People often ask, “does your criminal record clear after 7 years?”. Unfortunately, the answer to that question is not a simple yes or no.
In truth, your criminal record is stored in several forms and locations, both locally and nationally. But what is a criminal record? Who can view a criminal record? Can I delete my criminal record? And does your criminal record clear after seven years?
Here’s what you need to know.
What is a criminal record?
First, let’s find out what a criminal record is. Every person in the United States, whether they have committed a crime or not, has a criminal record. In that way, a criminal record is very similar to a credit report, although it contains criminal information instead of financial information.
For example, suppose someone in the United States commits or is suspected of committing a criminal offense and is arrested. Law enforcement agencies would note details relating to that offense, arrest, and disposition of the charges on their criminal record.
The information will remain on the criminal record whether that person was found guilty or acquitted. Criminal record information is recorded by law enforcement agencies both locally and nationally.
This record is known colloquially as the criminal record. Data stored on a criminal record includes criminal convictions, criminal charges, arrest records, and the disposition of criminal charges.
Does Your Criminal Record Clear After 7 Years?
When it comes to law enforcement agencies, any information stored on your criminal record is with you for life. Anyone with access to these records can view this information with or without your consent at any time.
Also, even though a misdemeanor is not considered as serious as a felony conviction, it is still considered a severe crime in the eyes of the law. As such, misdemeanor offenses stay on your record for life.
Sometimes criminal records can be expunged, but this depends on the state and the severity of the crime committed. Being expunged means the documents are either sealed from public view or destroyed. However, federal agencies do not delete criminal records.
Therefore, the only way to have your criminal record expunged nationally is by obtaining a pardon from the President of the United States.
However, here is where it gets complicated. Sometimes, background and criminal record checks will only go back a certain number of years. In the United States, there is something called the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
This law sets national standards on how long criminal record reporting agencies can look back into your history. Although this is a federal act, many states implement something called the seven-year rule.
Most people have heard of the seven-year rule, even if they’re not sure what it is. This rule is undoubtedly the reason for the confusion and why people often ask if their criminal record clears after 7 years. The seven-year rule prohibits the reporting of criminal information older than seven years.
The seven-year rule ensures that background checking companies may only look back seven years into a person’s history.
Many states implement this rule, but an excellent example would be Texas. In Texas, background checking companies cannot report any misdemeanors or criminal history older than seven years. The exception to this rule is when people apply for jobs with an annual salary of more than $75,000.
So in Texas, if you apply for a job with a salary less than $75,000 and your arrest or conviction was over seven years ago, it would not show up on your background check.
Texas is far from the only state that implements the seven-year rule. Other states that follow the rule include California, Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Washington. The seven-year rule applies to misdemeanors and all criminal history in these states.
How long does a criminal record last for minors?
It is not possible to conduct a background check on a minor, nor is it possible to report juvenile criminal convictions. The FCRA act mentioned above states that minors have no time limits.
Also, as a minor cannot legally consent to anything, they cannot give a potential employer legal permission to conduct a background check.
Again, we will use Texas as an example where either party can void any contract with a minor. Any consent given by a minor to conduct a background check would be invalid.
What information is held on my criminal record?
The data varies as criminal record information is stored and maintained locally and nationally. Generally, a criminal record will contain personal information, photographs, arrests, convictions, ongoing criminal cases, and information on the type of crime committed, be it misdemeanor or felony.
Is a misdemeanor stored on my criminal record?
Unfortunately, yes. Even though a misdemeanor is considered a minor crime or wrongdoing, it is still considered a crime, and as such, it is still punishable by up to 12 months in prison. Being a crime means it is still listed on your criminal record, similar to any other criminal conviction.
When attending job interviews, sometimes you will be asked whether you have a criminal record. Even if you only have a misdemeanor offense in your history, you must still answer truthfully.
Who can view my criminal record?
As previously mentioned, law enforcement agencies such as local police or the FBI can access your criminal record anytime. They do not need your consent to do this.
If you are ever charged with a crime, the police will deliver a copy of your criminal record to your attorney. Your attorney will then study your criminal record in depth to build the best case for you.
When applying for a job, especially where you will be working with children, the employer will request a copy of your criminal record.
Anyone requesting a copy of your criminal record other than law enforcement agencies must always do so with your consent. Of course, you are free to refuse consent, but that will almost certainly void your job application.
Most businesses work with specialist background-checking companies such as One Source. This means that once you have given your consent, they will obtain a copy of your criminal record on your behalf. However, there are times when companies will require you to get a background check yourself.
Can I check my criminal record myself?
If you would like to view your criminal record or an employer has asked you to provide a background check, there are several ways to proceed.
The easiest way would be to visit your local police department and ask for a copy of your criminal record or a certificate of good conduct. Although this method is the easiest, it is worth noting that local police generally only have information regarding local arrests and convictions.
However, suppose you need a more detailed record or have moved between states. In that case, you must obtain a copy from the Federal Bureau of Investigation or another Federal Agency
How can I obtain a Certificate of Good Conduct?
Sometimes you will be asked to provide a letter of good conduct. This could be for an employer, work permits, travel visas, or an adoption agency. The letter of good conduct is a document provided by your local police department certifying that no criminal charges appear on your background check.
To obtain a certificate of good conduct, contact your local police department. Many police departments have information and instructions on their websites informing you what you need to provide and where you need to go.
If this information is not provided online, it is worth calling first as they will be able to advise you. Parents or legal guardians must sign the request to provide a letter of good conduct for students under 18.
After you provide the relevant information and pay the required fees, somebody from the Police Department will manually check your criminal record and complete the letter of good conduct.
Expect it to take a week or more. If you need this certificate for a job application, make sure to apply well before the deadline.
So, what have we learned?
When it comes to criminal records and how long information is kept, there are two answers.
First, for law enforcement agencies, be it locally, statewide, or nationally, any information stored on a criminal record is always accessible. That information is accessible no matter how long ago the crime was committed, no matter whether a person was acquitted, and no matter how old they were.
However, in most cases, background checking companies are not allowed to report anything older than seven years. This means that if you are applying for a job and have not committed a crime for over seven years, then your background check will come back clear.
Now you should have a much better understanding of criminal records and how long information is stored on them. Next time you hear somebody ask if their criminal record clears after seven years. You will have the answers!
Read Also: What Is A Level 2 Background Check?
Robert Eric (a lover of Cats and Dogs) is the co-founder of HireFelonsJobs. In our search for a better life, after… A platform was created for the purpose of easing the search for ex-convicts.