How Far Back Does a Criminal Background Check Go in North Carolina

By Michael Klazema on 10/9/2019

One of the most challenging facets to understand about background checks is how their regulatory limitations differ dramatically from state to state. For example, some states allow employers to consider arrest records as part of their employment decision-making process while others bar the use of arrest records entirely. Another major point of variation is in how far back a background check can go. This article will delve into North Carolina background check laws to shed light on specific requirements for background screenings in the state.

Regarding how far background checks can go, a common assumption is that a federal guideline dictates the answer. However, while the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) does institute a range of requirements that apply to the entire country, there is no federal statute that specifies how far back employers can look into a candidate’s criminal record.

The FCRA does put reporting limits on other types of background checks. A bankruptcy check can only go back ten years while civil suits or judgments can only be reported for seven years after they occur. These requirements apply to every state. At, when we prepare these types of background checks for our clients, we automatically exclude any information that falls outside of the allowable reporting period per the FCRA.

Some states have their own reporting requirements for criminal background checks. This limited reporting period—often referred to as a “lookback period”—bars employers in those states from considering any criminal convictions (felonies included) from before a certain date. The most common lookback period is seven years. States including California, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington enforce a seven-year lookback period.

The presence of lookback period laws in some states have caused many to believe that a seven-year lookback period is standard across the country for criminal history checks, but many states have no laws that limit how far back criminal history checks can look. North Carolina background check laws feature no lookback period requirement, so there is no law in North Carolina that would prevent an employer from looking at a candidate’s full criminal history.

A 10-year old felony conviction often won’t pose the same obstacle to employment as a felony conviction that happened six months ago. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidance instructing employers to weigh the relevance of convictions on a case-by-case basis. Employers are encouraged to look not just at the fact that a candidate has a criminal conviction but also how much time has passed since the conviction, whether their record has been clean since, and other factors. Many employers won’t hold an older conviction against a candidate if there is reasonable evidence to suggest that the person has worked hard to get their life back on track.

North Carolina’s lack of a lookback period doesn’t mean that every conviction can be shown on a criminal background check. If an individual has gone through the process of expungement for a criminal conviction, that conviction should no longer appear on their background check.

Do you have more questions about North Carolina background check laws? Contact for further support

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