Do Felonies Go Away After 7 Years? Only in These States (See List)

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Criminal Records | September 14, 2022

Man wondering do felonies go away after 7 years while looking at a background check with a magnifying glass on the right and a calendar on the left, showing seven years being flipped through as pages.

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With background checks becoming more common and background check laws more confusing than ever, many people wonder, “Do felonies go away after 7 years?”

But, the answer is a little complicated because there are plenty of factors that dictate the length of time a felony can stay on the record.

In general, only certain states have passed laws that prevent background checks from showing felony records that are older than 7 years. However, that doesn’t mean that the felony can’t be accessed in these states.

There are 12 states that have passed laws dictating how far back does a background check go for employment (and what shows up on a background check). These seven-year-background check states prevent felonies from showing up if they occurred before the last 7 years.

Yet, even in these states there are exceptions to the rule, so knowing the exact details of your state is extremely important.

What States Ensure Felonies Are Erased After 7 Years? (Criminal Background Check Laws by State)

Background check laws can be extremely complex and they vary widely from state to state. This is largely due to the fact that the only federal regulations regarding background checks are those outlined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).3 The FCRA acts as the federal laws regarding background checks such as who can perform them, what they can check for and what information is illegal to check for.

The main goal of the FCRA is to protect both businesses and their employees from unfair background check practices and other hiring practices that can become discriminatory. This mostly involves how credit reporting agencies share information as well as ensuring that individuals are giving written consent for background checks that involve an individual’s social security number or credit history information.

The FCRA is fairly limited in scope, leaving most of the major issues surrounding background check legality up to individual states and even cities and counties. When wondering do felonies go away after 7 years, the FCRA does not actually have any laws regarding how far back a background check can go.

This means that under federal law, a felony conviction from 30 years ago could hypothetically prevent someone from getting a job.

And…these records are always available to law enforcement personnel who are searching someone’s background in relation to criminal activity, so a felony technically never goes away.

In order to make it easier for individuals who have a criminal history to gain meaningful employment, many states have adopted laws to prevent someone’s criminal history from playing such a major role in their ability to find work. Although virtually every state has their own specific background check laws in addition to those outlined by the FCRA, only a handful of states have laws that prevent background checks from going back indefinitely.

NYC Criminal record search portal screenshot with arrows pointing to archived criminal court recotrds and criminal history record search tools.

These states are often referred to as 7-year-states because they limit the scope of background checks to only allow the reporting of criminal history information from the last 7 years, unless certain criteria are met that allows criminal history information from up to 10 years to be reported. The states that have 7-year-rules are as followed:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Kansas
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
  • Washington

Once again, although these are considered 7-year-states, there are special conditions that when met, allow for companies to perform background checks that cover up to 10 years of a person’s criminal history. Usually these exceptions involve certain jobs like law enforcement, or for jobs that make above a certain annual salary.

Related Reading: How to find out if someone is a felon

Keep in mind that the records still exist in 7-year states; but they are essentially sealed from the public and can only be accessed by Justice Department and law enforcement officials.

Does a Felony Go Away After 7 Years in My State?

There are only a handful of true 7-year-states, but as far as the question of “Do felonies go away after 7 years?” living in a 7-year-state is not the only way to make a felony go away.

Most states have laws that allow for the expungement or sealing of certain records if specific conditions are met. Many of these conditions involve the nature of the crime, how much time has elapsed and other details. Use the list below to learn about the possibility of getting records expunged in your state.

Keep in mind that only in 7-year-states do felonies go away automatically, in all other states individuals generally have to go through a legal process to petition for a record to be sealed or expunged.

