, especially if there was no conviction.
  • Background Check Specifics: The depth and scope of the background check can also affect whether an arrest without conviction will appear. More comprehensive checks are likely to uncover more details, while basic checks might only focus on convictions.

Expunged or Sealed Records

An infographic comparing expunged and sealed records, highlighting the accessibility of each to employers and law enforcement.

  • Expungement: If your shoplifting charge has been expunged, it generally will not appear on most background checks. Expungement is a legal process that effectively erases the charge from your criminal record, making it unavailable to the public and most employers.
  • Sealed Records: In some cases, a shoplifting charge can be sealed, which means it is no longer publicly accessible. However, certain entities, such as law enforcement agencies and some employers, may still be able to view sealed records.

Key Points to Consider: How Likely Is It That Shoplifting Will Show Up on a Background Check?

When assessing the likelihood of a shoplifting charge appearing on your background check, several critical factors come into play. Understanding these can help you better navigate potential concerns and prepare for discussions with future employers. Let’s delve into these key points in more detail.

Severity of the Offense

The impact of a shoplifting charge on your background check can vary greatly depending on the severity of the offense. Here’s how it breaks down:

An infographic showing the difference between misdemeanor and felony shoplifting based on the value of stolen goods.

  • Misdemeanor Shoplifting: Generally involves the theft of goods below a certain value threshold, which varies by state. Misdemeanor offenses are less severe but can still appear on background checks.
  • Felony Shoplifting: Involves theft of goods above a certain value, again varying by state, or repeat offenses. Felonies are more serious and are more likely to raise concerns with potential employers.

The classification of your shoplifting charge influences not only its visibility on a background check but also how employers might perceive it.

State Laws

The laws governing the reporting of shoplifting charges on background checks can differ significantly from one state to another, affecting:

An infographic explaining how state laws influence what appears on background checks, including reporting of convictions versus arrests and lookback periods.

  • Reporting of Convictions vs. Arrests: Some states only allow convictions to be reported, while others may also report arrests that did not lead to convictions.
  • Lookback Periods: Many states have specific “lookback” periods, limiting how far back a background check can go. This can range from seven years to potentially longer, depending on the state and the nature of the offense.

Being aware of the laws in your state can provide valuable context for understanding what might appear on your background check.

Type of Background Check

The depth and scope of the background check being conducted by a potential employer can significantly influence what information comes to light:

An infographic comparing basic and comprehensive background checks and what each includes. The graphic also explains additional considerations to have with employer background checks.

  • Basic Background Checks: These might only cover convictions within a certain recent timeframe and are less likely to uncover older or less severe offenses.
  • Comprehensive Background Checks: More in-depth checks can include a wider range of information, including misdemeanors, felonies, and sometimes even arrests that did not lead to convictions. These checks might also look further back in time.

Additional Considerations

  • Industry-Specific Checks: Certain industries, especially those involving finance, education, or government, might conduct more thorough background checks due to the sensitive nature of the work.
  • Employer Preferences: Ultimately, how an employer interprets the findings of a background check can vary. Some may be more lenient with certain types of offenses, while others may have strict policies in place.

Mitigating the Impact of a Shoplifting Charge on Your Background Check

If you’re worried about how a past shoplifting charge might affect your future, particularly your job prospects, it’s important to know that there are proactive steps you can take to lessen its impact. Here’s a closer look at strategies that can help you navigate this challenge more effectively.

An infographic outlining steps to mitigate the impact of shoplifting charges on background checks, including expungement and honesty.


Expungement is a legal process that can remove a shoplifting charge from your record, making it as if the incident never occurred from a legal standpoint. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Eligibility: Not all shoplifting charges are eligible for expungement. Eligibility often depends on the severity of the offense, your criminal history, and the amount of time that has passed since the incident.
  • Process: The expungement process varies by state but generally involves filing a petition with the court that handled your case. You may need to provide evidence that you’ve met all the requirements for expungement.
  • Benefits: Once a charge is expunged, you can legally state that you were not convicted of that crime in most situations, significantly improving your employment prospects.

An infographic detailing the expungement process, including eligibility and steps involved.


