Will a Felony Show Up After Ten Years?

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One of the most difficult challenges a felon can face after being released from prison is finding a job. Today, it is common practice for most businesses to conduct background checks on all potential employees.

The purpose of a background check is to ensure employers hire the best candidate for a job. Many employers won’t hire felons, believing they are dishonest and likely to commit a crime on the job. Or employers fear the public finding out they hire felons, damaging the company’s reputation and losing business.

The process can be intrusive, discouraging, and intimidating, but there are companies that will hire individuals who have previously committed a felony. 

In this blog post, we will examine the following:

  • What is a Background Check?
  • What is Included in a Background Check?
  • Do Background Checks Report Felonies After 10 Years?
  • Do Background Checks Report Felonies After 20 Years? 
  • Criminal Records
  • Reporting Felony Convictions
  • Background Check Laws by State
  • Have More Questions?

What is a Background Check?

A background check is a process that investigates and reports the past movements of an individual. A background check can include credit history, criminal records, education, and employment history. A background check can be conducted by any agency, business, or person that has access to an individual’s personal information.

There are different types of background checks and the information reported is based on specific requests made by the agency that requested the report. 

This information allows employers to review a candidate’s past mistakes, character, moral and financial fitness, in order to minimize hiring risks and security and safety issues that may arise in the future. 

There are several reasons why employers may conduct a background check.

  • Negligent hiring practices. If an employee’s actions hurt someone, employers may be held liable.
  • Terrorism has caused increased security caution in hiring.
  • False information on applications can hurt the hiring policy.
  • Federal and state laws require background checks on those working with children, the elderly, and the disabled.
  • Background checks are becoming easier and cheaper to perform.

There are laws that protect individuals from improper hiring practices. The Federal Trade Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has established rules that prevent businesses from selectively running background checks based on race, color, national origin sex, or religion, disability, genetic information, and age (40 or older).

What Is Included in a Background Check?

The information collected in a background check will depend on the request made by the agency requesting the report. Potential employees may be asked to submit the following information.

  • Full Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Social Security Number or;
  • Proof of Eligibility to Work in the U.S
  • Past and Current Employers 
  • Past and Current Addresses
  • References

Alternatively, the information collected can vary. Among the types of information typically included in a background check are,

  • Driving records
  • Credit records, including bankruptcy
  • Criminal records
  • Education records
  • Court records
  • Character references
  • Medical records
  • Military records
  • State licensing records
  • Drug test records
  • Past employers
  • Personal references
  • Incarceration records
  • Sex offender lists
  • Social media profiles

It is important to understand that felons have rights that protect them from discrimination when seeking a job. An outline of those rights can be found here.

Do Background Checks Report Felonies After 10 Years?

Background checks can report convictions and non-convictions for no less than 7 years. While someone may have never been convicted of committing a felony, that does not stop the incident from being reported during a background check.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows felony arrests to be reported on background checks for seven years after release from prison. Felony convictions can be reported as far back as the employer chooses to go.

Many employers check a period of five to ten years of history when hiring applicants. The exception for reporting a conviction is when felons have had their records expunged or sealed at the time of the background check. These records would not appear on a background check after seven years.

Regardless of any felony history, it’s important to be honest in disclosing any prior convictions. Depending on the nature of the crime and the length of time since the conviction, felons may have the opportunity to present their case. 

Do Background Checks Report Felonies After 20 Years?

While it is rare for a company to run a background check that that reaches 20 years into the past, it is possible. There is no law that limits how far into the past an employer can request background information. However, when it comes to requesting criminal records, employers are limited to a seven year history.

Individuals can apply to have their records expunged to prevent a criminal record from being viewed from potential employers. If you have any questions about the fairness of the background check it may be worthwhile to consult an attorney.

Criminal Records

The most discouraging part of a background check for a felon seeking employment may be disclosing a past criminal record.

A criminal background check typically reveals the following information.

