How Far Back Do Criminal Background Checks Go?
Most criminal background checks will only go back 7 years, although most states allow criminal history checks to go back forever.
Table of Contents
Individuals applying for jobs in Texas might find themselves wondering how far back does a background check go in Texas and what is the 20-year rule?
Although the 20-year rule can be a cause for confusion, individuals should know that for most jobs, background checks only go back only 7 years.
Technically, Texas is a 7-year background check state, which limits the examination of criminal records to the last seven years.
However, Texas is one of the states that have numerous exceptions to this rule, often not present in other similarly restricted states.
The key to understanding how far does a background check go in Texas is to know which employment and other conditional exceptions apply. This complete guide provides all the information.
When it comes to how far back does a background check go in Texas, there are a few things individuals should consider.
The two most likely factors to have an impact on the number of years a criminal history check can examine are the job industry that the position is in, and the annual salary of the position.
Texas as well as several other states have adopted what is known as the 7-year-rule for employment background checks. These laws limit employers performing employee background screenings to only examining an applicant’s previous seven years of criminal history.
These laws have been adopted in an effort to help individuals with criminal records find meaningful employment once they have served their criminal sentence and enough time has passed.
As mentioned, the main exceptions to the seven-year background check rule in Texas involve both the salary of the position offered as well as the job industry and what the position entails.
In Texas, as well as many other states, the seven-year rule does not apply when the position in question has an annual salary above $75,000. However, Texas is somewhat unique when it comes to the salary exception for the 7-year rule.
While most states allow for employers to check back 10 years instead of seven when the salary exceeds $75,000, Texas takes this a step further and allows employers to check the criminal history of the applicant as far back as when the applicant was 18 years old.
This dictates how far back do background checks go in the state.
This essentially allows the employer to check the applicants’ entire criminal history since most crimes that were charged before the applicant was 18 would likely be sealed from view anyways. The other key exception that is unique to Texas is for jobs that are in certain industries, specifically positions that involve entering the home of a customer.1
Under Texas law, even the garage or a construction area near the home will apply to this situation.
Individuals applying for positions that involve entering the home of a customer will be subject to a background check that involves checking back as far as 20 years for felony convictions and 10 years for misdemeanor convictions.
It is also important to note that things like preferred adjudication do not have the same protections they do in other states and will still appear on this kind of background check.
Individuals undergoing a criminal background check Texas will find the general process and many of the laws to be the same as background check procedures in other states.
Individuals undergoing pre-employment background checks in Texas will need to sign a waiver that permits their employer to perform a criminal background check on them, and if they are denied the position due to information on their background check, it is required by the FCRA that the employer provide an explanation as to what information led to the disqualification.2
Like all states, state law enforcement agencies in Texas will also provide their own official background check services. The Texas DPS background check is a fingerprint-based background check performed by the Crime Records Division.3
There are several job industries in Texas such as education, which require applicants to undergo a fingerprint background check with the Texas Department of Public Safety. The Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Records Division also provides criminal history record services.
Individuals can use the Conviction name search tool to search for criminal history information using an individual’s name.4 All conviction information for felonies as well as information for most misdemeanor offenses will be included in the database.
Specific steps on how to use the database can also be found on their website.4
Some individuals may have heard about a new law on background checks in Texas such as the ban-the-box laws. Although ban-the-box laws are growing in popularity, Texas has yet to adopt such laws statewide.
Ban the box laws refer to the ‘box’ that is present on many job applications where applicants are supposed to check if they have ever been convicted of a crime. Ban the box laws are intended to limit discrimination against individuals with criminal records by not allowing employers to inquire about criminal history until they have reached a certain stage in the hiring process.
It is also important to keep in mind that individuals who have had crimes sealed or expunged are legally allowed to answer ‘no’ to questions about if they have ever been convicted of a crime.
Although this is technically not true, the sealing process allows individuals to make this claim when it comes to employment.
Some individuals may be in a situation where they are searching for a new job while facing criminal charges.
Those wondering will pending charges show up on a background check in Texas, should know that if criminal charges have been officially filed then they will show up on a typical criminal history check.
Criminal history checks, such as those performed by private background check services working with employers, will rely on criminal court records to perform their checks. As long as the charges have been officially filed then they will be present in these court databases and thus present on a background check.