Do Felonies Go Away InYes/NoState Expungement Law
Do Felonies Go Away In Alabama (AL)NoAlabama Law Enforcement Agency – Criminal Record Expungement Information
Do Felonies Go Away In Alaska (AK)NoAlaska Department of Public Safety – Criminal Record Expungement
Do Felonies Go Away In Arizona (AZ)NoArizona State Legislature 36-2862
Do Felonies Go Away In Arkansas (AR)NoArkansas Department of Corrections – Expungement Laws
Do Felonies Go Away In California (CA)YesCalifornia Courts – Clear Your Record
Do Felonies Go Away In Colorado (CO)YesColorado State Legislature – Increased Eligibility for Criminal Record Sealing
Do Felonies Go Away In Connecticut (CT)NoState of Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles 
Do Felonies Go Away In Delaware (DE)NoDelaware Courts – Expungement/Pardon of Criminal Record
Do Felonies Go Away In Florida (FL)NoFlorida Department of Law Enforcement – Seal and Expunge Process
Do Felonies Go Away In Georgia (GA)NoGeorgia – File Request to Expunge a Criminal Record
Do Felonies Go Away In Hawaii (HI)NoHawaii State Courts – Expunging Arrest Records and Sealing Court Records
Do Felonies Go Away In Idaho (ID)NoIdaho State Police – Do You Qualify For an Expungement
Do Felonies Go Away In Illinois (IL)NoIllinois State Appellate Defender – Adult Expungement and Sealing Information
Do Felonies Go Away In Indiana (IN)NoIndiana State Police Expunge Criminal History 
Do Felonies Go Away In Iowa (IA)NoIowa State Legislature Chapter 901C
Do Felonies Go Away In Kansas (KS)YesKansas – Expungement of Criminal History Records
Do Felonies Go Away In Kentucky (KY)NoKentucky Court of Justice – Expungement Certification Process
Do Felonies Go Away In Louisiana (LA)NoLouisiana State Legislature CCRP 978
Do Felonies Go Away In Maine (ME)NoMaine Department of Public Safety – Criminal record Challenge Process
Do Felonies Go Away In Massachusetts (MA)YesMassachusetts – Find out if you can expunge your criminal record
Do Felonies Go Away In Maryland (MD)YesMaryland Courts – List of Felony Convictions that may be expunged
Do Felonies Go Away In Michigan (MI)NoMichigan State Courts – Expungement Assistance
Do Felonies Go Away In Minnesota (MN)NoMinnesota Judicial Branch – Criminal Expungement
Do Felonies Go Away In Mississippi (MS)NoMississippi State Legislature – An act to amend section 99-19-71
Do Felonies Go Away In Missouri (MO)NoMissouri Courts – Petition for Expungement of Arrest Records
Do Felonies Go Away In Montana (MN)YesMontana Department of Justice – Conviction Expungement Process
Do Felonies Go Away In Nebraska (NE)NoNebraska Supreme Court – Petition to Set Aside a Criminal Conviction
Do Felonies Go Away In Nevada (NV)YesInformation on Sealing Nevada Criminal Records
Do Felonies Go Away In New Hampshire (NH)YesNew Hampshire Courts – Annulment of Criminal Records 
Do Felonies Go Away In New Jersey (NJ)NoNew Jersey Courts – eCourts Expungement System 
Do Felonies Go Away In New Mexico (NM)YesNew Mexico Department of Public Safety – Law Regarding Expungements
Do Felonies Go Away In New York (NY)YesNew York Courts – Sealing After 10 Years CPL
Do Felonies Go Away In North Carolina (NC)NoNorth Carolina State Bureau of Investigation – Expungements
Do Felonies Go Away In North Dakota (ND)NoNorth Dakota Expungement of Criminal Records
Do Felonies Go Away In Ohio (OH)NoOhio Public Defender Commission – Expungement
Do Felonies Go Away In Oklahoma (OK)NoOklahoma – History Record Expungement
Do Felonies Go Away In Oregon (OR)NoOregon Judicial Department – Expungement: Self Help
Do Felonies Go Away In Pennsylvania (PA)NoPennsylvania State Police – Criminal Expungement Process
Do Felonies Go Away In Rhode Island (RI)NoRhode Island Attorney General’s Office – Expungements
Do Felonies Go Away In South Carolina (SC)NoSouth Carolina Governor’s Office – Pardons & Expungements
Do Felonies Go Away In South Dakota (SD)NoSouth Dakota Unified Judicial System – Pro Se Expungement
Do Felonies Go Away In Tennessee (TN)NoTennessee – Expunction Eligibility 
Do Felonies Go Away In Texas (TX)YesTexas Expunctions and Non-disclosure Orders
Do Felonies Go Away In Utah (UT)NoUtah Courts – Expunging Adult Criminal Records
Do Felonies Go Away In Vermont (VT)NoVermont Department of Public Safety – Expungement, Sealing, Pardon Information
Do Felonies Go Away In Virginia (VI)NoVirginia State Legislature – Chapter 23.1 Expungement of Criminal Records
Do Felonies Go Away In Washington (WA)YesWashington State Courts – Sealing and Destroying Court Records
Do Felonies Go Away In West Virginia (WV)NoWest Virginia Courts – Expungement of Criminal Records
Do Felonies Go Away In Wisconsin (WI)NoWisconsin State Legislature – 973.015 Record Expungement
Do Felonies Go Away In Wyoming  (WY)NoEqual Justice Wyoming – Expungement of Criminal records

