Although it’s not common knowledge, there are state-specific stipulations on how far back do background checks go for employment, and while some specific prohibit background checks past seven years, most are referred to as 10 year background check states.
Technically, however, there are no states that stipulate a 10 year check.
It sounds confusing, and it can be. But this comprehensive guide explains the different state laws regarding background check time frames in these 39 states, the criminal history search options available to employers and individuals, and where to go to get the level background check required.
Before seeking a job, residency, adoption, or other position that requires a criminal background check in one of the 10 year background check states, applicants should know that employers cannot use past criminal convictions as the sole reason for making hiring decisions. However, it can subconsciously influence the interview process.
What States Go Back 10 Years On Background Checks?
Typically, background checks can go back an unlimited number of years for those who have been convicted of specific crimes, not solely arrested or charged with a crime. In fact, government agencies are not limited to any time frame when performing a background check or criminal history search.
And this is true for all 39 states that do not specifically have 7-year-background check laws. Essentially, the checks can go back indefinitely.
In non-10-year background check states, future employees only have to worry about convictions or charges within the past seven years, shortening the time when their records are accessible.
Different states have different laws about how far back a background check can go. Some states limit the number of years background checks can go for employment in order to make the job market more friendly to previous offenders. Others point to recent studies regarding the necessity for implementing background checks for specific circumstances (i.e., regarding a person with mental illness and access to firearms). 1
Every state has different regulations regarding how background check agencies and state offices can gain public records and information for reports and store these reports in the database. In most cases, many local agencies, such as counties or states, will not allow a background check agency to provide any private criminal history information that is more than seven years old.
Some states will allow individual background check agencies to discover and share information that is up to 10 years old. In these jurisdictions, the 7-year rule does not apply. This means that any type of crime, whether it is a felony or serious misdemeanor, can be included in the state background check.
Seven-Year Background Check States
How far back does a criminal background check go, and how far back does a level 2 background check go?
Although some states can accept background checks up to 10 years ago, the national average is seven years, regardless. But, the following U.S. states forbid a background check to examine records further than seven years:
Included in this list of seven-year states, there are also specific stipulations regarding the job in question. Just because a person lives in one of these states, some specific exceptions can alter what information is found and utilized by an employer. For example:
- California — Individuals considering a position with a yearly salary over the $125,000 limit are susceptible to undergoing a 10-year check.
- Colorado and Texas — Individuals applying for a job position with an annual salary of over $75,000 are susceptible to a 10-year background check.
In addition to the 7-year rule states, other states limit the visibility of public records and criminal convictions if a person was charged with a crime, but was not found guilty. These include:
- New York
However, if a person has been convicted of a serious crime, it will show up on their record no matter what. If someone is wondering, “does a misdemeanor show up on a background check after 7 years” the answer is yes — a misdemeanor will be on a person’s record for life, but whether or not it shows up will depend on how long ago it occurred.
List of 10 Year Background Check States (What States Allow 10 Year Background Check?)
What are the 10-year background check states? Some individuals and employers may wonder if a background check will reveal past crimes older than ten years. The answer depends on what type of entity is performing the search.
For employment, most criminal background checks will not show information prior to 10 years. However, for a government job, a person’s full history is examined.
One federal law that controls arrest record limitations on background checks, is known as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This regulation allows felony arrests on background checks for up to seven years after release, but felony convictions can be reported for an unlimited period.
It is helpful to know which states allow 10 years of criminal checks (and more) and past information during the hiring process. Keep in mind some states are not as forthcoming with public records as others.
What states don’t share criminal records? For example, West Virginia is a closed record state, meaning they do not allow individuals to search public records for convictions.
Knowing the answer to “how far back does a federal background check go” can provide individuals and employers with the necessary information to abide by the state and federal regulations lawfully.
Also, keep in mind that a level 3 background check is not the same as a federal or government background check, and may examine records further back than 10 years in the following states.
