Will I Pass a Background Check with Misdemeanors?
February 2, 2023
In short, yes. Misdemeanors will show up on a background check, whether it’s run by your potential employer or a concerned neighbor.
However, there are some exceptions.
Find out more about how long a misdemeanor stays on your record and how it will affect your chances of getting a job.
Is Misdemeanor a Crime?
Yes, a misdemeanor, such as reckless driving or shoplifting, is a crime. It is not as serious as a felony (such as rape), but a misdemeanor offense can still lead to jail time (no longer than 12 months). According to Cornell Law, other punishments include probation, fines, or community service.
The classification of misdemeanors, as well as infractions and felonies, is not always crystal clear and depends a lot on the state where the offense took place and the circumstances. Thus a first offender’s DUI might be an infraction, while a hit and run could be classified as a misdemeanor if no damages or injury was caused.
How long will misdemeanors stay on record?
There is no expiration date when it comes to misdemeanor offenses—they will stay on your criminal record for life unless you petition the court to have the records expunged or sealed.
Do Misdemeanors Show Up on Background Checks?
As mentioned above, a misdemeanor will show up on a criminal background check, but there are some exceptions.
When won’t a misdemeanor show up on a background check?
In general, most background check providers only go back a few years, typically no more than seven.
On top of that, some states have rules in place that do not allow background check companies to report criminal records older than seven years. The seven-year rule applies in the following states:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- New York
Note: In these states the seven-year rule applies to all criminal convictions, including felonies.
Additionally, Hawaii does not allow reporting on misdemeanors after five years and felonies after seven years.
In the remaining states, background checks can go back 10 years and beyond.
There are exceptions to the rule, though.
- Salary exceptions
If you are applying for a position with a yearly salary of at least $75,000, your employer will be able to see the misdemeanor offense on your record no matter when it occurred. Washington, Kansas, Maryland, and New Hampshire allow background check providers to go back longer than seven years if the annual salary for the job is higher than $20,000 (or over $25,000 in NY).
- Type of job
The type of job you are applying for also plays a role. For instance, insurance companies allow employers to do a background check as far back as your 18th birthday. Likewise, employers of electricians, landscapers, and other workers carrying out in-home and residential delivery services can do a background check stretching 20 years back for felonies and 10 for misdemeanors.
The status of the charge
Pending misdemeanors will also show up in employee criminal checks, although this again depends on where you live. Kentucky forbids background screening companies from listing pending charges, whereas Arkansas and Michigan allow it.
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, but not convicted, the charge will still show up on your background check. In most states, the seven-year rule applies to non-convictions as well. However, SHRM reports that some states do not allow background check companies to show non-convictions. These include
The type of background check
Misdemeanor offenses are usually handled in county courts, meaning that records are stored at country level. So, theoretically, the misdemeanors might not show up if an employer runs a state or national check, but not a county-level check. The same goes for people applying for a job outside of the county where they were convicted of a misdemeanor.
Still, there is no guarantee that the offense will not be included in your report. County courts report to state repositories so the records will be stored on a county and state-level. What’s more, the best background check companies track candidates by address histories, ordering county records based on where the candidate has lived in the past.
Getting the misdemeanor erased from your record
The most effective way to stop a misdemeanor from showing up on a background check is to get it off your record.
Can a misdemeanor be erased from a criminal record?
Yes, you could petition the court to have the records expunged or sealed. Whether the court approves your petition depends on
- Your state legislation
- The severity of the crime
- Other criminal activity on your record
- When the conviction took place
If you want to expunge your records, consult a lawyer as each state has different rules and regulations regarding expungement. An attorney will also help you navigate the process and represent you in court.
If your petition is granted, your misdemeanor will be cleared from your record, meaning that it will not show up on background checks.
|Did you know: While background check companies can give you a lot of information on a person’s criminal history and credit score, to find a long lost relative or classmate, you will need the services of a people search engine?|
Misdemeanors and Employment
While it is common practice for employers to run background checks on applicants before hiring them, having a minor misdemeanor offense on your criminal record should not deter them from giving you the job. Usually, it’s felonies that tend to stand out as red flags rather than misdemeanors or civil infractions.
This is not always the case, though. In some instances, the type of misdemeanors may affect the employer’s decision.
When can a misdemeanor affect the hiring decision?
Here are a few situations where an employer may reject your job application based on your criminal record:
- You are applying for a position as a delivery driver and you’ve been convicted of a DUI in the past. Note that Uber and Lyft will automatically reject your job application if you had a DUI conviction in the last seven years.
- You have a shoplifting conviction on your record and are looking for a job in retail.
- You are applying for a job in the healthcare industry and have been convicted of a minor drug offense (such as possession).
Even if you believe your criminal record will affect your chances of getting hired, you must not lie to your employer. If asked about your previous convictions in your job application, you should be open and honest—it’s a much better option than hoping your employer won’t discover the misdemeanor during standard background checks.
However, if you live in a state where ban-the-box legislation does not permit employers from asking about your criminal activity, you are free to withhold the information. Note that even in these states, the employer might make a conditional offer, meaning that the job offer depends on whether or not you pass the background check.
The Bottom Line
Misdemeanors are minor crimes, typically much less serious than a felony. Nevertheless, if you are convicted of a misdemeanor, the conviction will stay on your criminal record and as a result, show up in any background checks employers run on you.
If you don’t want the misdemeanor to show up on your record at all, you could petition to have your record sealed or expunged, although this is a costly and time-consuming procedure that is not always successful.
Be transparent with your potential employer and explain that you’ve been convicted of a misdemeanor as well as any extenuating circumstances (if any)—more often than not, honesty is the best policy.
If you reside in a state where the seven-year rule applies, an older misdemeanor will not appear on your records. Other states allow background employment screening companies to go back as fast as 10 years and beyond, although many background check providers do not go into records older than seven years.
One way to find out if there is a misdemeanor on your record is to request a copy of your criminal record from the FBI or a relevant agency in your state. Alternatively, you could run a free online background check on yourself—this will give you an idea of what your record will show if requested by your employer or another interested party.
In general, traffic violations, like speeding tickets, are civil infractions—these are not included in your criminal record. However, if your employer runs a driving history check on you, these infractions will be included.
Yes, a DUI is a serious crime and will show up on a background check. In some states, a DUI can also be considered a felony (if it led to bodily injury or death) in which case it will definitely be a part of your criminal history and almost impossible to expunge.
You cannot technically pass or fail a background check as each employer has different criteria within the hiring process, as well as different standards on what kind of criminal activity may disqualify an applicant from a certain position. Employers in general are more likely to take up an employee with a misdemeanor rather than one with a felony.