Answer: depends on what “record” means to you.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain the varying ways a small claims proceeding could be found by someone else.
Does Small Claims Court Go On Your Record? (Explained)
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What is Small Claims Court?
Small claims court is an alternate dispute resolution mechanism that most US courts run in their state courts.
While many individuals and companies suffer losses in the range of $1-$10,000, those dollar amounts do not rise to the level that it is worthwhile to hire a lawyer and go through the whole civil trial process to recover the money, as the lawyer fees themselves could easily cost more than is sought.
Most small claims courts make it easy for participants to file their own claims, and in many small claims courts, the parties are not allowed to be represented by attorneys.
Small claims actions are civil in nature, and not criminal.
Can a Small Claims Court Judgment Be Found During a Background Check?
While small claims court is an alternative way to get a claim in front of a judge, it is still a “court” matter.
The small claims matter still gets a case number, gets entered into the public records filing system, and an enforceable judgment is entered at the end, just like in a regular civil case.
Small claims judgments can be found during a background check if the investigator has access to a database that pulls results on both the criminal or civil side.
An individual doing a background check without using a paid database service could find the record of the case doing a manual search at the local courthouse as well.
The documents filed in the case and the judgment are going to be accessible to the public, though the amount of information available online to investigators may vary.
Will a Small Claims Proceeding Show Up On a Credit Report?
A small claims judgment will probably show up on a credit report, but it also might not.
In general, the court in a small claims matter is not the creditor (the one who is owed money).
The court does not report to credit bureaus about matters where it is not the creditor.
However, if the creditor gets a judgment in small claims court, he could then record it against real property owned by the defendant (as a way to try and collect on the judgment).
The judgment could potentially show up then on credit reports.
This can also vary from state to state, and court to court.
Over time as information reporting from courts becomes more electronic and more ‘real-time’ we would expect the reporting on the existence of unpaid money judgments to increase.
Does a Small Claims Court Judgment Impact a Criminal Background Check?
A small claims court judgment (for or against the party) is not a criminal matter.
It does not count as a conviction for the purposes of a criminal history in a criminal case.
A full background check might show the small claims court judgment, but it shouldn’t count against a individual (for criminal history).
Could a Small Claims Court Judgment Impact An Employment Opportunity?
Certainly, but it depends on what the case was about.
It is common for people to be sued in small claims court for small matters, such as unpaid civil infractions, landlord tenant matters, car accidents, and credit cards.
But small claims can also be used to resolve monetary disputes that have serious origins, such as allegations of theft or embezzelment of property, slander, and civil battery.
If a particular employer was wary of hiring someone with a history of untrustworthiness, deceit, or drama, the small claims allegations could cause the company to pass on the candidate.
In Sum, Can People Find Out About a Small Claims Matter?
Yes. Small claims proceedings are matters of public record and can be discovered during a routine background check.
However, a small claims proceeding will not show up on a DMV record, criminal history report, and may or may not show up on a credit report.
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