When it comes to pending criminal charges and employment in Texas, the main thing that individuals should know is that it will mostly depend on the employer when it comes to the impact of pending charges.
It is fairly common for employers to simply wait for the criminal judgment before continuing with the hiring process, especially when the charges filed would be a disqualifier if they were to end in a conviction.
The best thing to do is to be honest and upfront with the employer regarding the pending criminal charges. Being open about the situation will give individuals the best chance of the situation being overlooked, especially when it comes to pending charges for low-level crimes.
Some individuals familiar with the 7-year rule might be confused as to when does the 7 years start on a background check.
The 7-year period will begin the moment that the charges are initially filed.
This is similar to sentencing for crimes where the time the individual has already spent incarcerated is considered in the sentencing.
Some individuals undergoing an employment background check in Texas will probably have some basic questions such as how far back does a background check go for employment, how long does an employment background check take, how to get a background check on yourself for employment, how the check is performed and what it is likely to include.
Texas background checks are fairly similar to background checks all over the country. Individuals can expect the following checks to be performed for most jobs.
Virtually every job in the state will run the above basic checks, however, certain jobs will run additional checks based on the position. This can include driving record checks, license verification, and credit checks for jobs in the finance industry.
As far as what individuals should know before time, employers are required by law to obtain written consent from the individual prior to performing the background check.
When it comes to how far back does a background check go in Texas, individuals should only have the last 7 years of criminal history examined unless the above exceptions are met involving specific jobs or positions that make above $75,000 annually.
To make a request, simply access the website of the Texas state comptroller and access the FYI opens records tool listed on the website. The website also features detailed information on the records request process as well as information on what records can be requested.
When it comes to how to get a copy of my criminal record in Texas, individuals will have a few different options available.
Individuals who simply need to know what is on their criminal record, perhaps in preparation for a job application, can use a private background check service. The easiest way to run a background check on yourself to get your own criminal records is to simply enter your own name into the search bar at the top of this page.
Individuals can use these national public records check to find any criminal history information that a pre-employment background check is likely to uncover.
Those that need a more official copy of their criminal record have the option of obtaining a fingerprint-based background check through the Texas Department of Public Safety or visiting their local police department to obtain their criminal records or RAP sheet as it is sometimes called.8
Finally, the most thorough criminal history check an individual can get is through the FBI.
Individuals can access the FBI website to request an Identity History Summary check.9 This is also a fingerprint-based check and is the most comprehensive and expensive background check that is currently available.
The Texas DPS fingerprint background check is a check that is required for many industries in the state of Texas, mostly those that are part of the state government such as teachers and other employees in the education industry.3
However, individuals working for private employers will likely not be required to undergo a DPS background check and will undergo a name-based check with a private background check agency.
Individuals seeking a free criminal background check in Texas will have a few options available. Although all of the official background checks offered through the FBI, and Texas DPS will carry a fee, there are plenty of private background check agencies that make their services available for free.
While most online background checks will require individuals to sign up for a monthly subscription, there are several that offer a 7-day free trial background check that will allow individuals to at least perform a check on themselves at no cost.
When it comes to how far back do apartments check criminal history in Texas, individuals should know that apartments are limited by the seven-year rule the same way most employers are. Individuals undergoing a tenant background check in Texas will only have to worry about criminal history information that is 7 years old or younger.
Some individuals might get anxious waiting for background check results and will be wondering how long does a background check take in Texas for a job, luckily individuals shouldn’t have to wait very long.
A typical name-based background check will generally take less than a week to complete. Fingerprint-based checks will usually take longer, about two weeks, but can often be completed in less than a week as well.
Many individuals will still be worried about certain criminal history records they have and will want to know how far back does a background check go in Texas, as long as the job does not require that the individual enter a customer’s home or doesn’t make above $75,000 a year, the background check will only go back 7 years.
Texas arrest records are another common cause for concern for individuals undergoing criminal history checks. However, the FCRA has laws aimed specifically at arrest records.
Unlike conviction records, which the FCRA has no time limits on, there are limits on how far back employers are able to view certain arrest records. Arrest records that did not result in a conviction are only able to appear on background checks for seven years from the date of the arrest.
However, if the arrest did result in a conviction then the records will be able to be viewed forever. However, state laws may prevent them from being viewed after 7 years in many states, including Texas.
