All About State Background Checks: A Complete Guide

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  • All About State Background Checks: A Complete Guide
5 Jun, 2024
Daniel Cohen
8 min
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Need a state background check? Here’s everything you need to know about the process, experience, and what can go wrong.

Even though the state background check is limited in scope, mistakes and inaccuracies can and do happen. From employers and landlords to licensing agencies and schools, state background checks are common. The law requires state agencies to report accurate information about you. But that’s not always the case. Here’s what you need to know.

The background check lawyers at Consumer Attorneys have seen thousands of people face unnecessary hardships due to mistakes, inaccuracies, falsehoods, or “simple” misunderstandings in their background checks. This article explains what we have learned about state background checks. The best way to protect yourself against erroneous state background checks or state background checks that do not comply with relevant laws is to gather knowledge. 

This article provides an overview of state background checks, an employer’s responsibilities, and your rights. If you have any additional questions or have been harmed by a poorly handled state background check, contact one of our background check lawyers today.

What is a State Background Check?

A state background check is a review of a person’s criminal history and other relevant information within a specific state. It involves searching, examining, and retrieving relevant information from state databases containing records of arrests, convictions, and other legal issues. 

Employers, landlords, schools, volunteer organizations, and other entities use state background checks to make informed decisions about hiring, renting, and other activities that allow people access to property, work, schools, or anything else deemed worthy of protection. 

Understanding what a state background check entails can help you prepare for the process and address any potential issues proactively.

What is the Difference Between State and Federal Background Checks?

The main difference between state and federal background checks lies in the scope of the search. 

State Background CheckFederal Background Check
Focuses on criminal records and other relevant information within a single state.Involves a nationwide search of criminal records across multiple states and federal databases.
Examines databases managed by state agencies, such as the state police or the Department of Justice (DOJ).Includes information from federal databases, such as the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
Commonly required for employment, licensing, and rental applications.Often used for jobs requiring a higher level of security clearance or positions in federal agencies.

How Far Back Does A State Background Check Go?

The timeframe for how far back a state background check can go varies by state. Some states limit background checks to seven years, while others allow for a 10-year period.

7-Year Background Check States

In states with a seven-year limit on background checks, employers can only consider criminal history from the past seven years. However, there are exceptions based on the salary of the job position or the nature of the job.

StateLaw Limiting to 7 YearsExceptions/Special Circumstances
CaliforniaCA Civil Code § 1786.18Exceptions for positions with salaries over $125,000 annually
New YorkNY General Business Law § 380-jExceptions for jobs paying over $25,000 annually
TexasTX Business & Commerce Code § 20.05Exceptions for positions with annual salaries over $75,000
ColoradoCO Rev Stat § 12-14.3-105.3Exceptions for executive positions or jobs paying over $75,000
MarylandMD Code, Commercial Law § 14-1204Exceptions for positions in the financial sector
MassachusettsMA Gen L ch 6, § 172Exceptions for certain types of employment like childcare

10-Year Background Check States

In states that allow a 10-year background check, employers can review an individual’s criminal history for the past decade. Some states have specific exceptions or conditions under which employers or landlords can limit or extend these checks.

StateLaw Allowing 10 YearsExceptions/Special Circumstances
FloridaFL Statutes § 435.12No special exceptions noted
IllinoisIL Compiled Statutes 720 ILCS 5Exceptions for certain healthcare and childcare positions
PennsylvaniaPA Consolidated Statutes Title 18Exceptions for jobs in education and healthcare
GeorgiaGA Code § 35-3-34Exceptions for jobs involving vulnerable populations
NevadaNV Rev Stat § 179A.180Exceptions for jobs in gaming and financial services
VirginiaVA Code § 19.2-389Exceptions for government positions requiring security clearance

What States Do Not Require a Background Check?

A majority of states do not require background checks for employment, giving employers the discretion to decide whether to conduct them. Here are the states with no specific laws requiring background checks.

