A felony conviction can be very harmful. Not only does it create a criminal record, but you will also likely spend some time incarcerated. This time away from family and work can have far-reaching effects.
Once released, one of the first things that need doing is finding a job. This can be hard to achieve when employers learn about your criminal history. They quickly distrust your character and prefer someone without such a past.
For many ex-cons that have suffered this prejudice for years, the question often arises. Will a felony show up after seven years?
There is often the hope that this can be so. With no criminal record to be brought up, life can hugely improve.
Even decent housing can be easier to get when your record disappears. Landlords also carry out certain checks and can have access to criminal records. Naturally, they would not want to deal with someone deemed to have poor character.
For jobs, certain convictions can be of great worry. For instance, crimes involving assault may raise concerns as to the safety of other workers and clients. Crimes that involve theft may make it difficult to put a felon in a position of trust.
Seven years can, however, be a sufficient period to build up one’s character. There are ways to prove that you have changed through certain pursuits. From volunteering to education, you can show positive changes.
This is however best coupled with keeping a clean record. With no other legal problems and your record is cleared or sealed after seven years, it can help.
It would mean not having to share your past. Also, employers would only evaluate you on whatever else you accomplish. This can be a huge relief and a chance to make better headway in your career.
What Is a Felony
Before we get into background checks, let us review what it means to have a felony record. Not all crimes judged the same. Some are considered more serious and attract greater penalties.
Minor offenses are typically either violations or misdemeanors. More serious offenses are often classed as felonies.
They attract a penalty of at least one year in prison, with possible fines and parole. At the most extreme, depending on the state, punishment can be the death penalty.
In some states like New York, there are seven major felonies. They include:
- Murder or manslaughter
- Felony assault
- Grand larceny
- Grand larceny of a vehicle
Other possible felonies include drug-related crimes, DUI, kidnapping, arson, child abuse, and vandalism. These crimes can be violent or non-violent.
Because of the severity of punishment attached to these offenses, it is vital to hire a lawyer. The legal workings can easily create a problem for a novice to the justice system.
There are also other hardships than the difficulty of finding jobs and decent housing. Felons also lose certain rights, sometimes depending on the state they reside in. This can include loss of gun rights, voting rights, and access to some professional licenses.
It is however also vital to note that felonies can vary between state and federal law. Some offenses that are misdemeanors under state law, could be felonies in federal court. There can also be differences in how offenses are considered felonies from state to state.
When judging if an offense should be pursued as a misdemeanor or felony certain factors are weighed. This includes:
- Severity of injury to the victim
- Vulnerability of the victim
- If a weapon was used
- Public opinion on such offenses
- If the accused is a repeat offender
- If the accused was on parole or probation
How Background Checks Work
Background checks are a system by which interested parties can probe the background of a person. This is typically when considering hiring them or renting them a property. They can also be carried out by law enforcement and prosecutors when investigating a suspect or witness.
This process normally requires consent from the person being probed. Employers and landlords will often have the person sign a document that authorizes them to run it. There are specialized agencies that are used to conduct these checks.
When seeking consent, a person would be required to provide certain details. This includes:
- Full name
- Date of Birth
- Social Security Number
There are different kinds of background checks beyond just exploring criminal history. But before we get to that, let’s consider why employers and landlords would want to do this.
Why Background Checks Are Necessary?
For employers, certain roles may come with duties that conflict with certain crimes.
As mentioned, a convicted burglar would be risky to hire for a security position. Also, someone with convictions for violence may not be a good fit in customer care. A convicted embezzler would also not be ideal for finance positions.
Employers that are found to have hired felons without due diligence can be accused of negligent hiring practices. Some jobs, especially those in the federal government, also come with restrictions. For instance, felons convicted of terrorism would not be able to secure federal jobs.
Certain jobs also require a high level of security clearance that excludes certain offenses. Jobs that call for interaction or care of vulnerable members of society are also problematic. Candidates with domestic violence charges can encounter this problem.
There are similar considerations for landlords. They would not want a tenant that has a poor history of payment. A rental background check focuses mostly on financials. Of particular interest are evictions and address history.
Other details are also raised in such a check. They are mostly focused on the stability of income and payment history.
Landlords will want to know you are a responsible tenant. They do not want a defaulter who has excuses for not paying rent as they should.
Now that we see why background checks are often needed, let’s move on to the types of checks.
Types of Background Checks
- Criminal Background Check
Employers are required by law to consider only convictions. Some states will divulge even arrest records that never ended in a court case. However, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) instructs employers against this.
This check is done through professional background checking firms. They adhere to this standard and will only supply employers with conviction details. Dismissed cases may, however, appear in some background checks.
This check can also be requested by landlords. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), such a report should only go back 7 years. Depending on the state, the landlord may be restricted in how they use these details to make tenancy decisions.
It may, however, weigh more heavily depending on the offense. Those that put someone on the sex offender registry may disqualify them from living where children are.
Expunged or sealed records do not pop up in background checks. This is why it is advissble to see if you qualify for this relief to clean your history.
For those not yet qualified for this relief, the question remains, how far do background checks go? The answer is that it varies. This is a state issue and each one has its own views on the matter.
There are however many states with a 7-year limit on background checks. But, we will discuss this later.
