How far back should you search criminal backgrounds for your applicants and employees? What are the restrictions in place? Should you search a different length for different job positions? 

Understanding the reporting period of your criminal background checks can be confusing. There is a patchwork of federal and state laws that limit how far back you can search in your background check.

While employers are evaluating background screening services or making policy decisions about employment background checks, there are multiple references to “seven years.” This can create confusion for employers using background checks in hiring, as not all background checks are created equal. Depending on the context, this common window of time may refer to: