Criminal background checks are a standard part of employment screening. However, the process for conducting these checks is far from uniform. It can depend upon a variety of factors, such as the type of background check you require, the location in which you operate, and where the candidate is located.
Applicants with a criminal charge in their background frequently want to know how far back into their past these checks go, and the answer is that it depends on multiple factors.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which governs many of the regulations related to background checks and employment inquiries, does not put a limit on how far back an employer can look when searching for criminal information. Even if the conviction was decades ago, they could legally access this information. In the majority of the country, the federal regulation allows no time limit for background checks.
Despite this, most states have laws in place to restrict access past seven years. These states include: California, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New York, Texas, and Washington.
However, some states have special exceptions to these regulations. An overview of these exceptions include:
- California: In general, the limit is seven years.
- For positions with a salary over $125,000, employers can go back ten years.
- Fully granted pardons or arrests not leading to conviction cannot be reported.
- Marijuana misdemeanors can only be reported for two years from the disposition date. Employers are prohibited from seeking or considering this information when making employment decisions.
- Transportation Networks allow consumer reporting agencies to report convictions beyond seven years when preparing reports for Transportation networks. These users can see convictions for all California candidates no matter when they occurred. Pending criminal cases are not reportable.
- Colorado: The limit is seven years unless the salary is equal to or greater than $75,000.
- DC: The limit is ten years for reporting criminal convictions.
- Hawaii: The limit is seven years for felonies but only five years for misdemeanors or infractions.
- Kansas: The limit is seven years unless the salary is equal to or greater than $20,000.
- Kentucky: Can only report convictions with no time restriction.
- Maryland: The limit is seven years, unless:
- The anticipated salary will be equal to or greater than $20,000.
- Transportation Networks can search the entire adult history for candidates.
- Massachusetts: The limit is seven years for felony and three years for misdemeanors unless the salary is equal to or greater than $20,000.
- Montana: The limit is seven years for felony and three years for misdemeanors unless the salary is equal to or greater than $20,000.
- New Hampshire: The limit is seven years unless the salary is equal to or greater than $20,000.
- New Mexico: The limit is seven years unless the salary is equal to or greater than $20,000. Any offenses not leading to a conviction may not be reported.
- New York: The limit is seven years unless the salary is equal to or greater than $25,000.
- Texas: The limit is seven years unless the salary is equal to or greater than $75,000.
- Washington: The limit is seven years unless the salary is equal to or greater than $20,000.
While this overview provides information about state policies, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that additional regulations and information may be treated differently depending upon the position. For instance, if a position requires frequent driving, the background check may permit any driving-related felonies or misdemeanors.
And while this information is great for state requirements related to criminal background checks, it’s also a good idea to research whether there are any local regulations or laws related to criminal records and employment. Some municipalities have considered laws, such as Ban the Box or salary information bans, to prohibit employers from accessing some information while considering candidates.
The laws related to criminal background checks and employment can become convoluted quickly. USAFact specializes in conducting these types of background checks for employers across the nation. Our experts can quickly identify all applicable regulations and ensure that you are only receiving valid information that can be legally accessed.