Being transparent with potential employers about your past can sometimes turn a negative into a positive. Here’s how honesty can play in your favor:

  • Building Trust: Demonstrating honesty about your past mistakes can help build trust with potential employers, showing them that you’re a person of integrity.
  • Context Matters: Providing context about the incident allows you to explain the circumstances and what you’ve learned from the experience, offering a more complete picture of who you are today.
  • Opportunity for Redemption: Many employers are willing to give candidates a second chance, especially if the shoplifting incident was a one-time mistake and you’ve shown personal growth since then.

Professional Help

Navigating the legal system and understanding the best approach to dealing with a shoplifting charge on your background check can be complex. Seeking professional help can make a significant difference:

  • Legal Advice: A lawyer specializing in criminal law can provide you with advice tailored to your specific situation, helping you understand your options for expungement or sealing your record.
  • Navigating the Process: Legal professionals can assist with the paperwork and procedures required for expungement, increasing your chances of a successful outcome.
  • Strategic Planning: A lawyer can also offer strategies for discussing your past with potential employers in a way that minimizes its impact on your job prospects.

Additional Tips

  • Stay Informed: Keep yourself informed about the laws and regulations in your state regarding criminal records and employment.
  • Prepare Your Explanation: If your shoplifting charge cannot be expunged, prepare a concise and honest explanation that focuses on what you’ve learned and how you’ve changed since the incident.
  • Highlight Positive Developments: Emphasize any positive steps you’ve taken since the incident, such as community service, further education, or professional achievements, to demonstrate your growth and responsibility.

Conclusion: Overcoming the Impact of Shoplifting on Background Checks through Expungement

Facing a shoplifting charge on your background check can be daunting, but it’s crucial to remember that this challenge doesn’t mark the end of your professional journey. By understanding the intricacies of background checks, recognizing the factors that affect their outcomes, and exploring avenues to mitigate any adverse effects, you can navigate through this obstacle and continue to advance in your career and personal growth.

An infographic summarizing the long-term impact of a shoplifting conviction on employment, professional licensing, and immigration.

Understanding and Mitigating the Impact

  • Potential Visibility: A shoplifting charge, particularly if it resulted in a conviction, may appear on a background check, but its impact is not absolute.
  • Varied Influence: The effect on your employment prospects can differ based on the nature of the job, the employer’s policies, and industry norms.

Key Factors Influencing Background Checks

  • Details of the Offense: The specifics of the shoplifting incident, like the value of the stolen items, play a role in how it’s reported.
  • State Laws: The laws in your state may offer protections or limitations on the reporting of shoplifting charges.
  • Depth of the Background Check: The thoroughness of the check will determine what information is revealed.

Proactive Steps for Mitigation

One of the most effective steps you can take to mitigate the impact of a shoplifting charge on your background check is seeking expungement. Expungement offers a legal avenue to erase or seal your shoplifting charge from your record, potentially eliminating its visibility to future employers and clearing the path for your career advancement.

  • Seeking Expungement: This legal process can remove the shoplifting charge from your record, allowing you to legally claim you were not convicted of a crime in most situations. It’s a critical step for those eligible, as it can significantly reduce, or even eliminate, the charge’s impact on background checks.
  • Demonstrating Change: Beyond expungement, showing how you’ve learned and grown from your past experiences can positively influence potential employers’ perceptions.
  • Legal Guidance: Consulting with a legal professional can provide clarity on your eligibility for expungement and guide you through the process, enhancing your chances of success.

Embracing the Future

  • Belief in Second Chances: It’s important to hold onto the belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to move past their mistakes.
  • Responsibility and Growth: Demonstrating to potential employers that you’ve taken responsibility for your past actions and have made positive changes is key to overcoming the stigma of a shoplifting charge.
  • Continued Development: Use this experience as a catalyst for personal and professional development, proving that your past does not define your future.

In conclusion, while a shoplifting charge on your background check can initially seem like a significant barrier, it’s not insurmountable. Through understanding, mitigation strategies like expungement, and a commitment to personal growth, you can move beyond this hurdle. Remember, your journey is shaped by how you rebound from setbacks and the steps you take to forge a positive path forward.

The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice and is provided as is without any guarantee of accuracy. If you need a professional legal opinion, click here to send in your legal request.

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