It is important for employers to understand exactly what a background check looks for and covers when scoping out a prospective employee. Otherwise, they may be surprised when something comes up later that did not come up as part of the background check. The reality is that background checks are typically comprehensive enough to cover what is necessary for employment. However, there are certain things that may not show up. Certain things in a person’s past will actually fall off and not be included on a background check after a certain amount of time, which is what the 7-year rule involves. Continue reading to understand how the 7-year rule works.

The 7-year rule essentially involves how long a certain factor or past activity will remain on a person’s background check. What this exactly entails can vary from state to state, but certain activities will not show up after 7 years regardless of state. The base of the rule is that after 7 years a background check will not include any civil suits, civil judgments, paid tax liens, and arrest records. These are the only activities that will not show up after 7 years in any state.

Criminal Records

It is important to note that criminal records may or may not show up depending on each state. Typically, arrest records will fall off after 7 years, but this does not necessarily apply for convictions. If a person has a felony conviction on their record, even over 7 years ago, it can still show up. An employer can go back as far as they like when it comes to felony convictions, though most employers will not go further back than 7 years. Several states legally do not allow to include any case over 7 years old on a criminal background check. Furthermore, these states are:

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

The one thing to keep in mind is that where the 7 years rule starts can vary. The standard is to start it at the day an individual is released from prison. However, some checks may start it at the date of disposition or completion of parole. This is an important factor if a felon is counting down the days based on a different date.

The idea behind the 7-year rule is that it is a good amount of time to display relevant activity or crimes that could be an issue. Past 7 years, these factors have become less relevant and show that a person has taken the steps to rehab their life and become employable.

Expunged or Sealed Records

There is also a chance of seeing expunged or sealed crimes on an employment background check, but that is the only detail that will often be able to be seen about them. It is important to note that it can be a tedious task to expunge a crime from a record. Also, it is not possible to expunge certain crimes. For example, in many cases, it is not possible to expunge violent or sex crimes from a person’s record. Therefore, these will continue to show for the standard 7 years of convictions. Employers that do happen to see that a crime was expunged can typically assume it was not a violent or sexual crime, which is a good thing to know. Just like arrests, sealed or expunged records will completely drop off after 7 years.

Looking for Reliable Background Checks?

If you are looking for a reliable background checking service for potential employees, then Soteria Screening Lab can help. We partner with National Crime Search to ensure that all pertinent details are known before hiring someone. If you have any questions, you can call us at 1(888) 527-3282 or email at

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