Checking a criminal record can be confusing. Each state has different rules. Certain information can appear on one background check – but not others.
We get a lot of questions about criminal record checks. Today, we’re highlighting some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about criminal record checks and background searches.
Q: How far back does a background check go?
A: Most background check companies allow employers to customize the date range and choose how far back they want to go. Additionally, some states have rules regarding background checks. In some states, employers are allowed to check decades of criminal history to verify a record, for example. In other states, employers can only check seven years of criminal history. If an employer is running a background check on you, your employer should tell you how far the background check goes.
Q: Will I pass a background check with a misdemeanor?
A: Again, rules vary by state, case, and background check. Some employers run a thorough background check that reveals everything from speeding tickets to parking tickets. Other background checks only report major offenses. Generally, any incidents within the past seven years will appear on a background check. However, minor incidents are typically reported in minor courts, and background check services may not check smaller court databases for infractions.
Q: How do background check companies run a criminal history search?
A: Background check companies use local, county, state, and federal databases to verify someone’s history. Depending on where the person lived, and where the person has committed crimes, information about that person may be stored across the country. A background check website takes someone’s name, then checks millions of records for any entries involving that person.
Q: What else will appear on a background check?
A: Most people associate background checks with a criminal record. However, background checks can reveal plenty of other information about someone, including a date of birth, aliases, marriage certificates, divorce certificates, and more. Even if someone has no criminal record, a background check can reveal surprising information about that person.
Q: I was convicted of an offense a long time ago. Will it still show up on a background check?
A: It depends. Some states prevent employers from checking an offense that’s more than seven years old for an employment screening. Other states have no rules preventing someone from checking your entire criminal history.
Q: I have a criminal record. Can I still get a job?
A: Yes! Many states give employers incentive to hire people with a criminal record. Having a criminal record does not prevent you from getting a job. In fact, many states now have ‘ban the box’ laws that prevent employers from asking about your criminal record until the later stages of the interview process. That makes it easier for people with criminal records to compete against other qualified candidates.
Q: Do pending charges appear on a background check?
A: Pending charges could appear on a background check, or they could not. It depends on the background check service, the type of pending charges, and the jurisdiction in which those charges were recorded.
Q: What does my employer learn on a background check?
A: An employer background check can verify your educational background and professional background. Most employers also check your criminal background back 7 years. However, background checks vary between employers and states.
Q: Why do I have to pay for a background check?
A: You have to pay for a background check because it’s a professional service. Most background check companies provide a professional service, and they provide that service for a fee. In many cases, background check companies have to pay to access information. They might pay a fee to access certain data, for example, or a court fee for specific jurisdictions.
Q: Do any free background check tools exist?
A: There are plenty of free background check tools. You can use Facebook or Instagram to run a free background check, for example. Most formal background checks, however, including criminal record checks, come with a fee. Some background check companies provide basic information – like a name, date of birth, and aliases – for free, then charge a small fee for detailed background information like a criminal record.
Q: Is it legal to run a background check on someone?
A: Generally, it’s legal to run a background check on someone for personal reasons. However, if you are checking someone’s background for reasons that affect their future, then you may need to get the person’s permission and use an accredited background check service.
If running a background check on someone for employment reasons, for example, then you must use a background check provider that is compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). You must abide by similar requirements when running a background check for a property rental – say, if checking a potential tenant.
Q: Can someone notice I checked their background?
A: Most background check services are anonymous, and nobody can tell that you ran a background check. If running a background for employment purposes or similar reasons, however, then you may need to request the person’s permission to run a background check. As long as you’re running a background check for personal reasons (say, because you’re curious about a coworker), you should be able to check someone’s background with no permission required.
Q: Can I delete information on my background check?
A: It may be possible to remove certain information from your background check. In most cases, however, this information is on your background report forever. Some companies may claim to remove information from your record in exchange for a fee, although this may or may not be possible. Contact a lawyer to ask about removing criminal records from your background.
Curious about checking a criminal record? Use our online form to discover surprising information about anyone in your life.