Can You Pass a Federal Background Check With a Misdemeanor?

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Background Checks | October 7, 2022

Can you pass a federal background check with a misdemeanor and man wearing a suit asks while looking at a computer that shows a traffic violation misdemeanor on the right, and on the left a background check and federal building.

Can you pass a federal background check with a misdemeanor? Anyone applying for public employment who need to pass a security clearance background check and those who need to pass a federal background check to work in healthcare, education or other care services may wonder if a misdemeanor conviction will scuttle their ability to have a clean record.

Although it can be difficult and even impossible for certain jobs in the federal government, passing a background check with a misdemeanor on your record is absolutely possible.

Knowing what to expect from the various federal government background checks will help anyone recognize the requirements. And, when armed with that information, you can get a background check on yourself to ensure that your record will pass the qualifications.

This guide contains everything you need to know when asking, can you pass a federal background check with a misdemeanor?

Can You Get a Government Job With a Misdemeanor? (Can You Pass a Federal Background Check With a Misdemeanor?)

The majority of individuals wondering can you pass a federal background check with a misdemeanor, also ask what specific checks are run and can you get a government job with a misdemeanor, as well as what would be considered a red flag during these procedures.

Unfortunately, there is not a specific list of disqualifiers for most federal government jobs as many of the background check procedures are kept secret for reasons of national security. However, the TSA has a list of automatic disqualifiers available on their website.1

This list may be of some use, especially for individuals who have indictments or active warrants, but the vast majority of the disqualifying offenses are fairly extreme and involve treason, sedition, and terrorist-related offenses.

Screenshot of TSA website page for employment disqualifiers with yellow arrow pointing to the disqualifying offenses and other factors that can affect TSA employment application.
When it comes to lower level crimes, what can cause an individual to fail a background check becomes much less clear.

In general, most felonies will not be overlooked even for lower level jobs in the federal government. This is especially true for violent offenses of any kind as it can pose a risk to other employees. However, individuals with misdemeanors likely have a good chance of passing a background check.

Below is a list of common questions regarding federal employment background check disqualifiers and misdemeanors, and how likely individuals that have committed these crimes are to pass a background check for federal employment.

Criminal ChargesPossibility of Passing Federal Background Check
Can you pass a background check with a misdemeanor?Sometimes – In general it will depend on the job and the specific crime that was committed.
Can you pass a background check with a misdemeanor DUI?Sometimes – lower level jobs will not consider this an automatic disqualifier unless the position involves driving.
Can you pass a background check with a dismissed misdemeanor?Yes – Most entry-level positions in the federal government are going to be mostly concerned with convictions rather than charges that were dismissed.
Can you pass a background check with a felony?Probably not – even low-level felonies will be fairly hard to overlook for virtually all jobs within the federal government.

Is Getting a Job With a Misdemeanor Disorderly Conduct Possible?

Disorderly conduct is usually seen as a low-level misdemeanor. Although it is not certain that jobs within the federal government will overlook this kind of crime, the less serious the crime, the more likely that any employer is willing to overlook it.

Keep in mind that the probability of an employer overlooking something on an individual’s criminal history will be greatly affected by the individual’s attitude toward the crime. If the individual seems unremorseful about having committed a crime, most employers will see this as a red flag. Having a prepared response to any questions about your criminal history is a great way to increase your chances by demonstrating to the hiring manager the steps you have taken to move forward.

Will Misdemeanor Assault Affect Employment With the Federal Government?

Although misdemeanors are more likely to be overlooked by employers compared to felonies, most violent offenses of any kind will probably result in the background check being failed. This is another example where being prepared for any questions about the charges will dramatically increase an individual’s chance at still getting hired.

This is a fairly likely scenario as, unlike felonies, most misdemeanors will not be an automatic disqualifier and the hiring manager will at the very least inquire about the nature of the charges or convictions uncovered during the criminal history check.

Does a Misdemeanor Theft Affect Employment With the Federal Government?