The sex offender registry Texas is a great way to learn about sex offenders that may live nearby. Individuals can use the Texas sex offender map to find information about sex offenders in their city or neighborhood.10
Individuals wondering are divorce records public in Texas, will be disappointed to find that although they are technically public, they are often difficult to obtain.
Divorce records in Texas are kept both in the vital records office, where they can only be accessed by the individuals on the records as well as in the family court where the divorce was filed. Although all court records are considered public, family court records tend to contain personal information that will lead many judges to have the records sealed.
Those outside of Texas is likely wondering how far back does a criminal background check go, and might be surprised by the answer. As mentioned, the only federal laws regarding background checks are those outlined by the FCRA which does not have any time limits when it comes to finding conviction information.
Essentially, most background checks can go back forever when it comes to finding conviction information.
Some individuals who are undergoing more official background checks might be confused as to how far back does a fingerprint background check go, luckily the answer is very simple.
Fingerprint background checks will be subject to the same state laws as where they are taking place. The exception to this will be FBI background checks, since the FBI is not limited to state laws, they will always go back forever.
Those wondering how far back do federal background checks go for employment should know that all federal background checks go back forever. Federal background checks of any kind, such as those performed by the FBI will not be limited in how far they go back as they are performed by the federal government where there are no limits on how far back a criminal history check can go.
Some individuals may find that they need to undergo a level 2 background check and will be curious about how far back does a level 2 background check go, and what the difference is between this and a normal check. A level 2 background check is mostly used as a marketing term to indicate slightly more intensive background checks.
Level 2 checks will be subject to state laws regarding how far back a criminal history check can go the same as “regular” background checks.
Not knowing what to expect from a background check is never a good position to be in. Individuals should always take the time to learn their local background check laws and be able to answer questions like how far back does a background check go in Texas?
Most criminal background checks will only go back 7 years, although most states allow criminal history checks to go back forever.
A Texas DPS background check is a fingerprint-based background check performed by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Individuals can find Texas divorce records through the court where they were initially filed. Those named on the record can also obtain the records through the state vital records office.
A typical employment background check will go back 7 years in most cases, although state and federal law will often allow them to go back forever.
1Texas Workforce Commission. (2021). References and Background Checks. Texas Workforce Commission. Retrieved November 04, 2022, from <https://www.twc.texas.gov/news/efte/references_background_checks.html>
2FTC. (2022). Fair Credit Reporting Act. Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved November 04, 2022, from <https://www.ftc.gov/legal-library/browse/statutes/fair-credit-reporting-act>
3Texas Department of Public Safety. (2020, August 27). Fingerprinting Services. Texas Department of Public Safety. Retrieved November 04, 2022, from <https://www.dps.texas.gov/section/crime-records/fingerprinting-services>
4Texas Department of Public Safety. (2022). Criminal History Conviction Name Search. Criminal History Conviction Name Search. Retrieved November 04, 2022, from <https://publicsite.dps.texas.gov/ConvictionNameSearch/>
5City of Austin. (2022). Fair Chance Hiring. AustinTexas.gov. Retrieved November 04, 2022, from <https://www.austintexas.gov/department/fair-chance-hiring>
6U.S. Department of Justice. (2022). Freedom of Information Act Home Page. FOIA.gov. Retrieved November 04, 2022, from <https://www.foia.gov/>
7Texas Comptroller. (2022). Open Records. Comptroller.Texas.Gov. Retrieved November 04, 2022, from <https://comptroller.texas.gov/about/policies/open-records/>
8Texas Department of Public Safety. (2022, November 04). Texas Department of Public Safety Home Page. Texas Department of Public Safety. Retrieved November 04, 2022, from <https://www.dps.texas.gov/>
9FBI.gov. (2022). Identity History Summary Checks (Rap Sheets). FBI. Retrieved November 04, 2022, from <https://www.fbi.gov/how-we-can-help-you/need-an-fbi-service-or-more-information/identity-history-summary-checks>
10Texas Department of Public Safety. (2022). Public Sex Offender Registry Search | Map Address. Texas Department of Public Safety. Retrieved November 04, 2022, from <https://publicsite.dps.texas.gov/SexOffenderRegistry/map/load?mapReqId=1&channel=p-SexOffenderJs&address=Goldthwaite%2C+TX%2C+USA>