States Levels for Criminal Background Checks

Criminal background checks

Background checks are a standard part of the modern-day hiring process. According to the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, 96% of today’s companies conduct background investigations on at least some of their employees. For a good reason – employers experience many benefits when conducting comprehensive background checks, such as:

  • Reducing the risk of illegal activity in the workplace since criminal background checks can flag crimes relevant to the current open positions. For instance, if someone were convicted of fraud or cybercrime, you likely wouldn’t trust them to handle your company’s finances.
  • Reducing the risk of lawsuits related to the employer failing to maintain a safe workplace. If employers are negligent in hiring and harm any other employee, your business can be at risk.
  • Reducing the risk of credential fraud. Since criminal background checks often also verify an individual’s identity, you can reduce the risk of hiring someone unqualified for the position.

Hiring the wrong person can have a detrimental effect on your business. Occupational fraud reduces a typical organization’s annual revenue by about 5% every year. Over 60% of all job applications are stretched in some way to shine a more positive light on their performance. These statistics demonstrate why background checks have become a crucial part of the hiring process for most companies.

Differentiating Between Level 1 and Level 2 Background Checks

But conducting background checks can become complex quickly. Many different federal regulations, state laws, and local codes may come into play. Complying with all relevant regulations is difficult. It is becoming more common in the background screening industry to hear the terms Level 1 and Level 2 used to describe different background screenings. These terms distinguish different types of background checks (which may be necessary based on the unique facts of any pre-employment information needs).

The use of terms like this will likely increase as background checks become more common and there are different levels of need related to one’s information. While the terms Level 1 and Level 2 are used in many places across the country, there is no uniform definition. Commonly, it is understood that each entails the following:

  • Level 1: This term generally applies to state-only name-based and employment history checks.
  • Level 2: This term applies to a state and national fingerprint-based check, including criminal history.

What States Separate Criminal Background Checks into Level 1 and Level 2?

Technically, Florida is the only state in the nation to have defined level 1 and level 2 background checks. It is easy to see that the common understanding of both Level 1 and Level 2 background checks closely mirrors the statutory language defining these background checks, which comes from Chapter 435.03, Florida Statutes and states:

  • Level 1: a state-only name-based check
  • Level 2: a state and national fingerprint-based check and consideration of disqualifying offenses apply to those employees designated by law as holding positions of responsibility or trust. Section 435.04 mandates that Level 2 background security investigations be conducted on employees, defined as individuals required by law to be fingerprinted under Chapter 435.

Even though Florida is the only state with the distinction of having formal and legal definitions for these terms, you may encounter them in many other states. While the definitions provided are the common interpretation of Level 1 and Level 2 criminal background checks, it is always best to clarify the meaning if you hear the term anywhere other than Florida.

Significant differentiation between Level 1 and Level 2 criminal background checks is including all national data in the criminal background check. Since there is no federal limit on how far an employer may go back with a criminal background check, there is always the question of what will show up with a Level 2 background check.

Commonly, these searches only include data for the state’s recognized lookback period. In most states, there are no limits, although some states allow for ten years, and still, others do not put a limit on the lookback period at all. When a limit is present, it is for all crimes, so there are no specific felonies that will be available. These variances from state to state illustrate why it is important to understand the precise regulations and laws within your state. It is important to check your local laws regarding background checks to ensure that you remain in compliance.

No matter what level of criminal background check you need, it is clearly a process that can become confusing. Adhering to the many different regulations can be a tremendous challenge. USAFact specializes in these types of background checks. Contact USAFact today to learn more about how our experts can enhance your pre-employment screening process.

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.