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Will a Felony Show Up After Ten Years?

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One of the most difficult challenges a felon can face after being released from prison is finding a job. Today, it is common practice for most businesses to conduct background checks on all potential employees.

The purpose of a background check is to ensure employers hire the best candidate for a job. Many employers won’t hire felons, believing they are dishonest and likely to commit a crime on the job. Or employers fear the public finding out they hire felons, damaging the company’s reputation and losing business.

The process can be intrusive, discouraging, and intimidating, but there are companies that will hire individuals who have previously committed a felony. 

In this blog post, we will examine the following:

  • What is a Background Check?
  • What is Included in a Background Check?
  • Do Background Checks Report Felonies After 10 Years?
  • Do Background Checks Report Felonies After 20 Years? 
  • Criminal Records
  • Reporting Felony Convictions
  • Background Check Laws by State
  • Have More Questions?


What is a Background Check?

A background check is a process that investigates and reports the past movements of an individual. A background check can include credit history, criminal records, education, and employment history. A background check can be conducted by any agency, business, or person that has access to an individual’s personal information.

There are different types of background checks and the information reported is based on specific requests made by the agency that requested the report. 

This information allows employers to review a candidate’s past mistakes, character, moral and financial fitness, in order to minimize hiring risks and security and safety issues that may arise in the future. 

There are several reasons why employers may conduct a background check.

  • Negligent hiring practices. If an employee’s actions hurt someone, employers may be held liable.
  • Terrorism has caused increased security caution in hiring.
  • False information on applications can hurt the hiring policy.
  • Federal and state laws require background checks on those working with children, the elderly, and the disabled.
  • Background checks are becoming easier and cheaper to perform.

There are laws that protect individuals from improper hiring practices. The Federal Trade Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has established rules that prevent businesses from selectively running background checks based on race, color, national origin sex, or religion, disability, genetic information, and age (40 or older).

What Is Included in a Background Check?

The information collected in a background check will depend on the request made by the agency requesting the report. Potential employees may be asked to submit the following information.

  • Full Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Social Security Number or;
  • Proof of Eligibility to Work in the U.S
  • Past and Current Employers 
  • Past and Current Addresses
  • References

Alternatively, the information collected can vary. Among the types of information typically included in a background check are,

  • Driving records
  • Credit records, including bankruptcy
  • Criminal records
  • Education records
  • Court records
  • Character references
  • Medical records
  • Military records
  • State licensing records
  • Drug test records
  • Past employers
  • Personal references
  • Incarceration records
  • Sex offender lists
  • Social media profiles

It is important to understand that felons have rights that protect them from discrimination when seeking a job. An outline of those rights can be found here.

Do Background Checks Report Felonies After 10 Years?

Background checks can report convictions and non-convictions for no less than 7 years. While someone may have never been convicted of committing a felony, that does not stop the incident from being reported during a background check.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows felony arrests to be reported on background checks for seven years after release from prison. Felony convictions can be reported as far back as the employer chooses to go.

Many employers check a period of five to ten years of history when hiring applicants. The exception for reporting a conviction is when felons have had their records expunged or sealed at the time of the background check. These records would not appear on a background check after seven years.

Regardless of any felony history, it’s important to be honest in disclosing any prior convictions. Depending on the nature of the crime and the length of time since the conviction, felons may have the opportunity to present their case. 

Do Background Checks Report Felonies After 20 Years?

While it is rare for a company to run a background check that that reaches 20 years into the past, it is possible. There is no law that limits how far into the past an employer can request background information. However, when it comes to requesting criminal records, employers are limited to a seven year history.

Individuals can apply to have their records expunged to prevent a criminal record from being viewed from potential employers. If you have any questions about the fairness of the background check it may be worthwhile to consult an attorney.

Criminal Records

The most discouraging part of a background check for a felon seeking employment may be disclosing a past criminal record.

A criminal background check typically reveals the following information.

  • Convictions of felonies, misdemeanors, and sex crimes.
  • Current home address and phone number as well as those within the past seven years.
  • Arrests and court records (Dockets, orders, decrees, judgments).
  • Warrants.
  • Incarceration records.
  • Federal and state tax liens.
  • Federal and civil judgments.
  • Federal and state bankruptcies.
  • Age and date of birth.
  • Any alias’ and maiden names.
  • Marriages and divorces.

The most common is a County background check. This will show a felony criminal history and misdemeanors in most counties. Additionally, there is a Federal Criminal Record Check. This shows federal crimes and crimes committed on federal property. 

A Statewide and Nationwide check, Sex Offender Registry, and a Global Homeland Security Search reveals if an individual is in any of these databases.

According to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a background check will show all non-convictions. These include cases resulting in these dispositions:

  • Dismissed
  • Nolle prossed (Will not prosecute)
  • Deferred Adjudication
  • Pre-trial diversion

Reporting Felony Convictions

In recent years there has been a major shift in how individuals apply for jobs. Many companies have online application forms that require individuals to be pre-screened before communicating with an applicant. This serves to promote better hiring practices. Unfortunately, it can also decrease the chances of obtaining a job with a felony conviction.

While it may be tempting to lie on an application to get a foot in the door, it will not likely result in a job offer. Applicants should be honest and self-report any prior convictions. Not only can it build trust, but it may provide an opportunity to explain the circumstances surrounding the conviction

Lying on a job application and getting the job is not ideal either. With information easily accessible online, it may only be a matter of time before the lie comes to light.

Background Check Laws by State

Federal laws regulate fair labor standards nationwide and states can pass laws in an attempt to protect vulnerable classes of people, like felons.

In 2016 former President Obama signed a presidential memorandum directing the Office of Personnel Management to stop asking individuals seeking federal employment to disclose past criminal offenses. This movement was dubbed “ban the box”. 

“Ban the Box” is a movement that encourages states to pass laws that restrict private and public agencies from asking job applicants questions about past criminal convictions and incidents. Fortunately, state governments have been moved to act. Some states have passed laws designed to provide an opportunity for former felons to move on and obtain a job. 

In twelve states and some cities, criminal offenses and incidents reported on employment background checks cannot be older than seven years. These twelve states are California, Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, City of Philadelphia, Texas, and Washington.

In eight states employer background checks cannot report instances where an individual was not convicted but charged with a crime. Those states include California, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, and New York.

Have Questions?

There is progress being made by federal, state and local governments to limit the questions that an employer can ask job applicants. For the latest state labor laws being considered in your state to follow this link to contact local leaders. 

Please note, this article is for informational purposes only. The staff at JobsForFelonsHub.com are not lawyers and urge you to contact a lawyer directly to get your employment rights questions answered. You can do that affordably by using this website.

What do you think about this blog post about whether a felony will show up after ten years? Have you or someone you know had a felony show up after ten years? What was that like and were they successful in dealing with it? Please tell us in the comments below.

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