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Warning: How Far Back Do Background Checks Go?

  
  
  

how far back do background checks goHow many of you assume that when you order background checks that your screening partner provides a search as far back as they possibly can?   I am guessing many of you.

It would never cross our mind to ask how far back do background checks go.  Common sense says forever.

However, common sense does not rule the background screening industry and your searches are probably limited to 7 years.  Yep, you screen a 43 year old applicant and the background screening firm will check back 7 years or to when he was 36.  Do you care what he did from 18-35?

If you don’t, you should.   A criminologist will confirm that most crimes are committed by offenders aged 18-40, so in our example we have excluded more than 18 years of prime crime committing years. 

Seem crazy?  Well, I agree.  I have never understood the background screening industry’s adoption of such a limited search.  The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act does not limit reporting of convictions to 7 years.  It does restrict the reporting of non-convictions unless the salary exceeds $75K.

And yes, there are a handful of states that have restrictions on how far back a criminal conviction record can be reported if it is for employment purposes.  However, most of the states remove the limitation if the salary of the position exceeds $20K- $25K per year. 

The reality is most states do not have any restrictions on reporting criminal convictions and there are not restrictions for reporting crimes committed by volunteers.

So do you want to limit your searches to 7 years and expose your organization to the risk of hiring a violent offender?  Of course you don’t.  The truth is you have probably never been told your background screening reports have been limited to 7 years.

So how far back do background checks go at Safe Hiring Solutions?  The simple answer is as far as we can go.    Man, does that sound like an answer from an attorney!

The depth of the search is impacted by two things:

  1. How far back the court records go; and/or
  2. How far back a state allows reporting of criminal convictions for employment purposes.

We do not charge additional fees to search back as far as the court records go, which in some states can be more than 25 years.  The safety and security of your organization should not be limited to 7 years.

If you are looking for a screening partner that does background checks correctly then contact us today for a FREE evaluation and proposal.

Comments

If a persons criminal record is older than 10 years, do you honestly think there is a greater chance for that person to commit another crime now or someone who has never committed a crime to commit a first? I am willing to bet that is statistically unlikely for either. If you hire a 41 year old ex-felon and a 20 year old who has no criminal record, according this site, the 20 year old has a 100% higher of a chance to commit a crime than the 40 year old. So what's the need to go back that far?
Posted @ Friday, February 03, 2012 2:38 PM by Nunya Concern
thank god California only goes back 7 yrs regardless of pay....I had a drug felony from 97 and it no longer comes up.
Posted @ Saturday, March 31, 2012 10:11 PM by ripsaa
Nunya, you are correct. Numerous studies have proven that a convicted felon who has not committed another crime within 5 years is LESS likely to commit a crime than a person without a criminal record. Companies don't care about this though. They only care about getting sued. Juries have proven that they view a convicted criminal as a second-class citizen and they will award an employee large sums of money out of an employer's pocket for the crime of another employee. The current system is wrong and encourages recidivism. There is a huge industry around background checks and they have powerful lobbyists.
Posted @ Monday, April 02, 2012 2:10 PM by aaron
My mother committed suicide when I was 22 and I spent the next 15 years afterward drunk, high on coke and meth, and in and out of county jails and state prison. After almost dying when I rolled my truck down a hill, I finally decided enough was enough and I started re-inventing myself. 
 
Now, I'm married (to one of my mother's former students ironically enough), we have an 8 month old beatiful baby boy, I've been sober for 3 years, I just graduated with a BS in Audio Production, and I can NOT get a job anywhere.  
 
The legal system says we're innocent until proven guilty and that's not ever the truth. They tell us to change and become productive members of society while society tells us that we're not worth the risk and want us to just go away.  
 
The system is broken. Badly. And until the system is fixed and works the way it should, the number of years back a background check goes doesn't mean anything whatsoever. Society is less forgiving than the courts are and THAT is why the prisons and jails are overflowing with criminals AND a staggering amount of people that are actually innocent of ever committing a single crime in their entire lives.  
 
