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How Far Does A Background Check Go? The Answer Is…

Background checks are the norm these days when it comes to screening job applicants, potential tenants, or anyone in a position of authority. The types of a background check can vary greatly, depending on the type of information someone is seeking and what their reason for doing so is. How far back they go also depends on the type of background check conducted.

How Far Does an Employee Background Check Go?

Many employers run a background check and review references on job applicants as a standard part of the hiring process. Whether a person gets the job could very well depend on [what the employer finds in the background check. Sometimes employers run a background check through their own human resources department, or they’ll hire a third-party company to do it for them.

Employers usually request a seven-year history on the candidate. This could be dependent on state laws. While seven is the most common, some states allow up to 10 years. There is no federal law that limits how far back an employer can look into a person’s history. Yet so far, 12 states have passed their own laws setting limitations. Those states have limited the checks for criminal backgrounds to be traced back to seven years.

How Far Does a Federal Background Check Go?

A federal background check will go back at least seven years, and as far back as ten. The FBI will run a federal background check to look at someone’s criminal record or “rap sheet.” It looks for crimes that are prosecuted at a federal level, like bank robbery, kidnapping, counterfeiting, and tax evasion.

A federal background check should not be confused with a national background check, which pulls all types of records from all states, counties, and tribal jurisdictions. This can include records for employment, driving records, civil or criminal cases, or anything else pulled from around the country.

A federal background check is conducted by the FBI. The FBI maintains records in a database of felonies and misdemeanors called the National Crime Information Center. Only law enforcement agencies have access to the database, but anyone can request their own personal records from the FBI.

criminal records background check

How Far Does a Fingerprint Background Check Go?

The FBI uses a fingerprint background check to confirm a person’s identity. Most people at some point have had their fingerprints taken. Fingerprint background checks go back to the age of 18. It doesn’t matter if a person has had multiple aliases, given out fake birth dates, or other false information in the past. A fingerprint booking report will populate in the FBI database matching the person they’re checking.

There are some misconceptions about who is required to submit a fingerprint background check. By federal law, anyone in a position involving children must adhere to a fingerprint background check. That would include coaches, group leaders, or a similar position that might attract predators. Many states, unfortunately, don’t enforce this law.

All background checks are not equal in the slightest. There are some national databases of criminal records held by private companies that don’t include criminal records from some states. Those states prevent some of these companies from purchasing their sex offender registries because the companies turn around and sell them for a profit.

The FBI database holds the most comprehensive criminal records in the country. It is the only one that’s guaranteed to pool criminal records from all law enforcement agencies nationally. Only a fingerprint-certified background check guarantees that a person’s record has been searched through that database.

How Far Does a Level 2 Background Check Go?

A Level 2 Background Check is a state and national fingerprint-based background check that is given to employees in positions of considerable responsibility and trust. The state of Florida is the only state with a records search that’s specifically referred to as a Level 2 Background Check. A Level 2 check can look through national records, or only check for a particular state.

If someone wants to request a state Level 2 check, they would only need to submit a name request and fingerprint as a requirement. For a national check, the fingerprint must go through the state repository first and the entity requesting it must agree to certain terms by the FBI. Only a government institution can request a Level 2 check. Private entities are not authorized to obtain results from this check.

Level 2 Background Checks look for offenses that would show the person is a public risk for a position of responsibility. The search results will include all national or state criminal history and warrants. That could be any criminal offense such as sexual misconduct and embezzlement, as well as obvious felonies like murder and kidnapping.

As in other background checks, results will go back a minimum of seven to ten years. Offenses that someone had expunged from their records cannot be part of the criminal history search. Most Level 2 checks take anywhere from three days to one week to complete.

How to Search Your Background Check History Online?

You can find your entire background history online in a matter of seconds with a respectable internet-based service. There are many, but it’s recommended to avoid free ones and to look out for scams. The more reputable services charge a fee, but it’s usually reasonable considering the time and effort it would take for anyone to undertake a public records search of their own. is a reputable service that searches billions of public records and legal sources based on a simple keyword search. A search starts by simply entering your first and last name on the home page. You will find everything from personal details like divorce and traffic records, to anything that might show up in a state or federal database. The convenience is well worth the fee when there’s so much information available at your fingertips.