Do Restraining Orders Show up on Background Checks? – Protect Yourself and Your Reputation

Restraining orders, a topic often shrouded in questions and concerns, particularly when it comes to how they interact with background checks, deserves a closer look.

The heart of the matter? Whether a restraining order will flash bright red on a background check, potentially altering one’s future prospects in employment, housing, or other critical areas of life.

Key Highlights

  • Restraining orders are part of the public record and can appear on background checks, especially in certain states and for specific types of jobs.
  • Being upfront about a restraining order can help mitigate potential negative impacts on employment or housing opportunities.
  • The visibility of a restraining order in a background check depends on various factors, including the depth of the check and the nature of the job.
  • Violating the terms of a restraining order can lead to serious legal consequences, including criminal charges and impact on immigration status.

Restraining Order In a Nutshell

At its core, a restraining order is a legal document issued by a court to protect individuals from harm or harassment.  It limits contact and proximity between the person seeking protection and the person the order is against.

These orders are serious business, stemming from situations like domestic violence, stalking, or threats.

Connection With the Public Records

A common misconception is that restraining orders are private matters tucked away from the public eye. However, they’re part of the public record. Yes, you heard that right. If a restraining order is issued against someone, it’s not just a secret between the involved parties and the court.

It’s accessible information, potentially appearing on background checks, depending on the jurisdiction and the depth of the check being conducted.

Restraining orders are issued by courts and are part of the public record, which means they can be accessed by anyone who searches the court database for your name.

Will Employers and Landlords Find Out?

The big question: Will a restraining order show up when an employer or landlord runs a background check? The short answer is it depends. Various factors come into play, such as the state where the order was issued, the type of background check, and its purpose.

  • State Specifics: Take Oregon, for instance, where restraining orders are likely to appear on a background check. The same goes for California, especially if the order is associated with domestic violence charges, making its way onto your criminal record.
  • Types of Checks: Not all background checks are created equal. While a standard check might not uncover a restraining order, more thorough checks — like those for positions requiring a security clearance or involving the military — might bring it to light.
  • Job Nature: The job you’re applying for can also dictate the impact of a restraining order on your employment prospects. Positions that require firearm possession or a certain level of trust and security might be out of reach.

Whether a restraining order shows up on a background check depends on the type of background check, the nature of the restraining order, and the kind of job you are applying for.

Tips for Handling Background Checks

Facing a background check with a restraining order in your history can be daunting. Yet, there are steps to take that can help mitigate potential negative impacts:

  • Be Open: If you know there’s a chance the restraining order will come up, being upfront about it can work in your favor. Not mentioning it and having it discovered later can raise red flags about your honesty.
  • Documentation Ready: Have all relevant court documents on hand. This shows you’re prepared and transparent about your past.
  • Clear Up Warrants: Ensure that any active arrest warrants related to the restraining order are resolved. This shows responsibility and a proactive approach to rectifying past issues.
  • Positive Steps Forward: Highlight any positive actions taken since the issuance of the restraining order, whether it’s attending counseling or engaging in community service.
  • Legal Advice: When in doubt, consulting with an attorney can provide clarity and a plan for addressing the restraining order in a background check context.

Having a restraining order on your record may affect your chances of getting housing, employment, or other opportunities, so it is advisable to disclose it upfront and explain the circumstances.

The Lifespan and Beyond of the Restraining Orders

How Long Do They Last?

Restraining orders aren’t forever. Temporary restraining orders (TROs) typically last for 14 days but can be extended under certain circumstances. Permanent restraining orders usually span from three to five years.

However, the shadow of a restraining order, especially if it accompanies criminal charges, can linger longer, potentially showing up in more extensive background checks even after its expiration.

Consequences of Violation

Violating the terms of a restraining order is a serious offense, leading to criminal charges, fines, or imprisonment. For immigrants, such violations carry the additional risk of deportation.

For those on probation, it can escalate charges to felony levels. Hence, adhering to the order’s terms not only is a legal obligation but also a critical step in minimizing its impact on your life.

Factors Influencing the Visibility of Restraining Orders in Background Checks

Let’s break down the details of what determines the visibility of restraining orders in background checks. Not every background check will reveal the same information. Several factors play a crucial role:

  • Nature of the Offense: The specifics of the offense linked to the restraining order might influence its visibility. For example, orders related to domestic violence are taken very seriously.
  • Job Requirements: Certain positions, particularly those involving security clearances, working with vulnerable populations, or handling firearms, may require more in-depth checks.
  • Active Arrest Warrants: If there are arrest warrants related to the restraining order, they’re more likely to show up in background checks.
  • Extended Identity Checks: For roles requiring high levels of trust, extended checks might delve deeper, uncovering restraining orders that standard checks would not.

Mitigating the Impact of Restraining Orders

While a restraining order can be a significant concern in a background check, it doesn’t have to dictate your future. Here are strategies to help lessen its impact:

  • Follow the Order’s Terms: Adhering strictly to the restraining order’s conditions demonstrates responsibility and respect for the legal process.
  • Seek Legal Advice: A lawyer can provide guidance on possibly sealing or expunging records related to restraining orders, depending on your jurisdiction and situation.
  • Personal Development: Engage in activities that show personal growth and rehabilitation, such as therapy, community service, or other positive contributions to society.
  • Clear Communication: When the opportunity arises, communicate the context and resolution of the restraining order to potential employers or landlords, emphasizing lessons learned and how you’ve moved forward.


Can I get a job if I have a restraining order against me?

Yes, having a restraining order does not automatically disqualify you from employment, though it may impact certain job opportunities.

Will a restraining order affect my credit score?

No, a restraining order is a legal matter and does not directly impact your credit score.

Can a restraining order be removed from public record?

In some cases, it may be possible to have a restraining order sealed, but this depends on state laws and the specifics of the case.

Do restraining orders show up in all states if I move?

Yes, restraining orders are generally enforceable and visible across state lines due to national databases.

Can a restraining order impact my ability to rent an apartment?

It may, depending on the landlord’s screening process. Some may not check for restraining orders, while others might.

Is it possible to appeal a restraining order?

Yes, you can appeal a restraining order, but you must follow a legal process and typically demonstrate a significant change in circumstances or new evidence.

Final Thoughts

Restraining orders, while issued for the noble cause of protection, carry a complex set of implications, especially when it comes to background checks. They can influence job opportunities, housing prospects, and more, given their public record status.

Having knowledge about their visibility in background checks and taking proactive steps to mitigate potential negative impacts is key. Being transparent, prepared, and informed can help handle the challenges that come with having a restraining order in your history.