How Far Back Do Background Checks Go?

If you have a felony and have been denied employment after failing a criminal background check, you may wonder how far back do they go?

Will you always have to worry that a potential employer will be able to dig up your criminal records, even if you go across state lines?

Unfortunately, a felony will ALWAYS stay on your record (unless you can get it expunged). This means that any employer, bank, or law enforcement agency will be able to access this information at any time.

However, when it comes to getting a job as a felon, some states have more lenient rules on how employers can use background checks, and offer everyone a fair chance at employment. So lets’s go over that!

criminal background check for employment

What will an employer learn from running a background check?

A criminal background check is required by law in any field that deals with someone’s private information. In particular, these are health care, financial, and insurance companies. However, any business, small or large, can order a back ground check.

This is what will show up on the criminal record:

Full name, age and date of birth
Any alias’ and maiden names
Current address, phone number, previous addresses within the past ten years
Marriages and divorces
Convictions of felonies, misdemeanors, and sex crimes
Arrests and court records (Dockets, orders, decrees, judgments)
Incarceration records
Federal and state tax liens
Federal and civil judgments
Federal and state bankruptcies

How Far Back Can Employers See Criminal Records?

On the national level, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) determines how many years after the conviction employers may see all information related to the crime. The rule is – there is NO TIME LIMIT, if there was a conviction. Even if your felony was 35 years ago, this information can be accessed as part of an employment background check.

However, if there was a felony arrest ONLY, it can be reported for longer than seven years.

The good news is that on the state level, many states put a limit on how far back prospective employers can search someone’s criminal records. The following states restrict reporting information on any case older than SEVEN YEARS date of deposition, end of parole, or release from prison.

California, Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Texas, and Washington.

However, there are some salary limitations that can change this rule. In California, if the salary is over $125,000, an employer can look as far as 10 years. In Texas and Colorado, the 7 year limit does not apply if the salary is over $75,000. In Massachusetts Kansas, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York its $25,000 income exception, and in Washington its $20,000.

Will A Felony Show Up In A Different State?

You may wonder whether your felony will only show up in the state where it has been committed. Usually, the answer is “NO”. Any employer, in any US state can access full criminal records of other states. Typically, employers will look at the following:

-Based on the current address, they can access criminal records in this state.

– When they see all your other addresses, they typically run individual checks for each of those states, and get your records.

– They also do a Federal Criminal Record Check, which discloses any any federal crimes, or crimes committed on federal property.

– Finally, most companies also run additional Statewide, Nationwide, Sex Offender Registry, and Home Land Security searches, to ensure that the are hiring someone who is not on any of these lists.

The only way for your prospective boss to miss felony convictions from other states is if he only runs the basic County background check, and stops there. However, this is very rare.

Ban The Box Initiative

criminal records search restrictions

This is a policy that basically asks employers to remove the “criminal convictions” question from the job application. This gives someone with a felony a fair shot at presenting their qualifications and skills on the application as well as at the interview, BEFORE the company does a criminal background check. This greatly helps ex-cons to get hired, because prospective employers don’t immediately perceive them as criminals and reject them pretty much on the spot.

“Ban the box” has started back in 2009, and has since been implemented in 30 states across the US. They are:

Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland
Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin.

President Obama has actively supported and endorsed this initiative on the national government level, and directed all federal agencies to DELAY inquiries into applicant’s criminal records, until the final stages of the hiring process.

Ten states have gone even further. California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont have mandated private employers to remove conviction history questions from job applications.

Its important to be clear, that in these states employers CAN STILL RUN CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS and see your history. However, by they time they do this, you may have already convinced them that you are the perfect candidate for the job, and they will still want to hire you.

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