Will a misdemeanor affect employment with the government for theft? Misdemeanor theft is fairly likely to have a negative effect on employment opportunities for individuals trying to get jobs with the federal government. Just as hiring someone with violent offenses on their record is seen as a risk to the safety of employees, the same is true for theft and the property of the business.

It is still possible to get hired in the federal government with a theft misdemeanor on your record, however, the job opportunities will likely be limited to positions that do not have access to anything valuable.

Can You Work in Healthcare With a Misdemeanor?

The majority of jobs in the healthcare industry will still hire individuals with misdemeanors on their records. Most healthcare jobs will ask individuals to disclose any criminal history information before the criminal history check is performed. It is extremely important to be truthful during this portion of the hiring process as being honest will reflect well on the individual’s integrity and the truth will come out eventually anyways.

Screenshot of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website page for National Background Check Program for long-term-care employees with an arrow pointing to a short article that provides the status and results of the background check program in each US state and territory.
Healthcare background checks are also somewhat unique in that they check databases that are specific to healthcare professionals such as pharmaceutical fraud databases and neglect and abuse databases. When checking these databases, many misdemeanors will not be overlooked. Just like with any job, healthcare employee background checks are intended to minimize risk so any crime that is related to the job duties of the position will be much harder to overlook, compared to something unrelated.

What Is a Federal Government Background Check?

A federal government background check can refer to one of two things. The first is a background check that is performed by the FBI at the federal level, as opposed to the local criminal history checks that are standard for most pre-employment background checks. The other check that is commonly referred to as a federal government background check is the background check which is a condition of employment for jobs within the federal government.

Both of these background checks share the same criminal history check, which is performed by the FBI and is known as an identity history summary check.4

The FBI criminal history check is likely a more thorough background check than most people are used to. Rather than just performing a name-based local criminal history check, the FBI uses fingerprints to perform a criminal history check using local, state, national, and federal databases.

So, what do federal background checks look for and what does a federal background check consist of?

This results in a background check that takes slightly longer but has a far lower chance of individuals sneaking through the background check process.

Screenshot of FBI website page for CJIS with yellow arrow pointing to a brief background on FBI’s fingerprints and other biometrics services.

For the standard federal background check, most individuals are simply referring to the FBI criminal history check that anyone can pay to have done on themselves for any reason. These checks are performed for a number of reasons and often involve private or state-government employers that want extremely thorough criminal history checks performed on any potential employee. Most state background checks will use the FBI criminal history check as the national and federal background checks that are required by law for certain industries.

When it comes to the background check for federal employment, there are numerous other checks that can and may be performed as part of the pre-employment check.

Federal Criminal Background Check for Employment

The exact checks that are performed during a federal government job background check will range based on the specific jobs. While there are plenty of low-level and entry-level jobs in the US government that require fairly minimal background checks, other positions will have the most thorough background checks possible.

Jobs with high-security clearance and access to valuable and sensitive information will be subject to far more than just a criminal history check. These individuals can also expect their driving history to be checked, drug tests to be performed, and extensive reference checks.

How To Pass a Background Check With a Misdemeanor for Federal Employment

Local and federal laws regarding criminal history information can be extremely confusing. Many individuals who are wondering: Can you pass a federal background check with a misdemeanor? may have a past crime that they are unsure will even show up on the background check at all.

While many states are known as 7-year-states due to the fact that there are state laws that prevent criminal history information that is older than 7 years old from appearing on a background check, the federal government does not need to follow such laws. The only background check-related laws that affect the federal government are those outlined by the FCRA.2

Currently, there are no time restraints on criminal history information according to the FCRA. This means that although certain states may block criminal history information from appearing on a background check that is older than 7 years, an FBI criminal history check will include an individual’s entire criminal history.

With that being said, there are two main steps that individuals should take in order to increase their chances of getting a job in the federal government.

Step 1. Perform a Background Check on Yourself.

No matter the employer, individuals who are applying for jobs that are likely to perform background checks should always perform a background check on themselves beforehand. Knowing how to get a federal background check on yourself can save a lot of time and anxiety.