How Long Felonies Stay on Record (Class Felonies Explained)

As mentioned, even in states that allow a felony to stay on your record forever, All but a few states have options for many felonies to be expunged. However, whether or not a felony can be expunged will depend on state law and the type of felony it was committed. Even if all other criteria are met to have a felony expunged, certain felonies will stay on your record forever.

Related Reading: How long does a felony stay on your record?

It’s important to keep in mind that getting a felony record expunged or sealed is extremely difficult and in most cases, a felony will be on your record forever, unless the individual lives in a seven-year-state.

Do Felonies Go Away After 7 Years for Felony Classes?

Felony classes will vary by state, however most states have now adopted similar systems. In general, most states will use an alphabetical system, with Class A or its equivalent being the most serious felony, and E being the least serious.

Some states do not use a class felony system, instead each crime will have its own mandatory sentencing and punishments.

NYC Fair Chance Act Screenshot explaining how criminal record and felonies can be removed.

Although each state is slightly different, the table below can act as a general guide for what to expect from the different felony classes that are used in most states. Since each felony class distinction is up to the states, there is considerable overlap amongst crimes in various states. What might be considered a Class A in 1 state may be considered a Class B in another state, but could still carry the same punishment.

Felony ClassFelony DefinitionHow Long Does the felony Stay on Your Record?
Class A/1 FelonyCrimes that carry the highest possible prison sentence such as life, death, or 30+ years. (First Degree Murder etc.)Forever* (Usually no possibility of expungement)
Class B/2 FelonyExtremely serious crimes, usually punishable by up to 60 years in prison (Assault with a deadly weapon, sex crimes against vulnerable groups, gang related crimes, etc.)Forever* (Usually no possibility of expungement)
Class C/3 FelonySerious crimes, punishments range but usually at least 1 year in prison (assault, drug charges, theft, etc.)Forever* (Extremely low possibility of expungement)
Class D/4 FelonySerious crimes, punishments will vary but usually not more than 20 years. (Theft, Involuntary manslaughter, resisting arrest, DUI)Forever* (Low possibility of expungement)
Class E/5 FelonySerious crimes, punishments range but probation and short sentences possible. (Burglary, stalking, conspiracy to commit a serious crime)Forever* (Expungement possible but very difficult and will depend on specific circumstances)

*7-10 years in states that follow the 7-year-rule

Will Felonies Ever Go Away? (How Long Do Felonies Last?)

Many individuals who are wondering: Do felonies go away after 7 years? are likely worried that a felony on their record may cause them problems for the rest of their life.

Unfortunately, in most states felonies simply do not go away. Although there are ways to get felony records expunged or sealed, this is an extremely difficult and undependable avenue to depend on. In most states the expungement process for felony records requires extremely specific circumstances if there is a path to expungement available at all.

Related Reading: How long can a felony charge be pending?

This means that individuals with a felony on their record will likely have to deal with the repercussions of it forever.

CBI Screenshot with yellow arrows pointing to qualifications and instructions regarding the removal of an arretees's DNA sample and DNA database expungement.

However, there are still steps that individuals can take to minimize the impact of a felony appearing on your record. The first is to seek expungement or the sealing of the record.

As mentioned, this is difficult and unlikely but is still a possibility worth exploring. Laws change constantly, especially for things like marijuana related convictions, which states such as Colorado1 are now making it possible to receive a full pardon for.

Screenshot about getting a marijuana pardon in Colorado.

When it comes to employment issues caused by having a felony record, there are a few simple steps that individuals can take to increase their chance of landing a job. The first is to run a background check on yourself. This will not only allow individuals to be aware of what exactly is going to show up as part of a standard pre-employment background check but also allows the individual to fix anything that is incorrect.