Background checks do nothing more than encourage and promote society's prejudice and fear. And they keep those of us who have taken the time, and put forth the years of effort to be better than we were in the past, from ever reaching our full potential and reaping the deserved rewards of all our hard work and dedication to ourselves, our families, and . . . society.
Posted @ Friday, June 01, 2012 4:00 PM by Todd
This is one of the major factors that limit my ability to get work. My fault - and I don't argue it. If I was an employer, I wouldn't take the chance of being sued, etc. either. Even accidents can happen. If the employee is an ex-felon it doesn't matter if it's an accident or not. Your customers will use that against your company. Not so much if the employee doesn't have a past. 
 
I have a criminal past myself, from 37 years ago. It still limits my ability to get a job. Of course I always answer yes to the question - because I want to be truthful. I have been told to answer no because it was 37 years ago (state of California has a 7 year law, but I can't. Just don't feel right when I know the truth. But then again, I'm tired of not getting work because of it. Most hiring managers will not even look further at an applicant once they see that.
Posted @ Monday, June 18, 2012 8:10 PM by Sid
I am a 28 year old white female living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was convicted of 3 non violent misdemeanors, two of which were in the same case and those two I was found guilty by a jury trial based on circumstancial evidence, which was only the testimony of my ex boyfriend who I was living with which is how I got arrested in the first place. I did a little jail time and it's been over a year since I've been done with it all, but I STILL cannot find a job! There are extenuating circumstances for each person and I believe that after a person has paid his/her "debt to society", whether it was in the form of jail time, a fine, community service, that once that "debt" is paid, the "offender" should no longer by marked with the scarlet letter of a criminal record, UNLESS of course the crime was a felony or a VIOLENT misdemeanor, such as sex offenses, child/elder crimes, etc. I have already been offered one job but the offer was cancelled due to the company not accepting my background, which did not relate to the job as a Customer Service rep at a phone company AT ALL!
Posted @ Wednesday, June 20, 2012 11:21 AM by Sarah
WOW Mike, you are truly an idiot. The fact of the matter is that there are statutes of limitations on just how far back an employer can go on criminal background(not necessarily all states). An example of this is in California which is 11 years. There has also been legislation limiting, and in some cases, completely doing away with credit checks on potential employees. 
 
As to your statement about all those years of criminal activity being missed, really, are you that ignorant? The fact is that many, many criminal backgrounds can be issues as simple as driving on a suspended license or many other misdemeanor convictions that have nothing to do with the job. According to your statement that should determine the actions throughout the rest of my life my life. That is just stupid. Who of us hasn’t made some kind of mistake throughout our lives? To believe that something that I did thirty years ago has anything to do with today is just absurd. 
 
You sound like a salesman trying to sell a background check service to me. 
 
Posted @ Tuesday, September 11, 2012 1:54 PM by Mike
All I can say is... if someone commits a crime, doing no harm to others ( use of drugs, possession... being "set up" to sell to a narc) then it should be expunged upon fulfillment of that crime's punishment. PERIOD. I have paid and paid a price over and over again, not being able to get a decent job because of how Florida is... BIASED. PREJUDICED. I am white, I am single, I am well spoken and have worked very hard.., but for 'wayward' employers, that robbed their own companies, that were outwardly rude, crude, obnixious, no breaks, worked you like a dog, like a slave... and you had tot take it because you knew you would not get another job elsewhere. My convictions were back in 97-98... and here we are, 2013. Rick Scott and other Republicans have ruined the chances for people like me in this state, my only state I know of to live, I can not move, this is my home... and I can only hope some day we all unite and change the laws. Ten years should be plenty. Twelve even... and Fourteen plus, should more then enough to consider me as an employee for a job that pays more then ten bucks an hour. PERIOD.
Posted @ Friday, January 18, 2013 9:41 PM by FLoridaIsAssBackwards
Two times in my life I've been arrested. Both times, by a racist comment who smiled and made a racist comment. 
 