  • Convictions of felonies, misdemeanors, and sex crimes.
  • Current home address and phone number as well as those within the past seven years.
  • Arrests and court records (Dockets, orders, decrees, judgments).
  • Warrants.
  • Incarceration records.
  • Federal and state tax liens.
  • Federal and civil judgments.
  • Federal and state bankruptcies.
  • Age and date of birth.
  • Any alias’ and maiden names.
  • Marriages and divorces.

The most common is a County background check. This will show a felony criminal history and misdemeanors in most counties. Additionally, there is a Federal Criminal Record Check. This shows federal crimes and crimes committed on federal property. 

A Statewide and Nationwide check, Sex Offender Registry, and a Global Homeland Security Search reveals if an individual is in any of these databases.

According to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a background check will show all non-convictions. These include cases resulting in these dispositions:

  • Dismissed
  • Nolle prossed (Will not prosecute)
  • Deferred Adjudication
  • Pre-trial diversion

Reporting Felony Convictions

In recent years there has been a major shift in how individuals apply for jobs. Many companies have online application forms that require individuals to be pre-screened before communicating with an applicant. This serves to promote better hiring practices. Unfortunately, it can also decrease the chances of obtaining a job with a felony conviction.

While it may be tempting to lie on an application to get a foot in the door, it will not likely result in a job offer. Applicants should be honest and self-report any prior convictions. Not only can it build trust, but it may provide an opportunity to explain the circumstances surrounding the conviction

Lying on a job application and getting the job is not ideal either. With information easily accessible online, it may only be a matter of time before the lie comes to light.

Background Check Laws by State

Federal laws regulate fair labor standards nationwide and states can pass laws in an attempt to protect vulnerable classes of people, like felons.

In 2016 former President Obama signed a presidential memorandum directing the Office of Personnel Management to stop asking individuals seeking federal employment to disclose past criminal offenses. This movement was dubbed “ban the box”. 

“Ban the Box” is a movement that encourages states to pass laws that restrict private and public agencies from asking job applicants questions about past criminal convictions and incidents. Fortunately, state governments have been moved to act. Some states have passed laws designed to provide an opportunity for former felons to move on and obtain a job. 

In twelve states and some cities, criminal offenses and incidents reported on employment background checks cannot be older than seven years. These twelve states are California, Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, City of Philadelphia, Texas, and Washington.

In eight states employer background checks cannot report instances where an individual was not convicted but charged with a crime. Those states include California, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, and New York.

Have Questions?

There is progress being made by federal, state and local governments to limit the questions that an employer can ask job applicants. For the latest state labor laws being considered in your state to follow this link to contact local leaders. 

Please note, this article is for informational purposes only. The staff at JobsForFelonsHub.com are not lawyers and urge you to contact a lawyer directly to get your employment rights questions answered. You can do that affordably by using this website.

What do you think about this blog post about whether a felony will show up after ten years? Have you or someone you know had a felony show up after ten years? What was that like and were they successful in dealing with it? Please tell us in the comments below.

About the author

After earning his MBA from Benedictine University, Ron was looking for a new challenge and stumbled on the idea of helping the formerly incarcerated.

Using what he learned, Ron developed this website as a free resource and has worked with his team​ to continue answering questions for those in need.

28 thoughts on “Will a Felony Show Up After Ten Years?”

  1. In my own experience Felony Record stays with you the rest of your life. It will be shown for eternity. There is no erase of a criminal record. Yes, it will show forever and ever. There is no statue of limitation on background checks.

  2. Sue: if you do not mind answering, what state was the crime committed in? Is it possible it was expunged without your knowledge?

  3. Sue: if you do not mind answering, what state was the crime committed in? Is it possible it was expunged without your knowledge?

  4. In 2003 I was charged with a felony, I pleaded guilty (at the advice of my lawyer) to the felony, because my primary defense were the results of the prosecutions lie detector test. During sentencing, the judge amended the charges to a misdemeanor (accessory). But every job I have applied for asks the question “Have you ever been charged with a felony”… not convicted, but simply charged. In my opinion, when you answer “yes” the application will always go in the trash… But seeing as it has been over 15 years now, I am tempted to be dishonest and simply say “no”.