StateExceptions/Special Circumstances
AlabamaEmployers may still require at their discretion
AlaskaEmployers may still require at their discretion
ArizonaSpecific sectors such as healthcare may have different requirements
ArkansasEmployers may still require at their discretion
ConnecticutSpecific sectors such as education and childcare
DelawareEmployers may still require at their discretion
IdahoEmployers may still require at their discretion
IndianaSpecific sectors such as healthcare may have different requirements
IowaEmployers may still require at their discretion
KansasEmployers may still require at their discretion
KentuckySpecific sectors such as healthcare may have different requirements
LouisianaEmployers may still require at their discretion
MaineSpecific sectors such as healthcare may have different requirements
MichiganSpecific sectors such as healthcare may have different requirements
MinnesotaEmployers may still require at their discretion
MississippiEmployers may still require at their discretion
MissouriSpecific sectors such as healthcare may have different requirements
MontanaEmployers may still require at their discretion
NebraskaEmployers may still require at their discretion
New HampshireSpecific sectors such as healthcare may have different requirements
New JerseyEmployers may still require at their discretion
New MexicoSpecific sectors such as healthcare may have different requirements
North CarolinaEmployers may still require at their discretion
North DakotaEmployers may still require at their discretion
OhioSpecific sectors such as healthcare may have different requirements
OklahomaEmployers may still require at their discretion
OregonSpecific sectors such as healthcare may have different requirements
Rhode IslandEmployers may still require at their discretion
South CarolinaSpecific sectors such as healthcare may have different requirements
South DakotaEmployers may still require at their discretion
TennesseeSpecific sectors such as healthcare may have different requirements
UtahEmployers may still require at their discretion
VermontSpecific sectors such as healthcare may have different requirements
VirginiaEmployers may still require at their discretion
WashingtonSpecific sectors such as healthcare may have different requirements
West VirginiaEmployers may still require at their discretion
WisconsinSpecific sectors such as healthcare may have different requirements
WyomingEmployers may still require at their discretion

How to Run a State Background Check

For employers, running a state background check involves several steps. Here’s a straightforward guide:

  • Identify your state’s requirements. Check the specific state laws regarding background checks. Different states have different requirements, so knowing what applies in your case is important.
  • Obtain consent. Get written consent from the individual. You must have explicit permission before you do a background check.
  • Contact a background check company. Request a background check from a company that regularly does business in your state, knows the relevant state agency, retrieves information, prepares reports with reasonable care, and has a record of providing accurate and comprehensive reports. 
  • Submit the required information. Provide details like the individual’s name, date of birth, and social security number. Accurate information is crucial for a thorough check.
  • Review the results. Once you receive the report, carefully review the background check report. If you are taking adverse action, e.g. not hiring or not leasing to someone because of information on the report, there are additional steps you have to take to alert the applicant whose background check you ran.

Individuals can also do background checks on themselves. You can hire a background check company or you can access the databases of relevant state agencies online and check them yourself. It is a good idea to do this before you apply for a job or an apartment or mortgage so you can review information and address any errors or inaccuracies. 

How Long Does A State Background Check Take?

The time it takes to complete a state background check can vary. Typically, it ranges from a few days to several weeks, depending on the state and the complexity of the check. Expect it to take between one to two weeks. Factor in this time frame when planning for employment, rental applications, or other activities requiring a background check.

Conclusion

Understanding state background checks is essential for employers, employees, and those who want to be employees. These checks help ensure safety and trust but can also be a source of stress if not handled correctly. A consumer lawyer at Consumer Attorneys can help you navigate these processes smoothly. They can answer questions like, “Does a background check affect credit scores?” If necessary, they can also represent you in legal action should something go awry. 

Call us at 1-877-615-1725 to speak with a live representative. Email us at [email protected], fill out a contact form on our website, and let us know the best time to reach you. You can also visit our website and chat with a live representative online. 

Background check companies must conduct background checks fairly and accurately to avoid unnecessary hardships. We can help.

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Daniel Cohen is the Founding Partner of Consumer Attorneys
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Daniel Cohen
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Daniel Cohen is the Founder of Consumer Attorneys. Daniel manages the firm’s branding, marketing, client intake and business development efforts. Since 2017, he is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates and the National Consumer Law Center. Mr. Cohen is a nationally-recognized practitioner of consumer protection law. He has a wealth of proven legal experience in the US in: collective claims, representing visually impaired people who believe their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act have been violated in both the physical and digital environments, corporate governance and dispute resolution. Read more

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