The following table provides a list of all states that do not have specific laws prohibiting the length of time a background check can examine, a link to their background check laws, and the agencies that can provide the background check records.
10-Year Background Check States Laws (Background Check Laws By State)
The following list provides an overview of the background check laws for 10-year background check states.
Alabama Background Check Laws
Alabama does not have any state laws pertaining to what can be reported on the background check, except for what is dictated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Alaska Background Check Laws
Alaska does not have any regulations or rules regarding pre-employment background checks, but all employers must follow the federal FCRA law and Title VII.
Arizona Background Check Laws
Criminal record checks are only allowed after the first employment interview.
Arkansas Background Check Laws
Arkansas features a Social Media Law that restricts employers from accessing an applicant’s social media. In addition, Arkansas allows individuals to deny the reveal of sealed records to potential employers.
Colorado Background Check Laws
Colorado removed conviction history questions from a job interview to avoid bias.
Connecticut Background Check Laws
All private employers must follow the Ban the Box Law to avoid discrimination during the hiring process. In addition, there was a removal of conviction history questions from job applications to give every applicant a fair shot at the job position.
Delaware Background Check Laws
Delaware utilizes the Ban the Box Law for public employees. 4
Florida Background Check Laws
Florida does not limit what an employer can search regarding a background check during the hiring process. This state does not follow the Ban the Box Law, but individual cities may have their own rules.
Georgia Background Check Laws
Georgia has various rules regarding pre-employment background checks, but private individuals and corporations can still request a criminal history record after obtaining fingerprints legally from the person in question. Georgia has specific laws regarding a background check policy in higher education. 5
Hawaii Background Check Laws
Hawaiian employers are legally not allowed to discriminate based on criminal history or convictions.
Idaho Background Check Laws
Idaho does not have a state law that prohibits the use of convictions records during employment screening and decisions in the hiring process.
Illinois Background Check Laws
Illinois does not have a time restriction regarding criminal convictions for the background check period.
Indiana Background Check Laws
Employers must conduct a criminal records check on applicants based on the job position in question.
Iowa Background Check Laws
Iowa maintains criminal conviction records that are up to 80 years old and requires the use of additional criminal screening for working in specific industries, such as healthcare.
Kentucky Background Check Laws
The length of time regarding criminal convictions is restricted to “report only” convictions, whereas upheld convictions have no time restraints.
Louisiana Background Check Laws
Louisiana does not allow discrimination during the hiring process regardless of the applicant’s criminal history records.
Maine Background Check Laws
Maine employers hiring in specific sectors, such as healthcare or childcare, are required to conduct a comprehensive background check, including criminal convictions. 6 These criminal history checks must be completed every five years.
Michigan Background Check Laws
Michigan does not have any state-wide restrictions regarding the hiring process for background checks, but must comply with the federal FCRA law.
Minnesota Background Check Laws
Mississippi Background Check Laws
Mississippi does not regulate how employers can consider criminal records, and there are no laws about pre-employment application questions.
However, expunged records and pardons won’t show up, and certain licensing agencies (like Real Estate Licenses, etc) can only consider crimes that relate to the job.
Missouri Background Check Laws
Missouri does not have any state-specific rule regarding background checks during employment screening and decision-making. St. Louis utilizes the Ban the Box Law to restrict employers from asking job applicants about past convictions during the hiring process. 7
Nebraska Background Check Laws
Nebraska does to have any statewide laws regarding private or public employment, but employers must follow the FCRA.
New Jersey Background Check Laws
New Jersey contains a state law that prohibits employers from unlawfully obtaining an applicant’s background check or criminal convictions with a third party without consent.
North Carolina Background Check Laws
North Carolina prohibits employers from asking about expunged or sealed criminal convictions. 8
North Dakota Background Check Laws
North Dakota does not allow background checks on employment applications, but employers must follow federal law and anti-discrimination regulations.
Ohio Background Check Laws
Ohio requires background checks for employment purposes in specific occupations, such as health care or daycare facilities.
