Is a misdemeanor on your criminal record

Yes. A misdemeanor is defined as a minor wrongdoing or crime, but it is still a crime. As such, it is still a part of your criminal record just like a felony conviction would be. If you are asked on a job application whether you have been convicted of a crime, and you have a misdemeanor on your record, the honest answer is yes.

Misdemeanor offenses are not as serious under the law as felony offenses, which means they involve less severe punishments. In the United States, misdemeanor offenses typically result in punishments such as probation, community service, monetary fines, and brief or part-time incarceration.

In most United States jurisdictions, the maximum punishment for a misdemeanor offense is 12 months incarceration, which is usually served at local city or county jails rather than at higher-security prisons.

Misdemeanor offenses stay on your criminal record for life unless you successfully petition the court for those records to be expunged or sealed.

How long is a misdemeanor on your record?

A misdemeanor stays on your record for life unless you successfully petition for expungement. There is no preset “expiration date” for misdemeanor crimes. Even though misdemeanor offenses are less serious than felonies, they are still serious breaches in the eyes of the law.

How long does it take a misdemeanor to go away?

Legally speaking, a misdemeanor is on your record for life. However, in some cases, background checks will only go back a certain number of years. For instance, in Texas, there is a “seven-year rule” in place. Generally, this rule bars background check companies from reporting any criminal convictions that are more than seven years old. The rule does not apply for positions with annual salaries of $75,000 or higher. If you are applying for a $45,000 job in Texas and your lone misdemeanor conviction is 20 years old, the offense shouldn’t show up on your background check report.

In addition to Texas, the states with seven-year rules on the books for background checks are California, Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, and Washington. In these states, the seven-year rule applies to all criminal history, not just misdemeanors.

States may have laws limiting the reporting of convictions, though they all do it a bit differently. In Texas, the seven-year timeline starts at the date of disposition. In other situations, the clock might start with the end of a prison sentence or the conclusion of a parole term. Different states also have different income exceptions.

Do misdemeanors show up on a background check?

In most cases, the answer to this question is yes. Misdemeanors are considered a part of any criminal record. Therefore, if an employer runs a criminal background check on you and your record includes a misdemeanor offense, that offense is likely to show up on the check.

With that said, the answer also depends on the type of background check that the employer is running. Because misdemeanor offenses are often handled in county court, the records are stored at the county level. If an employer conducts a state or multi-jurisdictional background check, but skips the county-level check, there is no guarantee that your misdemeanor offense will be included in the report.

Similarly, if you are seeking a job outside of the county where you were convicted of a misdemeanor offense, the offense might not show up on the associated background check report.

There are no guarantees in either of these situations that your misdemeanor won’t show up on your background check. County courts often report to state repositories, which means that your record may be stored at the state level. Employers will sometimes use address histories to track where candidates have lived in the past. They use this information to order county criminal history checks in each area of residence for a more thorough view of a person’s past.

In any case, you shouldn’t assume that prospective employers won’t discover a misdemeanor offense. If asked on a job application whether you have been convicted of a crime, you should be honest. If you live in an area in which ban-the-box legislation prevents employers from asking about past criminal activity, it is perfectly fair and reasonable for you to withhold that information.

Can you get a misdemeanor expunged?

Yes. While felony convictions are often very difficult to expunge (if expungement is permitted at all), misdemeanor expungement is relatively common. Your chances of getting your record expunged will vary depending on many factors, including your state of residence, the amount of time since the conviction, the misdemeanor you are trying to expunge, and whether you have any other criminal activity on your record.

The more time that has passed since your conviction, the better your chances at expungement. Your odds will also skyrocket if your misdemeanor is the only criminal charge on your record.

While employers will generally be more likely to hire a candidate with a misdemeanor than they would be to hire a convicted felon, a misdemeanor can still bar you from certain types of jobs. If you feel like you are losing out on job opportunities because of a misdemeanor conviction, expungement is a good path to pursue.

To pursue expungement, you should research the laws in your state to determine whether your conviction is eligible in the first place. If it is, you will likely want to consult with an attorney. A legal professional can help you navigate the petitioning process and argue your case in front of the court. We have created a page to get you started with the research on expungement options.

If a court grants your request and your record is expunged, then the misdemeanor charge is legally discharged. If questions about criminal history come up on applications, you can honestly say that you have never been convicted of a crime. The misdemeanor should no longer show up on background check reports and cannot legally be used as grounds to disqualify you from employment consideration.

Can't find the answer to your question about misdemeanors?

If you are trying to understand what’s the difference between a civil infraction, a misdemeanor, and a felony, or you have other queries about misdemeanors and background checks, please read our article: Misdemeanors and Background Checks: What You Need to Know →