Then wrote whatever they wanted on the police report. 
 
THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING I CAN DO TO CHANGE THE POLICE REPORT TO THE FACTS, OR GET IT EXPUNGED. 
 
And even though it happened 10 years ago some employers bring it up and it's forcing me to work for 40 grand a year, instead of 80 grand a year. 
 
ALL BECAUSE SOME RACIST COP, ASKED ME IF I HAD BEEN DRINKING. AND I SAID YES. 
 
THEN HE MADE A RACIST COMMENT, AND WHEN WE WALKED IN THE WHAT SEEMED TO BE A RODEO CONVENTION OF A POLICE DISTRICT, HE GOES "LOOK WHAT I GOT ME!" 
 
ANd hoots and hollars, and yea we got us a muzzie comments. 
 
AND AGAIN, NO COURT OR EMPLOYER CARES ABOUT ANY OF THAT. IT SHOWS UP, AND THEY WONT' HIRE ME. 
 
WHAT A SAD SAD SAD COUNTRY WE LIVE IN.
Posted @ Wednesday, February 06, 2013 10:55 AM by chris
Fuck you
Posted @ Thursday, February 07, 2013 6:02 PM by sue mcurass
the worst part is when you really hit it off with the manager, you are more than qualified to perform the job above expected measures and then the background check comes back and then you become ineligible, forthcoming and honest the manager knows about your past and willing to look past it and give you a chance and then DENIED! If you cant make a decent wage you cant survive like a "productive member of society" prison and the bullshit legal system is a corrupted sick beast. once your in your pretty much destined to struggle or to steal
Posted @ Saturday, March 23, 2013 3:21 PM by mike
i went to prison for illegal possession of firearm..did only 8 months...in state prison, since i went to stat prison i can not espunge my record...america is allowed to have gun if u have your papers, just because i didnt register my gun i am now a ex convict..and lost my job with dish newtork.after working for them for 4 years and having thier trust in all them years..but a fellow employee of mines did that same work..he also had a background way more outragous then mines..attempted murder with assualt weapon..his crimes goes way back farther then ten years ago..yet he passed the background check and can keep his job! what a fuck up society we live in.. 
Posted @ Monday, April 15, 2013 8:38 PM by van
I am a convicted felon non violent the stupid decision I made 14 years ago is still hindering me for employment. I did my time, paid my restitution, got saved, put 4 children through school 3 of which are in college, I went back to school twice and graduated both times, and am helping to raise my granddaughter. I have gotten married and have been an upstanding citizen for the past 14 years. This is the only offense on my record and I cannot get a job right now. I am so tired of walking around with this scarlett letter on my back because of a dumb decision I made 14 years ago. The media and businesses like this one put so much fear in society. We are not all hoodlums destined for a life of crime, I am a good person who did a bad thing and learned my lesson. Why won't society forgive me. I am not violent, love children, help the elderly, volunteer my time to at risk youth but still cannot get a decent job.
Posted @ Tuesday, May 14, 2013 8:17 AM by Karen
Man, I have the same Scarlet Letter for 9 Years ago. Cant find a decent place to live, work or anything. What can we do?! Something really needs to change. It's so messed up.
Posted @ Tuesday, June 04, 2013 4:36 PM by Nate
Well Karen and Nate I carry that same scarlet letter. My mistake was 33 years ago when I was 14 years old. And before you say it - it was an A felony committed a year later after the law changed for minors. I am a Minister, have a doctorate level degree, and do a lot of volunteer work; unfortunately, I cannot find a job anywhere. I make it through all the levels and then the criminal history. On one job I complete 7 interviews it is more frustrating. I even have a certificate of rehabilitation from New York but no one cares. I have raised four children alone, and the third child goes off to college in August. I just don't know what I am going to pay the bills so that I can finish raising the last child. My life is truly in God's hands.
Posted @ Thursday, June 06, 2013 12:34 PM by Karen
Look i know its hard i to have a record from ten years ago one thing that i have learned you cant give up the person i was is not the man i am today you might get ten no's but its going to be someone that says yes just keep your faith and pray remember god only answers if you seek him
Posted @ Thursday, June 13, 2013 1:02 PM by fred thomas
I have a felony from 7 years ago this July. I hear that most employers only look back 7 yrs, so I am going job hunting in July and answering NO to the felony! I am a good person and have been wanting a job that pays and has benefits that I can be happy at. I am raising my 8 yr old daughter alone as a young single dad. Society neeeds a forgiveness program. I completed years of house arrest and probation years ago. That says alot right there! Success rates for completion are so low. I just want a job at Truly Nolen or something that will half take care of me. When I was just 19 I got a DUI. Im now 29 this year. I wonder how long that shows up for employers. If anyone has any input on info Id appreciate. Thanks
Posted @ Friday, June 21, 2013 7:38 PM by Nathan
Sorry Nolan that 7 year statue of limitations is almost obsolete now. Most employers have a blanket statement, and if they do and you answer no it is grounds for dismissal. I wish you the best in your job search though, but know that it is hard.
Posted @ Friday, June 21, 2013 7:50 PM by Kmaloy
It seems that if you had been fired its hard to overcome that problem add to that a felony 10 years ago. Add a DUI 5 years ago & default for a home loan 3 years ago and being 56 is no help Will anyone hire me? Please Pray 4 me I need it! I want a job will take $12.00 per hour even!
Posted @ Saturday, June 22, 2013 11:33 PM by teddy
Wow, I don't feel so alone anymore. Felony Drug conviction for LSD possession when I was 18 in 1974. Live in Alabama and have been tortured for years when applying for a job. No employer cares what the arrest was for or how long ago, just "have you ever been convicted of a felony?" Yes? Sorry, your not who were looking for. What a country. 
 