Oklahoma Background Check Laws
Oklahoma uses the ban-the-box law to prohibit employers from asking about criminal history during a job application, like for Walmart, but allows questioning during the in-person interview process.
Oregon Background Check Laws
Oregon uses the ban-the-box law that prohibits employers from asking about criminal history during the application stage of hiring.
Pennsylvania Background Check Laws
Pennsylvania allows employers to take felony and misdemeanor charges into account during the hiring process. In addition, specific cities have their regulations, such as Philadelphia utilizing the Ban the Box ordinance. 9
Rhode Island Background Check Laws
Rhode Island prohibits employers from asking about prior arrests or convictions before the interview stage.
South Carolina Background Check Laws
South Carolina limits an employer’s ability to use background checks during job applications, but criminal connections can be reported without limitation. South Carolina utilizes the Ban the Box law to prohibit discrimination. 10
South Dakota Background Check Laws
South Dakota does not contain any rules or legislation regarding criminal history from being mentioned during job interviews or background checks.
Tennessee Background Check Laws
Tennessee features the ban-the-box law that prohibits public employers from doing background checks during the first stages of the hiring process.
Utah Background Check Laws
Utah features a condition that states employees may privately obtain their background checks to submit to the employer.
Vermont Background Check Laws
Vermont does not allow employers to ask about an applicant’s criminal history during the application process before interviews.
Virginia Background Check Laws
There is no state law restricting employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history during the application process.
West Virginia Background Check Laws
Background information cannot be obtained by public record due to West Virginia being a “closed record” state. However, if an applicant gives consent, a background check can be conducted lawfully.
Wisconsin Background Check Laws
Wisconsin does not allow employers to utilize criminal convictions or records to make decisions regarding a job applicant.
Wyoming Background Check Laws
Wyoming has only one law regarding background checks, which states that an employer must pay for all medical exams if they want to run a drug test on a current or future employee.
Every state has its own laws about how far back a background check can go. Understanding the rules regarding the 10 year background check states is essential for conducting legal searches for professional reasons.
1Price, M. & Norris, D. (2008). National Instant Criminal Background Check Improvement Act: Implications for Persons With Mental Illness. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, 36, 123–30.
2New York City Ban the Box Law. ILR CJEI. Retrieved from <https://cjei.cornell.edu/legal-rights/ban-box-laws/new-york-new-york-city-ban-box-law>
3Field Offices. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved from <https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices>
4Markell, J. (2014). Governor Bans the Box for Delaware Public Employees. Delaware Gov. Retrieved from <https://news.delaware.gov/2014/05/08/governor-bans-the-box-for-delaware-public-employees/>
5Owen, G. (2012). Analysis of background check policy in higher education. Georgia State University, Dissertations Publishing. Retrieved from <https://www.proquest.com/openview/b22f8f58772284578148b551b166249e/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750>
6Background Checks for Prospective Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Caregivers. Child Welfare Information Giveaway. Retrieved from <https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubpdfs/background.pdf>
7About the “Ban the Box” Ordinance. St Louis Gov. Retrieved from <https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/civil-rights-enforcement/ban-the-box-ordinance-71074.cfm>
8Governor Roy Cooper Signs Executive Order to Improve Fair Hiring Practices at North Carolina State Agencies. (2020). Retrieved from <https://governor.nc.gov/news/governor-roy-cooper-signs-executive-order-improve-fair-hiring-practices-north-carolina-state>
9Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards Ordinance. Philadelphia GOV. Retrieved from <https://business.phila.gov/ban-the-box/>
10South Carolina General Assembly, 124th Session. (2021-2022). Retrieved from <https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess124_2021-2022/bills/3334.htm>
11Adam. Checkr. 2022. How do background check reporting requirements vary by state? 20 April 2022. Web. <https://help.checkr.com/hc/en-us/articles/360000739988-How-do-background-check-reporting-requirements-vary-by-state->