This is useful for two reasons: Knowing exactly what is on your criminal history and the ability to fix any issues before the real check is performed.

Screenshot of FTC website page for employment background check with yellow arrows pointing to an article that lays down the rights of applicants when an employers conduct employment-related background check.

No matter the cause, it’s extremely important to check your background check beforehand so that there is plenty of time to fix your background check before it becomes an issue.

Knowing exactly what shows up on your background check is also extremely useful and is essential to perform step 2.

Step 2. Prepare Responses for Any Possible Questions About Your Criminal History.

As mentioned earlier, many employers are willing to overlook certain crimes if it is clear that the individual has worked to move past the crime and is unlikely to make the mistake again. The best way to do this is to look at the crime that the employer will find when they perform the official background check and be ready to talk about the crime.

Most employers will ask fairly simple questions about the nature of the crime, how the individual views their past mistakes, and what steps they have taken to better themselves since the crime occurred.

Does a Misdemeanor Show Up on a Background Check After 7 Years?

How long does a misdemeanor show up on a background check for the federal government? Misdemeanors will show up on a background check after 7 years if an FBI check is performed. An FBI Criminal history check is a federal check and is therefore allowed to view an individual’s entire criminal history information.

The only time that a misdemeanor will not show up on a background check is when the check is performed by a private employer that resides in a 7-year-state or a state that has some kind of law that would prohibit this information from being present. For example, besides 7-year states, there are several states that will seal certain kinds of records after a certain amount of time.

Will a Misdemeanor Show Up on a Background Check After 10 Years?

Misdemeanors that occurred more than 10 years ago will show up on a federal background check for employment.

Some individuals asking: Can you pass a federal background check with a misdemeanor? May have heard that misdemeanors no longer appear on your record after 10 years. Unfortunately, this is only true for a handful of states that have laws that specifically prevent misdemeanors from showing up on background checks after 7 – 10 years.

Can You Pass a Federal Background Check With a Misdemeanor Even if It Is Already Sealed?

When it comes to a federal background check, this is not the case and any charge, arrest, and conviction from the individual’s entire life will be present on the background check. In many cases, the FBI will even be able to access records that have been sealed, so individuals should count on any and all criminal history coming to light during the check.

How Long Does a Dismissed Misdemeanor Stay on Your Record?

Dismissed misdemeanors will likely stay on a federal background check forever. Although the process of getting a conviction sealed or expunged is an extremely difficult process in most cases, the majority of states make it much easier to seal dismissed charges.

Screenshot of Commonwealth of Massachusetts for criminal records with yellow arrows pointing to how long before you can request sealing of criminal records in Massachusetts.
However, individuals must still petition to have these records sealed as even dropped charges are not automatically sealed.

Once the record is sealed, the record of the charges will not be accessible to the public. This is useful for many individuals as non-government jobs will usually employ the service of a private-background check company. These private companies will only have access to public information, so the sealed records will not be found.

Related Reading: How long does a federal background check take?

Keep in mind that the sealing of records does not apply to law enforcement so any background check carried out by the FBI will uncover sealed records.

Will a Misdemeanor Ruin My Life?

A misdemeanor will likely have an effect on most individuals’ lives for a long time, and most people wonder, will I pass a background check with a misdemeanor? However, there are a few basic things that individuals can do to minimize its effects. The first is to see if it is possible to get the record sealed or expunged.

This can often be a difficult process but is well worth the time for most individuals. Getting a record sealed or expunged can make it like it never happened when it comes to getting jobs in the private sector. Having a record sealed or expunged even allows individuals to answer “no,” when a job application asks if the individual has ever been convicted of a crime.

Although it won’t make a difference when it comes to government jobs and jobs in certain industries that have strict hiring practices, it will still make a massive difference.

If sealing or expunging the record is not an option, being upfront and honest with any employers will limit the effect the misdemeanor has on gaining employment. Having a response prepared and being able to talk about specific steps that you have taken since the crime was committed will go a long way with most employers and make it easier for them to overlook your criminal history.

