Can I Get a Security Clearance with an Outstanding Warrant?

We get a lot of questions from our clients about security clearance. We’re asked about DUI convictions, a history of substance abuse, mental illness, speeding tickets, poor academic grades, disciplinary issues in high school, bankruptcy, and everything in between. One other question that has come up, though rarely, is, “Can I get security clearance if there is an outstanding warrant for my arrest?”

Understandably, our automatic answer to that question is, “No.” One cannot get security clearance if there is an outstanding warrant for their arrest, even if the warrant is the non-extraditable kind. Perhaps the real question is, “What kind of a person would apply for security clearance if they have a warrant for their arrest?”

Warrants Are Not Uncommon

Contrary to popular belief, warrants are more common than most people think, especially bench warrants. Warrants generally fall into two categories: bench warrants and arrest warrants. Bench warrants are issued by a judge when you fail to show up in court when you’re supposed to. But once a bench warrant is issued, the police treat it like any other arrest warrant; they can arrest you on the spot.

If you fail to show for a scheduled court appearance, a bench warrant can be issued. So, if you get a speeding ticket, you fail to pay the fine, and you fail to show up in court, a warrant can be issued for your arrest. It can be that easy to get a warrant in your name.

Arrest warrants, on the other hand, are the result of criminal investigations. If a police officer or detective has reason to believe a crime has been committed, they’ll try to convince the judge that they have probable cause to make an arrest. If the judge is convinced, he or she will sign an arrest warrant, and the police can go and arrest the person. Usually, the idea is for the police to catch the person when he or she is in the comfort of their own home, and not suspicious at all of an impending arrest.

What is the Solution?

Suppose you got a speeding ticket while you were driving 95 mph as you crossed the Nevada border into California. Think you can get away with ignoring the ticket? Think again. Most states share information about traffic infractions with each other.

If you discover a warrant was issued in your name during the security clearance background investigation, the best thing to do is explain your situation and take immediate steps to resolve the warrant through the courts.

If you have a plausible reason; for example, you forgot about the ticket or you moved and never received notice of the hearing, you may be able to mitigate the investigator’s concerns. On the other hand, if you have been stubborn and you knew about the warrant or ticket and refused to resolve it, your security clearance application could be denied.

Next: Why Can I Be Denied Security Clearance?

Remember, our government likes people who follow the rules and listen to authority. If you were unfairly issued a ticket, you should definitely fight it, but please don’t ignore it or refuse to show up in court. Instead, use the court system to fight your cause. If you lose, you have to pay your fines and accept your loss. If ignored, a warrant will haunt you until you face it head-on and do all that’s necessary to resolve it and get back in good standing.