Can You Pass a Background Check with a Felony?

Can you pass a background check with a felony? A background check is a normal part of the hiring process. If you have a felony, and are applying for a job, will you be able to get the job? In this article, I’ll describe whether you can pass a background check with a felony or not.

Can you pass a background check if you have a felony conviction? You can pass a background check with a felony if the employer decides the felony isn’t too serious.

For example, some employers will not hire you with an arrest even if you aren’t convicted; some will hire you with an arrest if it didn’t lead to a conviction; some will hire with a felony conviction as long as it isn’t a violent offense, etc.

So it depends on the employer if they don’t mind hiring someone with a felony record.

Will a felony show up on the background check? A guilty charge for a felony will show up on most background checks. Similarly, a not guilty charge for felony arrests will also show up. However, some states forbid the disclosure of felony arrests with a verdict of not guilty after seven years have passed. Any pending felony charges usually show up on most background checks. 

Read on to learn more about passing a background check with a felony, including the types of crimes that may show up on these checks.

Can You Pass a Background Check with a Felony? 

Most background checks, like those for employment, include information on one’s criminal history. It will also include a person’s employment history (if any), education, information on family, and professional licenses (if any).

Basically, all information obtained comes from one’s Social Security number and information given by the person. The background check will include felony, pending criminal cases, and misdemeanors, plus a record of detention or jail time. Any arrests that are awaiting prosecution will most probably show up too.

Will a felony show up on a background check? Yes, any felony conviction will show up in background checks. If you have a pending case, it will also show up on most background checks.

Can you pass a background check with a felony? If you have a felony, it is possible to pass the background check. It is up to the employer if they find the felony not that serious.

For example, some employers will not hire you with an arrest even if you aren’t convicted; some will hire you with an arrest if it didn’t lead to a conviction; some will hire with a felony conviction as long as it isn’t a violent offense, etc.

The type of felony charge will also weigh into the employer’s decision. Some employers will not hire you if you have a misdemeanor conviction; some will hire you if you have a misdemeanor conviction, so long as it isn’t for drugs, or retail theft, or abuse, etc.

And some employers might hire you regardless of the felony you have; they just want to know that you are upfront about it.

guilty sentence for any felony conviction will turn up for an unlimited number of years, and any not guilty convictions will also show in the following 29 states:

  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • D.C.
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

So a felony will appear on the background check. And it depends on the employer if they don’t mind hiring someone with a felony record. An employer may hire someone with a felony, depending on the type of crime committed.

Felony, Misdemeanor, and Infraction

Criminal cases in the U.S. have three categories: felony, misdemeanor, and infraction. They also depend on the severity of the crime.

Among the three categories, the most serious type of crime is a felony. Felonies require bigger fines, longer jail time, and sometimes permanent loss of freedom. On the other hand, misdemeanors require lesser fines, shorter jail time, and temporary punishment. There are also various levels of the first two categories – felonies and misdemeanors.

Let’s take a closer look at how each of them varies.

Felony

A felony is “a type of crime with a punishment of one year” as defined by the U.S. Federal Government. Jail time is also mainly spent in a federal or state penitentiary rather than county jails. Some crimes that may be considered felonies are murder, rape, kidnapping, burglary, and arson.

Most U.S. states will use the term felony in reference to the length of one’s sentence, the place where one is incarcerated, or both. The state of Idaho defines a felony as “a crime punishable by death or imprisonment in state prison”. Some states will include the length of one’s sentence in their definition.

will a felony show up on a background check

The classification of felonies, according to federal law and sentencing guidelines are as follows:

  • Class A Felony – Sentenced to life imprisonment or the death penalty
  • Class B Felony – Sentenced to 25 years or more
  • Class C Felony  Sentenced to less than 25 years; not more than 10 years
  • Class D Felony  Sentenced to less than 10 years; not more than 5 years
  • Class E Felony  Sentenced to less than 5 years; more than 1 year

A felony usually has a severe punishment. So, a criminal procedure is required to ensure not to violate the defendant’s rights.

Misdemeanor

Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies but graver than infractions. The U.S. federal law states that a misdemeanor is a criminal offense with a jail term of less than a year as punishment. They usually involve smaller fines too. Crimes that may fall under misdemeanor are traffic offenses involving:

  • DUI
  • Battery
  • Assault
  • Theft
  • Larceny
  • Possession of a controlled substance
  • Perjury

The classification for misdemeanors, according to federal law and sentencing guidelines are as follows:

  • Class A Misdemeanor – Sentenced to 1 year or less, but more than 6 months
  • Class B Misdemeanor – Sentenced to 6 months or less, but more than 30 days
  • Class C Misdemeanor – Sentenced to 30 days or less, but more than 5 days

Jail time for a misdemeanor is served in county jails and not in a high-security prison. 

Infraction

It is the least serious among the three types of crimes. An infraction is a violation of a rule, ordinance, or law. Usually, there is no jail time for violators. It very rarely appears on criminal records as well. Fines are usually the assigned punishment for the violation. Some infractions that are more serious in nature may require jail time, but not more than five days.