  5. Richard, which state what type of felony, and what type of job you are applying for will determine your chances of getting hired. Every state has different laws regarding the disclosure of felonies based on time and type. Third party background checking agencies are required by law to adhere to the applicants area specific State laws. Some companies have additional background criteria required to be met in accordance to the type of job you are applying for that will allow these 3rd party background checking agencies to still legally disclose your felony regardless of the general state law if it could become a liability for them at any point. It’s very confusing and overwhelming but do not assume that just because you have a felony that equals automatic disqualification from every potential, prospective job opportunity. Just because you were turned away from one does not mean you will be the next. Honesty is the best policy…..sometimes. Not always. Meaning, don’t go out of your way to offer up information that has yet to be requested. At the same time don’t go out of your way to lie or misrepresent your history. Just go through the motions just like any other person would and see what comes of it, you might be surprised.

  6. How is the age of a federal felony conviction on a background check determined? Is it from the offense date or the disposition date? For me, the offense was in 2008, but the disposition date is in 2010.

  7. My record is 31 years old. I cannot get a job for anything. (Utah). I worked a hotel for 5 years, as a bartender, lost the job but got rehired a year later, however the day I went to orientation I was told they could not hire me because of my 28 year old record! It has happened over and over in the 3 years since!

  8. I’ve been employed with construction jobs laborer jobs even working the oil in North Dakota I was moved up to a driver position which my company check my background I’m a sex offender 30 years ago at this point in my life I’m almost giving up I’ve been out searching for a job and nothing’s come about I’m starting to get that depressed feel I’m about to lose my place of living my wife was just taken away from me and I have bills to pay I’ll do any job at this point and in North Dakota I was informed by law enforcement that I’m no longer on the registry here which is the only state that allow that anyhow this is a very daunting

  9. lol if you live in one of the twelve states. Honesty is not the best route, tell them no. your just saving companies money by being honest. The law is not supposed to go back seven years its supposed to be your right.

  10. I used to work for a city level government office as a receptionist, I also helped new hires with the mounds of paperwork required to start working there. I remember a man that had recently been hired before his background check came back, his job was contingent on the results being good like je said they were. It came back showing a felony conviction that he had sealed years ago, after a lot of closed door meetings and note taking they finally decided to let him work there, he was a garbage collector for the city after all was said and done. Making a whopping $9 bucks an hour, even getting your record sealed is almost impossible.

  11. If an employer doesnt ask about a background then should it b mentioned? I had an awesome interview today at a high end hotel that went amazingly well, the manager said my work ethic is very impressive, the manager really liked me but she didnt ask about my background so I didnt mention it. I’m a supervisor right now at another hotel but I dont get paid that much. Should I tell her ahead of time about my background before they decide 2 hire me? It was 7 years ago so I dont know if that matters or not in the state of virginia

  12. My pass came back on me after 35 years. So that 7 year rule and 10 year rule sure didn’t help me. I was just applying for a part time job as a driver.

  13. I was convicted of two felonies 15 years ago. At around 5 years ago I put in a petition for pardon and was contacted by the probation and parole board three years after the pardon was filed and it was approved by the probation and parole board but was told that it would go to the governors desk but never heard anything else. Now I am thinking of going for an expungement but am worried the Sam thing will happen. Since the convictions I have not been able to get a job and can’t move on with my life. I don’t know what to do.

  14. I received a pardon for 2 felonies but it took five years before they set up a court date for that. So I would either give it more time or contact your state’s capital courthouse.

  15. You need to get out of Utah, as I have had this happen to me a bit and each time that I thought I had the job…. Nope as it was Mormon owned. Mormons will not hire anyone with a felony or even a misdemeanor, and you live in a state that is predominantly Mormon.

  16. I have lived this nightmare for ten years. It’s all supply and demand. If they need you bad enough they hire you immediately. Apply to a lot of jobs and get good at this. Make a bullshit resume ECT and lie. Say no felonies. Also get good at not getting your feelings hurt if you get denied or work a year and get promoted later on when they find out later. Just Bounce on to another job. A person has to live and work is a honest living. I have lived this. Felons !!! Please read this twice. It works for me I work hard and have everything I need. It’s all a luck and numbers game. And you play fair you loose.