Posted @ Monday, July 15, 2013 2:19 PM by RG
I'm 53, have a felony drug conviction from 1982. I have done refinery work which required me to obtain a TWIC card which allows me total unsupervised access in a refinery. I had to pass a Dept of Homeland Security/US Coast Guard and FBI background check to get it. However, companies still refused to hire me for a conviction that is 32 years old? Talk about a double standard. Thankfully I found a company that took a chance. They say the purpose of prison is to rehabilitate, but once someone does, society refuses to acknowledge it. SMH.
Posted @ Friday, August 30, 2013 2:29 PM by Mike
So what about applications that ask if you were convicted within the last 7 or 10 years? Mine was 11 years ago, so it is not a lie to answer no. Should I have to worry that they are checking back further then that? I have even asked someone in HR law if I should volunteer this information & was told NO by this person because even though it is easy for it to come up on the states court website, that isn't the way it is most likely being checked. I just know I have a chance for a VERY good union job & want my past to be just that, my past. My wife & son deserve better then my paying for this daily the rest of my life.
Posted @ Wednesday, September 18, 2013 1:14 PM by Brett
I do not know if it varies by state but here in Arizona almost all applications ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime. 
 
I got a DUI six years ago as a 19 year old, the only other thing on my record is driving on a suspended license, which I got five years ago. The reason for that one was that my license was suspended from the DUI. The thing is, probation required that I had a job, and I very much needed that job to pay for my probation fees, and the hundreds of dollars in classes i was required to take. 
 
I live in AZ now, but all of this happened in Texas. 
 
I mean, am I really going to pay for a mistake I made as a dumb and irresponsible teenager for the rest of my life? 
 
There are three people for every one job opening in this country, no one is going to hire someone with a record when they don't have to. 
 
If I mark yes, my application is used as toiler paper. If I lie and mark no then get the job I will be fired anyways. 
 
I can't get it expunged from my record since I do not have the money/job. Yet, I also can't get a job because something is on my record. 
 
There should be limits on how far companies can look back, specifically on non violent/non fraudulent/non theft misdemeanor offenses. I took responsibility for my actions and served the punishment given to me. Am I to be relegated to living with my mom for the rest of my life because of one very stupid mistake years ago? Ironic enough, now that I am an adult I don't even enjoy drinking anymore. I don't even remember the last time I had a drink. 
 