Examples of infractions are traffic violations, trespassing, disturbing the peace, building permit violations, and littering. What happens when a police officer calls out an infraction? He hands a ticket for the violation, and the violator pays a fine. It requires little to no time in court. But it can also turn into a more serious offense if the violator ignores it and won’t pay the fine.

In most U.S. states, infractions are not considered criminal offenses. They are considered as civil offenses instead.

We have answered the question, “Can you pass a background check with a felony?” Now, let’s take a look at what exactly shows up on a background check. 

What Shows Up on a Background Check?

There are many kinds of background checks, and each one can reveal different information. Also, employers need a wealth of information to see if aspiring candidates are good for their company.

Here are things that you’ll find on a good background check:

1. Personal Information and Social Security Number 

A search with the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records will show if a Social Security number is valid. It will also show who it belongs to and if it was used in the past.

A personal information check will show if you have given a correct full name and valid address.

2. Credit Report

This report is a comprehensive breakdown of a person’s credit history by a credit bureau. There are three major credit reporting bureaus in the U.S., and they are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

These credit bureaus collect information about people’s financial details, credit standing, and habits on paying their bills. Information gathered is usually the same for all three companies with very slight differences.

Credit bureaus put together their gathered information to create credit reports. Lenders use this information as part of determining the worthiness of an individual for a loan.

Reports will also include personal information, credit lines, bankruptcies, and a list of entities who have asked to take a look at the individual’s credit report. It also includes a person’s current address, Social Security number, and employment history.

These major credit bureaus are required by law to give the consumer a free report annually.

would it be possible to pass a background check with a felony

3. Criminal Background Records

Having this information before hiring a potential candidate is crucial. Criminal background checks will help identify “risky” hires while protecting a company’s reputation. Employers should know about their employees’ criminal backgrounds. If the employee is a repeat criminal offender, the employer may face negligent hiring claims.

Criminal background checks usually show criminal cases by county, state, and federal levels. The following information will show up on a criminal background check:

  • Felony convictions
  • Misdemeanor convictions
  • Any current pending charges
  • Acquitted and dismissed charges

A more thorough check will show motor vehicle and driving records too. Aside from these records, it will also include employment history, educational background, drug screenings, and reference checks.

Not every crime will automatically disqualify a candidate from being hired. But every employer needs to know who they are hiring, including their background. Employers need to assess how the records will affect a candidate’s position, responsibilities, and exposure to the company’s assets, including their customers. The consequences of wrong employee hiring can be dumbfounding.

Many people also wonder if a felony will only show up in the state where it was committed. No, anyone searching for information on any U.S. state will be able to access full criminal records of other states. Your current address will turn up in the search along with your previous addresses. Individual checks may be done in those states as well. Moreover, many searches are both statewide and nationwide.

How Far Back Do Background Checks Go?

The short answer here is that if there was a conviction, there is no time limit. The felony will always turn up in the background check even if it was 10, 20, or 30 years ago. All information that was related to the crime will show up. This is based on the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), on a national level. Now, if there was only a felony arrest, it can be reported for as long as 7 to 10 years.

Search Limit for Different States

Depending on the state, there may be a limit on how far back a search can go on criminal records. The following states have restrictions on reporting criminal information about cases that happened (deposition, parole end, or prison release) seven years ago:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Washington 

But, in California, if the search is for employment and the position pays $125,000 or more, an employer may search as far back as ten years. In Texas and Colorado, this rule applies to salaries that are over $75,000. It goes lower at salaries of $25,000 or more in the following states:

  • Kansas
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • New York

For Washington, it applies to $20,000 or more. Moreover, it is forbidden to report cases where the accused was not found guilty in these states:

  • Hawaii
  • Massachusetts
  • California
  • Kentucky
  • Indiana
  • Alaska
  • New York
  • Michigan

However, it is different for the following states:

  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina 
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • D.C.
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah 
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

These states have stricter laws, and any felony conviction can be searched for an unlimited number of years back. Verdicts of not guilty for felonies will also turn up in searches within these states. In almost all states, pending charges will also show up on criminal background checks.

Conclusion – Can You Pass a Background Check with a Felony? 

Can a background check be passed with a felony? You can pass a background check with a felony if the employer decides the felony isn’t too serious.

For example, some employers won’t hire you with an arrest even if you aren’t convicted; some will hire you with an arrest if the arrest didn’t lead to a conviction; some will hire you with a felony conviction as long as it isn’t a violent offense, etc.

So it depends on the employer if they don’t mind hiring someone with a felony record.

Felony convictions will always show up on a criminal background check. Misdemeanor convictions usually show up too. However, infractions rarely show up on background checks.

Felony arrests with a not guilty verdict will turn up in the following states:

  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska 
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Alabama
  • Arizona 
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • D.C.
  • Florida
  • Idaho 
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah 
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

And for almost all states, any pending felony charges will also turn up on background checks.

The key to passing a background check with a felony is to be upfront and honest about it with the potential employer.