Passing a federal background can be somewhat difficult for individuals with a criminal history but there are still steps that can be taken to improve your chances. Individuals ask questions like: Can you pass a federal background check with a misdemeanor? should do their best to research disqualifying offenses on any employer running this kind of check.

Frequently Asked Questions About Can You Pass a Federal Background Check With a Misdemeanor

Can You Pass a TSA Background Check With a Misdemeanor?

Yes, any disqualifying criminal offenses are outlined on the TSA website. However, keep in mind that these are only automatic disqualifiers and there are un-listed crimes that are likely to result in failing the check.

What Misdemeanors That Prevent Employment?

Which misdemeanors prevent employment will depend on the job. However, violent misdemeanors are some of the most common crimes that will prevent employment as well as theft for any position that has access to money or valuable items.

Can You Pass a Gun Background Check With a Misdemeanor?

Yes, most of the crimes that prevent individuals from purchasing a firearm are felony charges. However, there are misdemeanors that will cause an individual to fail the background check required when purchasing a firearm.

Can You Get a Job With a Misdemeanor Theft Charge?

Sometimes. Misdemeanor theft charges are harder to overlook compared to other misdemeanors but it is possible to get hired for certain positions with a misdemeanor theft charge.

Can You Pass a Level 2 Background Check With a Misdemeanor?

Yes, a level 2 background check usually refers to the kind of check that is being performed, such as federal and national checks, rather than any specific disqualifying offenses. Keep in mind most jobs that perform level 2 background checks are interested in checking an individual’s criminal history carefully so they will likely have stricter hiring policies when it comes to individuals with criminal histories.

What Happens if You Get Denied a Gun Purchase? (Can You Pass a Gun Background Check With a Misdemeanor?)

Can you pass a gun background check with a misdemeanor? Maybe. Depending on the reason for getting denied a gun purchase, it may be possible to file an appeal with the FBI regarding why you were denied.3 This is especially useful if the denial was a result of a mistake.

Is Offer Rescinded Due to Misdemeanor?

Many employers choose not to hire individuals with misdemeanors of any kind. Unfortunately there is little that can be done unless the background check contains a mistake.

Why Does My Misdemeanor Not Show Up on a Background Check?

Some misdemeanors will be automatically sealed for various reasons such as old crimes in 7 year states or states that seal marijuana records after several years.

Will a Misdemeanor Affect Employment With the Government?

Yes, although it may not be a disqualifier any misdemeanor will be a red flag with a government employer.

Will a Pending Misdemeanor Show on a Background Check at the Federal Level?

When wondering will a pending misdemeanor show on a background check at the federal level, the answer is yes, it can. However, it may not show up for a basic level 1 check.

What Are the Misdemeanors That Prevent Employment?

Depending on the type of job, there are a number of misdemeanors that prevent employment. The key is to find out what disqualifies.

Can You Pass a TSA Background Check With a Misdemeanor?

Again, the crime committed and how long ago it occurred plays a role, but most of the time, yes.

Can You Pass a Background Check With a Dismissed Misdemeanor?

If the misdemeanor was dismissed, most people who wonder can you pass a background check with a dismissed misdemeanor will learn that yes, they can.

Do Misdemeanors Go Away When You Turn 18?

Do misdemeanors go away ? No, they stay on your record, but juvenile crimes are usually hidden on most background checks. However, it may still be visible for federal checks.


References

1United States Government. (2022). Disqualifying Offenses and Other Factors. Transportation Security Administration. Retrieved August 18, 2022, from <https://www.tsa.gov/disqualifying-offenses-factors>

2United States Government. (2022). Fair Credit Reporting Act. Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved August 18, 2022, from <https://www.ftc.gov/legal-library/browse/statutes/fair-credit-reporting-act>

3United States Government. (2022). Firearm-Related Challenge (Appeal) and Voluntary Appeal File (VAF). FBI. Retrieved August 18, 2022, from <https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/nics/national-instant-criminal-background-check-system-nics-appeals-vaf>

4United States Government. (2022). Identity History Summary Checks. FBI. Retrieved August 18, 2022, from <https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks>

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