Oh, but site says that once a criminal, always a criminal. 
 
I wasn't a habitual drunk driver, either. I can say that I only ever driven drunk twice and one of those times I got caught. Yet, there are people, like my asshole father, who have driven drunk eight million times and never got caught. I am willing to bet that almost everyone has driven a little too buzzed before...Yet, because I got caught I am viewed as a leper. 
 
We are creating a permanent underclass in this country by treating one time offenders or those with records because of substance abuse problems the same as violent and sexual offenders. We lock them all up together, and when the non-violent/sexual offender gets out, they can't get a friggin job at a supermarket and we wonder why recidivism rates are so high? We punish instead of rehabilitate and then when we have served our punishment, we are punished for the mere fact that we ever got punished in the past.  
 
Then, these background check places and private prisons make billions off of our misery. They spend millions on lobbying to make sure that no laws are ever passed which could help us "criminals" out since it may effect their bottom line. 
 
Not a single big bank executive or corporate elite or wall street billionaire has been arrested for ruining our economy. Now, because of the economy created after the crash, people with no records can't even get work, people with records don't even have a chance. As for the guys who crashed our economy...Well, they're richer than ever, while we all fight for crumbs.  
 
Then, god forbid if we need any time of financial assistance. We will be labeled moochers and lazy,and a cost to society while at the same time already obscenely wealthy get richer from tax loopholes and handouts and corporate welfare. If we ever try to take it away, they threaten to lay off workers or divert your attention to poor family of four who require food stamps just to put a fucking meal on the god damn table.
Posted @ Sunday, September 29, 2013 4:03 AM by Ryan
Ryan, I have been looking at your comment for the last few days, and what is most clear from your response is your frustration. Your frustration whether others would consider it valid or not is irrelevant, for to you it is. Unfortunately, this is the way that our society is. You are right - you will continue to be held accountable for what you did, and in spite of the fact that our legal system was built so that individuals can pay their debt to society, this is not the reality of what we are living in. However, I want to encourage you to not to let it stop you from making the best of your life for you are still quite young and still have a long life ahead of you. I am telling you this because I made the decision a long time ago not to let my mistake to hinder me for the rest of my life. While I would like to say to you that it does get easier, I am afraid that it does not. I have watch it over the years get harder and harder to obtain a job. In the beginning I was able to get a job by avoiding the applications that have blanket questions that ask "if you ever have committed a felony"; however, those are no longer available. The blame on that can be placed on those whom have never rehabilitated and returned to a life of crime. I have to chosen to think of it this way, while others may define me by my past, I alone define myself by whom I have become, and I alone dictate my future. Search within yourself and look at what you can provide to others. The truth is that while you may not be able to work for someone else, you can take control of your life and work for yourself. I encourage you to not give up looking for a job but, also consider working for yourself. I have been living with this stigma for over 33 years. I am now a grandmother with children who have not made the same mistakes that I have, and I have my own business helping others avoid making the same mistakes that I did. I do have a great deal of education (a doctorate degree in fact) it did little to help me in obtaining employment. While I will never be able to fulfill my dream of being a college professor, I took the next best step and still do teach but for my own company. I encourage you Ryan to find your own way, and know that while many doors may be closing before you now, those are doors created by others. It is time for you to create your own doors, and they will start with you asking the question what service can I provide for others. After all, hundreds of years ago people did not find employment by working for others, we provided for themselves by provided for themselves by providing a service to others. By the way, I am one of those rehabilitated (violent) offenders, who just like you deserved a second chance. When society did not offer it, I had no choice but to give it to myself. I wish you the best Ryan, and I encourage you to not get bitter. The best way to get over this challenge is to prove them wrong. Make the best of your life because you still have a lot to offer. Use that frustration to overcome.
Posted @ Tuesday, October 01, 2013 1:32 PM by KarenM
Thanks you Karen. I needed to hear every word of your comment. I was convicted 12 years ago of armed robbery- pharmacies. I turned my life around in prison, was in for 9 years. I just completed the Bachelors degree I started while I was in. I have been out of prison almost 4 years. No employer will touch me here in Milwaukee. I have been contemplating trying to start some kind of business for myself. What you said about people having to provide for themselves and offering services to others resonates with me. Giving up is simply not an option. You have changed someone's life with your one post. Thank you.
Posted @ Wednesday, October 09, 2013 8:06 AM by Mikki
Hello Mikki 
 
