How Far Back Do Criminal Background Checks Go?

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Companies conducting background checks on their current employees or candidates may wonder how far back do criminal background checks go into someone’s records. The answer to this depends on a few factors, including any industry regulations at play, the type of salary they will earn, as well as the state your company operates. Usually, one of these pre-employment screenings would only cover seven years of criminal history and related court records.

Factors that Affect the Amount of Time a Criminal Background Check Takes

As mentioned before, the type of search being conducted can affect the amount of time covered on an employee background check. Local, state, and federal law, as well as industry regulations, also influence the period covered on certain background check types.

Except for jurisdictions with fair-hiring or ban-the-box laws in place that limit the amount of time for disclosure, most criminal conviction records have an indefinite period of reporting. While many misdemeanor records get reported for the previous seven years, many local and state courts have older criminal histories easily accessible if one wants to go the extra step of searching. There is no restriction on using this information, though juvenile court records, and other sealed histories, are not usually seen on criminal background checks.

Below are average time frames for how far back an employee criminal background check could go:

  • Felony Records:

    Depending upon where an employee lives or works, as well as governmental requirements, felony convictions are indefinitely reported unless restricted otherwise.

  • Minor Crimes and Misdemeanor Reporting:

    Much like felonies, these are reported indefinitely, but factors like jurisdiction, the location of the company, or where the candidate lives, can impose time limits.

  • Motor Vehicle History:

    Depending upon the state, these can reveal three to ten years worth of history

  • Professional Licensing Records:

    Again, lifetime tracing of records is possible, including long-ago suspensions.

  • Employee Background Checks:

    Depending on the jurisdiction and where the employee works or resides, criminal history searches typically cover seven years. This span includes court records, though one could go back further if compliance laws require it or the seriousness of a committed crime requires lengthier reporting.

Regulations and Restrictions That Affect How Far Back a Background Check Goes

No matter what type of background check your company chooses to utilize, it’s critical that your HR team remains in compliance with federal regulations, as well as any local laws when using this information for hiring decisions. Using a third-party background check provider like Pre-employ can help eliminate the risk of failure to comply and can help to streamline your workflow to get talent onboarded more efficiently.

FCRA and Other Regulations

Under the FCRA guidelines, specific rules surround how far back you can conduct a background check into employee history. It’s important to understand that these practices will affect what a consumer reporting agency (CRA) can report to you, and what details will not show up, including:

  • Arrest records, as well as suits and judgments in civil courts that are past the 7-year mark
  • Any collections older than seven years from the report date 
  • Tax liens that were paid more than seven years past the report date
  • Bankruptcies that are past the 10-year threshold
  • Adverse data besides convictions that surpass the 7-year limit

Any criminal background check information is also subject to local and state law where an employee or candidate may live or work. These factors can add further restrictions on how far back retrieved information can go on their background checks. This is why the FCRA-compliant employee background screenings by Pre-employ are convenient because we keep up-to-date on these rules for you to avoid any errors or non-compliance issues.

How Far Back Does an Employer Need to Research?

This question has a highly subjective answer. How far into an employee’s past one needs to research will depend on a few key variables, including:

  • Type of job position
  • Population type they will work with (public, children, financial)
  • The salary they will make
  • Federal, state, local, and other jurisdictional regulations

If an employee asks you how far back do criminal background checks go, be honest with them. Explain why you might need more than seven years’ worth of history, and give them an opportunity to explain anything that might be found. Many of us have made mistakes in our lifetime, and sometimes, actions we took twenty years ago would have no bearing on who we are or our work habits today.

Compliant Employee Criminal Background Checks Made Simple

As a premium criminal background checking service, Pre-employ screenings show our dedication to making this process simple and straightforward without sacrificing reliability or precious time waiting on results. Our technologically advanced software suite merges automation and intuitive design seamlessly with your existing hiring systems. Utilize criminal record reporting that identifies potential safety risks to your company through our streamlined pre-employment screening processes. Enjoy a solution that helps eliminate bottlenecks in your workflow while helping you hold onto top talent in a competitive market place.

Pre-employ supports the criminal background checking needs of thousands of organizations performing tens of thousands of operations daily. Our employee background services provide employers access to the vital criminal information they need to make timely and informed hiring decisions. 

While there are numerous alternatives for obtaining access to such data, only Pre-employ offers an unwavering focus on superior customer support and excellent applicant experiences backed by a 100% US-based service and support team. 

Request a quote today to learn more about our employment screening solutions.