  17. I was 19 almost 20 years old when I was put on 4 years Felony probation. 1/19/01. My probation officer revoked me 8/11/04. 2/26/05 arrested, was sentenced to a year in state jail and I got a little lucky with the judge, he left me have my backtime. I was released 12/23/05. I live in Texas and every time I apply for a job and they require a background check, I am told that they just don’t need me or that my felony just won’t let them hire me. November 2019 I had a background check run by Checkr (spelling is probably wrong) and when I emailed them back with questions on the 7 year rule in Texas, I was told that because of the FCRA it doesn’t matter how many years it’s been since I was released, the FCRA allows them to go as far back as they want. I just truly want to be able to get a decent job again. How am I supposed to become a productive member of society if I can not get a job? I truly give up.

  18. Your suggestions on where to look for housing is not correct.
    Second chance is no longer there and HUD refuse to help felons. So where us a felon to live in phx. Its ridiculous. My friend did his time. Why punish forever

  19. I want to talk about housing. America locks up more of its citizens than any other country, more than Zimbabwe or Russia or China.
    Three million prisoners on any given day. Over 90% never get a jury trial–everyone here knows that–all plea bargains. They keep you in county jail never seeing outside in most places. After three months you chain up on the prison bus & go to court where they keep you in a closet for eight hours with sixteen guys. Walk into court, hi Public Defender, where you been all my life? Guilty? Nope, I want to talk to my defense. Okay if you don’t plead guilty you’ll get 30 years. No way dude.
    Next! Three more months, repeat. Repeat until you cop to the 12 years to avoid 30 years they keep threatening you. The judge, prosecutor, & police all sit around joking about their golf games while you fight for your family’s life. That is the way of doing business, SOP, day in, day out.
    What I want to know is, after my wife waited for me for 5.5 years, or 66 months, that is 2011 days counting one leap year and we both have good full time jobs–I always answer every question truthfully–we applied for an apartment with the question on the application. We are denied housing because the management company does not rent to anyone, EVER, who answers that question yes.
    So we do the time, complete parole, get a job by answering truthfully, but I ask my employer, can I talk to you in private? I need to talk to you about this question. I will answer yes, because over 20 years ago, I used drugs when I was a young man. You know from my work as a temp that I’m a good worker, and I get hired.
    But my family is still supposed to be homeless? Can America please answer?
    Because we have 3 million prisoners and 75% are getting out someday. Do they all have to be homeless because they will be denied housing if they can pay for it, and denied public housing because they’re a felon for life? America? Anybody out there who does not have a family member who has been in jail?
    Thank you for taking my question. I am resilient–I’ll build a tent, and kill a deer with a knife (lifetime ban on firearm of course). I will live no matter what, but not everybody can be strong, for life. And I don’t mind dying when I can no longer live outside. I have had a life with love in it, more than any one person can deserve. Not everybody is so lucky.

  20. I got a felony 26 years ago.. Theft by receiving… My life has basically been over since then as almost every job I apply for says no on background check. ????
    Never been in trouble since.

  21. I read every comment and it seems so sad cause i can relate to all of them. I was charged with a felony in 1992 and followed the recommendations of the public defender like most people do that are trusting, scared and have no money. I have struggled with getting jobs like everyone i see here. Its a shame that our society does treat people this way and there is no recourse.
    I read Joe’s comments and had to look back in my own life as to when i’ve had a good job and lived semi normal after becoming a felon. I realized that he is right. When I tried to be honest on applications I didn’t get anywhere cause no one would hire me but the good jobs I got did not bring that question up and I worked there with no problems for years until I broke my number one rule. And that is: do not under any circumstances tell anyone especially a co-worker that you have a felony. I don’t care how close you get to them, they will either hold it against you, use it against you or ultimately leak it out then someone else will use it against you. An employer might do that too.
    You can be as honest and sincere in your life or with your job as you want to, but you don’t need to divulge your criminal history to anyone but God.
    If or when your employer finds out they will tend to be more understanding because they have gotten to know you. If not then you have experience under your belt and have a better chance at getting another job.
    A wise person once told me; “Sometimes It is easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission”.