- Driving History
For many jobs, driving records will matter a lot. From truck drivers to Uber, there is often a need to ensure a good driving history. Traffic tickets are not often a concern and will rarely appear on your record anyway.
However, any traffic offenses classified as misdemeanors or felonies can likely be revealed. These checks are typically done at the Department of Motor Vehicles(DMV). Offenses that may arise include reckless driving, DUI, and vehicular manslaughter.
These offenses can also come up in the regular criminal background report.
- Drug Screening
This is another type of check that many employers carry out. Hires with drug problems can be problematic. They can prove unreliable, a danger to others, and likely to steal to fund an addiction.
In certain positions, such as in pharmacies, this can be even riskier.
In many cases, drug screening is done as a condition of employment. The policies may vary from company to company. Some will thereafter carry out random drug screening from time to time.
This medical exam is typically carried out through saliva or urine test. Depending on the nature of the job, the candidate may also be required to have a physical exam.
- Verification of Educational and Professional Credentials
Most job applications require the provision of a resume. Here you should provide details of your academics and professional licenses. You may be asked to attach copies of certificates.
These details and documents are used to get in touch with the relevant schools and authorities. They should be in a position to confirm the academic certificates are authentic.
- Credit Check
This is often required for jobs of certain duties. It is especially common for those working in finance and accounting.
The purpose is to ensure that a candidate is fiscally responsible. It demonstrates they can be trusted with the firm’s money.
Landlords carry out this check to ensure a proposed tenant is capable of meeting rent obligations.
- References and Recommendations
First-timers entering the job market and felons often use references and letters of recommendation. They help to boost a scanty resume by attesting to character and aptitude.
It is ideal to use referees that are of good standing in the community. Employers will get in touch with these referees to try and get an impartial opinion on you.
Your previous employers can also be your referees. When listed under work history, they will also be contacted for verification. It is ideal to keep them informed that you have listed them on your resume.
Also note that if you omit past employers, they may still be revealed through your tax records. Avoid omissions that may make you seem dishonest.
- Online Checks
These days, employers will also run a person’s name through major search engines. This can give them important feedback like news articles on criminal proceedings.
They can also run a social media check to see what kind of activity you get up to. This is important given the growing trend of associating even personal behavior on social media with employers.
There are no legal guidelines on this issue so it is difficult to predict how this will impact hiring chances.
We have covered the various background checks an employer or landlord may put you through. Now let us look at how different states handle criminal background check reporting.
How Different States Report Felony Convictions Past 7 Years
Felons that have been out for a while may wonder, does your criminal record clear after 7 years? As said earlier, this depends on state laws, and sometimes municipalities.
Some states restrict reporting after 7 years, whether there was a conviction or not. These include California, New York, Montana, Washington, Kansas, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Texas.
Some states also prevent non-convictions from being reported. Non-convictions include dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and adjudications. The states include California, New York, Kentucky, and New Mexico.
Kentucky also does not permit reporting on pending criminal cases. California limits reporting on marijuana possession convictions to just 2 years from the date of disposition.
The FCRA rules only allow felony arrests to be reported for up to 7 years after release. Felony convictions may, however, be reported indefinitely.
We may not exhaustively list the differences in limitations here. It is also noteworthy that laws change all the time. Always carry out an online search for the state you reside in, or better yet, consult a lawyer.
For those with a record that is less than 7 years or in a state with no restriction limit, what’s next? Let’s look at what you can do to help yourself with a discoverable record.
Tips to Mitigating Negative Background Checks
The best way to mitigate this problem would be to first check if you qualify for record expungement. This will produce a clean criminal history. The criteria for this will vary depending on such factors as state laws and the nature of the crime.
Another option would be to build up a strong resume. This means focusing on other areas that will make you the best candidate for the job. From adding to your academic qualifications to volunteer work, you can do much to beef up your CV.
Targeting the best jobs and employers for felons is another way to boost your chances. Certain companies support second chance initiatives for felons. they are known to hire them based on other factors than criminal past.
Certain jobs, such as those in temp agencies and trucking firms have also proven conducive for felons. These businesses are more open to taking on felons. this is mostly due to a lack of job candidates and tougher work conditions.
Apply widely. Do not put all your eggs in one basket. The more job applications you send out and interviews you attend, the better your chances.
Also, be persistent and resilient. Being a felon does make finding a job and decent housing tougher. There are however people in this world with a generous mindset and heart.
Do not give up in your attempts and avoid the temptation to fall back in bad old ways. Recidivism is commonplace but it does not mean you will become another statistic.
Seek out the support of family and friends. Ask them to help you in your efforts to start over. And try to not disappoint them by making the most of the opportunities sent your way.
For those that reside in a state with a 7-year felony rule, it may not be so bad. However, the work gaps created by being in prison can make an employer suspect the truth. Not to mention, 7 years is a long time to wait for a second chance.
For these reasons, it is advisable to look at other ways to build back your reputation. Demonstrating improvement in character and behavior can help change people’s views of you. Updating your skills and pursuing higher education also helps.
When you know your record will appear, be honest. They will find out anyway. Try to emphasize the positive changes you have made.
And just as said, do not give up. The road may be tough but other felons have made a success of their lives. You can too!