To legally drive in most parts of the world requires a license. In the US, these driving licenses come from the DMV. This stands for the Department of Motor Vehicles.
This is a state-level authority that mainly oversees driving licensing and vehicle registration. It also keeps driving records. For those with criminal pasts, the concern is does DMV run background checks?
Before we answer this query, let’s delve deeper into what the DMV does.
What Does The DMV Do?
As said, the DMV oversees issues about driving and vehicles. This is an authority you will find nationwide.
In some places, it will even have other names. This can include:
- Motor Vehicle Division
- Office of Motor Vehicles
- Division of Motor Vehicles
- Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
- Department of Driver Services
- Bureau of Motor Vehicles
- Department of Public Safety
- Motor Vehicle Bureau
These departments however provide much the same services. Also, they typically fall under either the state Transportation or Revenue Departments.
Their primary functions include but are not limited to:
1 Issuing drivers licenses and ID cards
2 Vehicle registration
3 Safety and emissions inspections
4 Keeping driving records
5 Keeping records of title transfers and bills of sale
6 Issuing personalized license plates
So the DMV handles anything driving or vehicle-related. Since DMVs are state-mandated they are subject to state laws. This can mean that the rules they follow can vary, state to state.
There is however also a National Driver Register (NDR). This is an authority run under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It hosts a national database of all licensed drivers.
These records indicate if a license is still valid and any serious traffic offenses. This information comes from state DMVs. It helps prevent those with violations from going to another state to acquire a driver’s license.
So what are driving records?
Every person with a driving license will have a driving record. This is maintained at the state DMV.
A driving record is an account of a person’s driving activity. In most states, this record will detail the driving history of at least the last three years.
It will detail such issues as:
- Identifying information of the driver including name and address
- Driver’s license number and expiry date
- License classifications
- Driver’s license status
- Record of violations and convictions
- Penalties for driving offenses
- Accident history and tickets
All this information is protected under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This means that for a third party to access this info they will need written consent from the owner.
Driving records are vital when you consider background checks. This is why.
There are several types of background checks. Employers, landlords, schools, and licensing authorities will regularly run these reports on applicants.
For employers, these reports help in making hiring decisions. A criminal background check and DMV check are standard criminal record reviews for any job that involves driving.
The criminal background check will give a record of any state or federal crimes. Depending on the state, it can include cases that were convicted and even arrests without prosecution.
Employers looking at DMV records will also want to know about any vehicle or driving violations. Hiring decisions are often based on how serious the offense was and if repeated.
Many violations can be minor and only attract a fine from the DMV. These can include illegal parking, speeding, overloading, and running a red light.
Others can however be serious enough to result in criminal prosecutions. These can include:
1 Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI/DWI)
2 Reckless driving
3 Driving with a suspended or revoked license
4 Speed racing
5 Hit and run
6 Vehicular homicide
These more serious offenses will also appear on a person’s criminal background report. They can appear as either a misdemeanor or felony offense. The penalties here can also include jail or prison time.
If wondering will a DUI will appear on a criminal background check, the answer is yes. It is considered a serious offense in most states, worthy of criminal prosecution.
Commercial Driving Licenses (CDL)
Many driving jobs require the driver to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). This means they have passed the necessary training to handle vehicles of a large and heavy size. Including those carrying hazardous material.
There are different classes of CDL. Each class specifies the maximum weight of the vehicle that the holder may tow.
Class C licenses also indicate the maximum number of passengers. Also, if authorized to transport hazardous material.
CDLs are issued through the DMV. When a person applies for this license, the DMV will run a check on their driving record.
Does DMV Run Background Checks?
As said, the DMV will run a check on a person’s driving record when applying for a CDL. They will also submit reports if third parties make an application with the right paperwork.
Most CDLs do not require a criminal background check. However, Class C licenses in many states do require this. A criminal records check is needed for jobs like bus driving and those involving handling hazardous materials.
Those that fail the criminal background check will often have their applications rejected.
Also, employers hiring for jobs that involve driving will run driving record checks. The same may also apply to jobs that involve traveling and hiring car rentals. Potential hires will typically be given a conditional offer of employment.
They will need to sign a consent form agreeing to this check. This is what gives the DMV permission to share such data with third parties.
This screening will be the final deciding factor in whether they will be hired. If they fail the background check and DMV check, they will likely not be hired.
Minor infractions like parking tickets and speeding are not much of a problem. Most employers will hire if there has only been one record over the past year. More than two offenses in the last two years may disqualify a person.
These policies may vary from company to company. Know that part of the reason is insurance. The deals companies strike with their insurers can impact what kind of driving record that will be acceptable.
However, a bad record can also be bad for business. No employer wants to hire someone known for reckless driving or recurrent speeding. This can result in harming other innocent road users or the vehicle itself.
Remedies for A Bad Record
Unlike with criminal records, there is no expungement for DMV records. Most states however have a reporting limit.
This means that after a certain period, your records are cleared. It also means your DMV check can only go so far back.
Many states have a reporting limit of three years. Thereafter, a person’s driving record is cleared. Do check with your state’s DMV to find out what the limit is.
Also, be careful about your driving in the future. Many trucking companies that hire felons and other employers will regularly run this check.
Many state authorities require regular review of driving records by employers. So expect to keep being checked up on, often annually, as long as you are employed.
Maintaining a good record is vital to keeping your job. It can also have an impact on your insurance.
If applying for a driving job, consider requesting your DMV record. This will give you a clear idea of what a potential employer will find out.
Where you find you have a bad record, you may want to consider other jobs till your record is cleared. Our listing of the highest paying jobs for felons offers some good ideas.
Also, check your criminal background report. If your driving offenses landed here, they may be reportable for a longer period or indefinitely.
States also vary in terms of reporting limits for criminal cases. In some places, the records are never cleared.