  22. Hmmmm,
    You are so correct, there are things in our lives that should be kept to ourselves, taken to the grave. I wouldn’t trust anyone with information that personal and life changing. I don’t disclose on applications either, it was 20 years ago, no ones business, doesn’t affect my work or my life. If they find it, oh well, their loss, I will work somewhere else!

  23. WOW Your telling my life story. Along with everything else the final rule do Not under any circumstances (if you get the job) dont try to move up. They will fire you soon after. I have theft by receiving felony from 1994 (which by the way is now a misdemeanor in Houston) No one would hire me for about 10 years except Aramark & Dennys. finally Walmart hired me I quit my other jobs because I was doing so well. They came and offered me a Asst Manager job after a year I accepted, they processed everything did another background check and fired my ass. NEVER, NEVER NEVER give them reason to background check you twice. Anyway Got a better job and I will be dammed if they just told us we wont be coming back. Not sure if I can struggle thru this again.

  24. I’ve had a 24 year career in IT 25 years after a felony conviction. I love in California, and while I’ve disclosed it many times in my career, including in the job I got two months after release, I have never, until this year, had a single company give me a problem over it. Even having worked at banks and such.

    I just had a company’s 3rd party certified ask me the felony conviction question which since it asks “ever” is in clear violation of California 7 year limits which are not subject to salary caps like Texas, NY, and others and can only be bypassed with a specific legal mandate for full checks, such as what would happen with a childcare, mentally disabled care, or government job.

    I was denied employment. Because they asked me question prior to the offer as well which violaters Ban the Box, disregarded the 7 year limit after which violates the ICRAA 1786.18 prohibition against criminal reporting of any sort beyond 7 years, even with the extension to 10 years for jobs above $125k, and because they failed to follow any of the formal notification rules after seeing the position, I’m going to be filling a lawsuit against the company. Their deputy legal guy attempted to make it sound like I’m claiming that the law says they can’t run background checks to screen out felons, which is nothing like what I said and makes it very clear he’s either not a lawyer, or is and is attempting to mischaracterize my complaint because he knows it’s valid.

    The actual conviction was not on the report they ran despite the report indicating that it was run over 40 years, anywhere but in the place I cuff yes to the felony question and filled in the details. Which means yes, if I had not volunteered this information, it would not have been on the report. But I always default to honesty. The answer to this question from now on however, for as long as I remain in this state, will be no. Additionally I have already paid a lawyer for expungement so as soon as they actually receive a copy of the LiveScan I keep sending them and finish the case, this question will legally be no on employer background checks.

    Hope this helps someone.

  25. I have a felony that was 10 years ago when I was 21 and now that I’m 32 it still shows up on my record but over time I realized that it goes by the conviction date not the date of the incident this has been a nightmare for me every since I made a bad decision. It was my first time getting into trouble and wish I never done it because it wasn’t worth all the heart ache and pain I’ve endured. I’m very smart and hard working but it doesn’t mean anything to employers all they see is the big fat F and put you in a bad person class and I am far from that I just made a bad decision like any other human being. Nobody is perfect. I went back to school to further my education and it means nothing. I wish one day they can understand that people do change over time. I do finally have a job but it’s not what I think I’m worth especially with student loan debt but still keep trying no matter what so from me to everyone that is suffering with the same challenges keep hope and if you get the opportunity fight for the cause because the more we speak out the louder they can hear out voice.

  26. Just a thought, it’s a new day and age. What if all of the ex felons got together and make our own place. Protest the government. What ever it Takes! The rich get to walk away with a felony and live life. The rest of us become the dirt they walk on.. thriving off of having the low class stay low class forever. Look at California and Oregon. The homeless movement is happening


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