How Far Back Does a Criminal Background Check Go?

criminal background check

With an incredibly dynamic job market right now, many job seekers and employers are trying to better understand the pre-employment screening processes. One component of this screening is a criminal background check, a standard element that many prospective employees must go through. As a result, many may question how far do criminal background checks extend into a person’s history? It’s a valid question, especially if there are activities in your past that may make it more challenging to secure employment.

Before setting out on a mission to get a new job, it’s a great idea to understand criminal background checks, lookback period, and ban-the-box laws. Generally speaking, the lookback period for most criminal background checks is between seven and ten years. However, employment that requires deeper investigations may also have a lookback period that extends further into the past.

How are lookback periods determined?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) governs many aspects of pre-employment screening. However, this law does not include any stipulations on how many years an employer can review in the past. Therefore, there are no federal regulations that govern lookback periods. Despite this, many states have laws limiting how far back criminal background checks can extend.

Because the state usually determines lookback periods, you will want to verify the lookback period for the state where you seek employment. In these states, the lookback period is usually seven years. However, there are some exceptions (generally for jobs that meet a salary threshold or those that require specialized reviews, such as those working in healthcare, finance, and trucking).

Types of Background Checks

Another factor that may impact the lookback period is the type of background check required. There are two types, commonly referred to as Level 1 and Level 2. Unfortunately, there is no uniform definition for these two types of background checks. While Level 2 background checks are generally more in-depth, they usually follow the same lookback period, usually seven years.

Pre-employment criminal background checks are usually seven years, although some states set the lookback period at ten years. Additionally, some states do not limit the lookback period at all. And some laws are nuanced to include different lookback periods based on the type of conviction. These reasons demonstrate why it is so important to understand the state laws where you are located.

Federal law prohibits credit information older than 7 years except for bankruptcies. Bankruptcies can be reported for ten years. Usually, there are stricter requirements for jobs with higher salaries or those working in finance or real estate.

The type of conviction may also dictate how long it will be available to employers during a criminal background check. For example, some states allow employers to access felony convictions without a lookback period. This allowance would mean that a felony conviction would appear no matter how long ago the conviction occurred. Other states may allow misdemeanors and minor infractions to fall off of the criminal record after a certain amount of time. While the record is still there, the employer would not access the information or use it while making hiring decisions.

In addition to these stipulations, many states prohibit certain types of information from being used in making hiring decisions. For instance, federal law does not prohibit employers from using data regarding arrest records. Still, many states prohibit the use of this information if the arrest did not lead to a conviction. Pending arrest records may be used in making hiring decisions in some states, while non-pending arrests may not be used.

Comprehensive criminal background checks are often essential in making smart business and hiring decisions. These checks can minimize risk exposure for the company and ensure you hire the best possible candidates. While the lookback period is usually seven years, it is essential to check the laws in your state to understand any variations that may exist. It is also important to note that the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also protects applicants from discrimination in hiring.

It is important to check your local laws regarding criminal background checks to ensure that you follow those regulations and stay within compliance.

As you can see, the laws related to lookback periods for criminal background checks can become complex quickly. USAFact specializes in conducting these types of background checks for employers across the nation. Our knowledgeable team is well-versed in all state and local variations to the lookback period. To learn more about our services, contact USAFact today.

USAFact Global Screening Services provides comprehensive background and criminal checks for employers that comply with federal and local laws. By helping you eliminate high-risk applicants through tailored solutions, USAFact enables you to create a safe and productive work environment and a foundation for future success.