Knowing what is on your criminal record will also allow individuals to prepare for any questions hiring managers may have about their record and allow them to explain the circumstances and how they are working to move forward from a criminal past.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are more companies than ever that are making a point to give individuals with criminal records job opportunities. Doing some basic research on companies like Home Depot or Walmart and understanding their policy when it comes to hiring individuals with a felony record will prevent individuals from wasting time applying to companies that have strict policies regarding criminal convictions.

Undergoing a background check is stressful for just about everyone, but especially those with felonies on their record. Although new laws are making it easier for individuals with felonies to pass background checks, there are still a ton of different laws and regulations to understand. Being able to answer, do felonies go away after 7 years, will help immensely when determining your chances of passing a background check or getting a record sealed.

Frequently Asked Questions About Do Felonies Go Away After 7 Years

How Long Will a Felony Be on a Background Check?

A felony will be on a background check forever in most states. Federal background check laws have no limits on how far back a background check can go, however some states have adopted laws that prevent employers from considering criminal history information that is older than 7-10 years.

Will a Felony Disappear After Probation?

No felonies will not go away after probation. The same as a felony will remain on your record after serving a jail or prison sentence, felonies will remain after probation. The only way a felony will “disappear,” is if enough time has elapsed and the crime was committed in a 7-year-state or if the individual was able to get the record sealed or expunged.

How Do I Pass a Background Check With a Felony?

Passing a background check with a felony is possible but will depend on a few factors. The first being the company, different companies have different disqualifiers when it comes to background checks so it’s possible to be automatically disqualified based on the felony that was committed. The best thing is to research the company beforehand and prepare a response, even companies that hire felons will likely ask the applicant about it to see if they are working on bettering themselves.

Is There a New Law on Hiring Felons 2022?

There are new laws regarding the hiring of felons constantly, however most of these are at the state or local level, rather than federal. For example, amendments were recently made to New York City’s Fair Chance Act,2 which involves when employers are able to inquire about criminal history.

What Does an Expunged Felony Mean?

An expunged felony is a felony that has essentially been erased from an individual’s criminal record. The exact method will depend on the state but generally if a felony is expunged, it’s like the crime never happened from a legal perspective. This is different from a record being sealed, which means it still exists but can not be accessed by the public.

Does Your Criminal Record Clear After 7 Years?

Your criminal record is not clear after 7 years. Even in states that follow the 7-year-rule, your criminal record will still exist, however in these states it makes the individual’s criminal record no longer accessible to the public. However, the record will still exist for law enforcement purposes etc.

Do Felonies Go Away at 18?

Felonies generally don’t ever go away permanently. However, if misdemeanor or felony was committed while the individual was a minor, the criminal record is usually sealed when they turn 18. This means the record still exists but is no longer publicly accessible.

Does a Felony Go Away After 10 Years?

Felonies will only go away after 10 years in certain states. In these 7-year-states, all criminal records will be sealed after 10 years. However there are only a handful of states that have adopted these laws so in most states, felonies will still be present on an individual’s records beyond 10 years.

What Happens to a Felony After 7 Years?

In certain states, after seven years, a felony will not show up on a criminal background check. The record still exists, but it is not longer public information.

Do Felonies Go Away After 10 Years?

Felonies never “go away,” but they can be removed from the public record in certain states. Moreover, many felony charges and convictions can be expunged using the legal process established in the state where the crime was committed.

Will My Felony Show Up After 7 Years?

If you live in certain states, a felony will still show up after seven years on some background checks.


References

1Colorado Official State Web Portal. (2022). Marijuana Pardons. Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved July 19, 2022, from <https://cbi.colorado.gov/sections/biometric-identification-and-records-unit/marijuana-pardons#:~:text=An%20Executive%20Order%20(C%202021,Order%20(C%202021%20019>

2NYC. (2022). Fair Chance Act. NYC Human Rights. Retrieved July 19, 2022, from <https://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/law/fair-chance-law.page#:~:text=The%20Fair%20Chance%20Act%20makes,into%20an%20applicant%27s%20criminal%20record>

3United States Government. (2022). Fair Credit Reporting Act. Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved July 19, 2022, from <https://www.ftc.gov/legal-library/browse/statutes/fair-credit-reporting-act>

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