What Are the Rules About Criminal Background Checks in Utah?

According to recent studies, approximately 95% of U.S. employers – roughly nine in 10 companies – conduct background checks against job applicants. If you’re applying for work in Utah, but you have a record of arrests or criminal convictions, you may be worried about what a background check will turn up and how it could affect your job search. In this article, Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson answers some frequently asked questions about criminal background checks in Utah. If you need help with a criminal matter in Salt Lake City, call Darwin today at (801) 758-2287 to set up a free legal consultation at Overson & Bugden.

Can an Employer Check My Criminal Background When I Apply for a Job in Utah?

In Utah, various statutes create rules and restrictions that employers must follow when collecting information about prospective employees. For example, under Utah Code § 34-46-201(1), employers generally cannot ask job applicants for their birth dates, driver license numbers, or Social Security numbers (SSNs), unless certain exceptions apply. For instance, employers may be able to request this information when, under Utah Code § 34-46-201(2)(b)(i), the employer “obtains a criminal background check.” But when may employers obtain criminal background checks?

Utah Code § 53-10-108 creates “Restrictions on [the] access, use, and contents of division records,” where “division” refers to the Criminal Investigations and Technical Services Division. This includes restrictions on the “use of records for employment purposes.” Under § 53-10-108(2)(c), the information from a criminal record, including information about arrest warrants, may potentially be shared with a “qualifying entity for employment background checks for their own employees and persons who have applied for employment with the qualifying entity.” In other words, a “qualifying entity” may receive criminal information about current or prospective employees, subject to certain rules and criteria.

To begin with: what types of companies count as qualifying entities? State law provides a specific list. A “qualifying entity” is defined, under § 53-10-102(20), to include any “business, organization, or…  governmental entity” whose paid employees and/or volunteer workers perform tasks involving:

  • Care for “vulnerable adults” (meaning adults who cannot provide care for themselves)
  • Childcare or children
  • Financial trusts
  • National security

Under § 53-10-108(4)(a), the law states, “Before requesting information, a qualifying entity under Subsection (2)(c)… shall obtain a signed waiver from the person whose information is requested.”

Moreover, § 53-10-108(6) sets limits on what types of information the Division can share with “qualifying entities” as they are defined above. Specifically, this section prohibits the Division from sharing information about:

  • Charges “that have been declined for prosecution,” meaning cases in which the prosecutor decided not to file charges
  • Charges involving any defendant who was acquitted (found not guilty)
  • Dismissed charges in Utah

The law specifies not only what information may be used, but how it may be used. Utah Code §  53-10-108(5)(a) clearly states the following, though we have added italics for emphasis: “Any criminal history record information obtained from division files may be used only for the purposes for which it was provided and may not be further disseminated,” with some exceptions. For example, exceptions to the normally applicable restrictions may arise during adoption proceedings in Utah.

Some background checks are more comprehensive than others, depending on factors like what sort of job the applicant is applying for, and what sort of service or software the business uses to conduct their background checks. Some employers may focus on felonies, drug convictions, white collar crimes (financial crimes), or violent crimes. Others may have even stricter standards that include all types of misdemeanors and non-violent offenses as well. If you believe that you were illegally discriminated against during the hiring process, you may be able to fight back using certain federal anti-discrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Our Salt Lake City Defense Lawyers Can Help if You Were Arrested in Utah

If you or one of your family members has been arrested or charged with a crime in Salt Lake City, get aggressive, sophisticated legal representation backed by more than 16 years of experience. At Overson & Bugden, we are Utah criminal attorneys handling a broad array of misdemeanor and felony charges against juveniles and adult defendants, including DUI (driving under the influence), simple and aggravated assault, drug possession and distribution, sex crimes, theft and shoplifting, burglary and robbery, homicide charges, white collar crimes, and traffic violations. Contact us online right away to schedule a free consultation, or call Overson Law at (801) 758-2287 to speak confidentially with a defense attorney today.