How far back do criminal history checks go? If you have a criminal conviction on your record, you might be wondering how likely it is that conviction will impact your employment chances. The recency of the conviction matters: most employers will consider criminal history based on how relevant it is to the job at hand, how long ago it occurred, and whether there have been any repeat offenses since. An older conviction is not only less likely to influence a hiring manager’s decision but also less likely to appear on a background check at all.
The answer to, “How far back do criminal history checks go?” will vary based on location. States have different laws that regulate the information background check companies are allowed to include on their criminal history reports. In many states, background check providers cannot share any criminal history information (charge or conviction, misdemeanor or felony) that is older than seven years. In some states, the limit is extended to 10 years. In most states, there is a law limiting the reporting of this information. At some point, in other words, a criminal conviction should stop having an impact on your employment chances.
It is important to note that there is a difference between a conviction not showing up on a background check and it no longer existing. Just because your conviction is more than ten years does not mean employers will not be able to find it ever again. The conviction is still technically part of your record, which means it can still be found—whether by using the internet or other methods. Since the conviction still exists, you are also still compelled to answer “Yes” if asked whether you have ever been convicted of a crime on a job application.
To see whether your conviction still shows up on a background check, try running a self-check through backgroundchecks.com. If it proves your conviction is old enough to have passed beyond your state’s seven- or ten-year reporting restriction, it might be worth considering expungement. While some crimes cannot be expunged—including felonies—most misdemeanor offenses are eligible as long as 1) a certain amount of time has passed since the crime and 2) you don’t have any repeat offenses. If you decide to opt for expungement, backgroundchecks.com has a service—called MyClearStart—that can help.