How Far Does a Criminal Background Check Go In 2024?

Wondering how far does a criminal background check go? Keep Reading!

Criminal background checks are often an integral part of the hiring process, especially if the hiring company is one of the regulated industries or works to serve the most vulnerable populations, including the elderly and children. 

According to HR Screening, 77.7 million individuals or nearly one out of every three American adults has a criminal record.

As such the exact length of the criminal background lookback period is a common concern among job seekers regarding pre-employment vetting.

The answer to this question depends on several factors, such as the position and party in question, the salary they will earn, and the industry regulations at play.

In this article, we will discuss how far back a criminal background check can go into a person’s history and what laws and regulations employers must follow while conducting criminal background checks. Let’s get started!


What is a Criminal Background Check? 

Before hiring any candidate, employers conduct criminal background checks to gather the candidate’s criminal record from municipal, state, county, and federal criminal records for any felony criminal convictions, misdemeanor criminal convictions, arrests, pending criminal charges, and active warrants, and infractions.

A comprehensive criminal background check helps employers make a well-informed decision about the candidate and eliminate the risks of bringing someone with a criminal record on board. 

Read: How Do We Review A Background Check Company?

How Far Does It Go? 

There are no federal limitations on how far back a criminal background check may go, and it is possible to conduct a criminal background check that goes back decades.

However, companies don’t usually look that far back and make a hiring decision based on the crime committed decades ago, especially if the act committed was a low-level misdemeanor. 

Typically, criminal background checks cover 7-years of criminal and court records on a candidate but can go far back into a person’s history if the records are accessible and legally reportable. 

A few key variables that may affect how far criminal background checks may go include:

  • Type of the job 
  • The population they will serve (financial, public, children)
  • The salary they will get 
  • State, federal, and local laws or other jurisdictions
  • Industry regulations 


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How far back do pre-employment criminal background checks go?
by u/lighthouselucy in AskHR

Different Types of Background Checks and Their Lookback Period

Different Types of Background Checks and Their Lookback Period

Here are different types of background checks and their lookback period:

Pre-employment background checks

For employment-related criminal checks, seven years is the most common that they can go.

However, some states allow the employer to go even a decade back. Different state laws can have different variations but.

Driving Reports

When it comes to driving records, the lookback period varies a lot. Driving records can go back for as long as ten years and as less as three years.

Credit Checks

Records like bankruptcy, debt settlement, etc., usually remain on one’s credit report for 7-11 years.

This is the reason why credit checks in a background check can go as far as 7-11 years.

Verification Checks

Verification checks such as employment history, education, credentials, etc., does not have any limit to how far they can go.

For example: how far can an employer go when it comes to checking the candidate’s education? These background checks go as far as the lifeline of the person.


How far misdemeanors can go depends on the severity of the crime and the state rules.

For example: in some states, employers can get their hands on felony convictions for an indefinite period.

At the same time, other states might restrict this information for seven to ten years.

Level 2 check

Florida does not have any restrictions on how far a level 2 background check can go.

However, the state abides by FCRA rules. And according to the FCRA’s “seven-year rule,” arrests cannot be reported for more than seven years on a background check.


Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) Regulations Regarding Criminal Background Check

FCRA Regulations Regarding Criminal Background Check

The FCRA has specific guidelines about how far back an employer can look into the criminal background check of an employer.

It generally restricts the Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) from reporting the following details: 

  • Arrest records, lawsuits, and judgments in Civil court older than 7 years. 
  • Any collections that are past the 7-year mark
  • Bankruptcies older than 10 years
  • Tax liens that were paid past the 7-year threshold 
  • Adverse data besides convictions that exceed the 7-year limit. 

Moreover, the employer must obtain proper authorization from the candidate before initiating the background check process.

The authorization form must be in the form of a stand-alone document, separate from the job application, and should not include any employment agreement to force employees to release any claims. 

Before taking the final verdict, as a result of a background check, including hiring or firing the employee, the employer will have to provide a copy of the background check or credit report. 



So different types of background checks and the information present in them can go back to different time length.

As for criminal checks, one can access information back to seven years. We hope you found this article on how far does a Criminal Background Check go useful. 

People Also Ask For

What is considered as red flag on a background check?

The most common types of red flags that companies never overlook include criminal charges, arrest charges, felonies, robbery, sexual offenses, serious drug offenses, etc.

What is the background check failure rate?

Almost 59% of employers disqualify only 5% or fewer applicants on the basis of past criminal convictions.

And according to a survey conducted by Sterling Talent Solutions, 67% of employers said they have no problem proceeding with a candidate even after finding a past conviction record.

What information can show up in a criminal background check?

Criminal background check report may include:

  • Arrest records
  • Misdemeanor charges
  • Sex offender records
  • Robbery records
  • Judgments and liens
  • And others
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