Thank you. I am glad that I was able to help. KarenM
Posted @ Wednesday, October 09, 2013 9:49 AM by Karen
Reading this has given me a glimmer of hope, in regards to a job I can survive off of. I am a 25 year old single mother of 2 beautiful boys. In 2006 I was freshly 18 and had a boyfriend at the time making money the best way he knew how. Selling drugs, he wasn't any kind of kingpin or anything just doing what he knew how to get by. So he gets busted and I was there. I didn't say everything was his and he didn't say it wasn't mine. So I got in trouble too. Here I am 7 years later still struggling to get by. I don't collect any kind of social services or anything. I just want a decent job. I cant even get a job at the damn mall. My conviction is felony possession of cocaine with intent to sell. From my understanding cocaine has no misdemeanor in CA, I could be wrong tho but that how I understood it. I can't ever be the probation officer or correctional officer I always wanted to be. I know that I made a bad decision, by being involved with someone like that. But damn I feel like I've more than paid for it.  
 
Also I am curious is the 7 year cut off (in CA) count from when you were convicted of the crime or when the case actually closed? If anyone could answer that would be great thank you very much in advance
Posted @ Monday, October 28, 2013 10:47 PM by MhissAshley
MhissAshley 
 
Keep your hope alive....I don't know about California laws, but in Wisconsin if they ask if I was convicted in the last 10 years, I can say no because it is now 11 years since I was convicted....however for trying for a pardon, that goes when I was off paper. 
 
Like I said though, keep your hope because it's not a lost cause. All I can say to anyone is get an education. Get skills. My own experience is more then ever you need to set yourself apart in a good way. The jobs I have had & my degree have helped me get jobs & now enough time is passing since I have been in any trouble that it isn't a big issue. I also have found there are some places that are small enough, you can make good money, but they don't have a real HR person, so things like back ground checks don't get done. I found my new job through people I knew & I was hired BEFORE filling out an application, so it became just a piece of paper to put in a file. 
 
As for becoming a probation officer or policewoman....again look into it. In Wisconsin, something can be done if your record is preventing you from getting a licensed job....so it isn't a done deal you can't become a cop here.
Posted @ Tuesday, October 29, 2013 8:52 PM by Brett
My issue with this article is that clearly the author never made a mistake in his life. Listen, if you haven't committed a crime in the last seven years, it is because you are not a criminal. Everyone makes mistakes. Unfortunately, some are larger than others. How can this country expect anyone to rehabilitate themselves without gainful employment. Life is hard enough, and certainly people like this author, do not help.
Posted @ Wednesday, November 20, 2013 4:09 PM by Joe
For all the good people who have made mistakes and are truly rehabilitated; Do your research and do not be denied. Keep your head up! Fact is that because this country is a federalism type government, you have rights that are protected.  
 
If you want laws changed contact your legislatures, ring their phone off the hook, start an interest group (power in numbers) and have laws amended that prevent you from re-entering the workforce. 
 
If all fails relocate to a state that limits background checks. Colorado is a prime example, in fact check out the City of Aurora's website for jobs. They simply ask if you have commented a felony in the last 7 years. 
 
Do your homework, check the laws is=n every state, and if you have to move your buttocks to a place where they give you a second chance. 
 
Everyone on this green earth is imperfect. Remember that! 
 
Posted @ Wednesday, January 29, 2014 2:49 PM by Dave
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