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State Background Check: A Complete Guide for Employers [2023]


Employers can run state background checks to confirm if applicants have criminal records within their states.

These types of checks help to identify convictions and pending criminal cases in both the county where the applicant lives and in other counties across the state.

State background checks should be a key component of a comprehensive background check, but employers shouldn’t always rely on them alone.

Here’s what you should know about state background checks and the laws that apply.

What is a State Background Check?

A state background check is a search of a state’s official criminal repository for information about an applicant’s pending charges and convictions under state law.

This type of criminal background check may reveal misdemeanors and felonies that have been reported to the state by law enforcement agencies and local courts.

While state background checks are important, they don’t reveal an applicant’s criminal record from other states. They also do not show convictions and pending cases in federal court.

In some states municipal and county courts and law enforcement agencies might upload conviction records at varying times, so a state criminal background check should be used to identify counties in which to conduct additional searches.

What Are the Benefits of State Background Checks?

State background checks for employment offer the following benefits:

  • Find convictions and pending charges in counties other than where an applicant has worked or lived
  • Help to pinpoint counties and courts for further searches
  • Mitigate the risk of negligent hiring claims based on a disqualifying conviction
  • Protect workplace safety and security

For example, some people might commit crimes when they travel to other counties to visit friends or family.

A county records check of only the county where an applicant has worked or lived won’t find an out-of-county conviction, but a state background check might.

A reliable background check provider like iprospectcheck can then use the information gleaned from a state background check to validate and verify the information with county records checks where the incident occurred.

What to Know About Official State Criminal Repositories

Most states maintain criminal records repositories that include information about arrests, convictions, and pending charges from across the state.

These repositories are maintained by different bodies based on state law.

State criminal records checks can be completed by requesting information from the relevant criminal repository.

Some states have a set process for how to conduct a state background check. Some provide the capability to submit online requests. Others require employers to submit requests by mail.

A few states restrict access to the information included in their repositories, and all states have established criteria for when and if the public can access the data.

Are State Criminal Repositories Reliable?

Even though information included in a state’s official repository is uploaded from local counties and law enforcement agencies, additional checks may be need to be completed to verify it.

Some local courts and law enforcement agencies might not update information very frequently, so a final disposition of a charge might not be reflected in the state repository.

For example, a charge might appear in the state background check as pending when it has been resolved through a plea, trial, or dismissal.

Because of this, employers should supplement most state background checks with additional information sources.

Are State Criminal Repositories Comprehensive?

It’s important to note that each state’s repository only includes records within its jurisdiction.

One state’s criminal repository will not include criminal record information about an individual’s conviction or pending charge in a different state.

It will also not include information about an applicant’s pending federal case or conviction.

For example, if an applicant applies for a job in Oregon but has a pending felony in Washington State, the pending Washington case won’t appear in an Oregon state background check.

What Shows Up on a State Background Check?

State background checks only reveal information about an applicant’s convictions and pending criminal cases.

They don’t show important information about an applicant’s employment history, education, professional license, and other critical data.

A state background check reveals the following types of information about an applicant’s pending case or conviction:

  • Date of offense
  • Originating county
  • Offense type
  • Severity of offense (misdemeanor/felony)
  • Disposition of the charge if it’s been disposed of
  • Disposition date if it’s been disposed of
  • Sentence if available

How to Conduct a State Background Check

There are two ways to conduct a state background check, including sending a request to the state repository yourself or partnering with a reliable background check provider like iprospectcheck.


You can submit a request to your state’s criminal repository by following the process your state has outlined. You will also need to submit the fee you state charges for state background checks.


  • Might be relatively inexpensive, depending on your state


  • Won’t reveal out-of-state or federal convictions
  • Information will need to be validated at the county and local levels
  • Won’t include information about an applicant’s past employment, education, and other relevant factors
  • Could reveal arrests that didn’t result in a conviction that can’t be used for employment decisions
  • Could take a couple of weeks

Partnering With a Background Check Provider

The second, and better, way to conduct a state background check is to partner with a reputable third-party background screening service like iprospectcheck.


  • Information on the state background check will be validated at the local and county level for you when necessary
  • Report won’t include information disallowed by employment background check laws
  • Can include other reports for a comprehensive picture of your applicant
  • Affordable pricing
  • Ensure compliance
  • Receive report within as little as a few hours


  • Slightly higher cost than only conducting a state background check, but will be more comprehensive and reliable

Other Types of Employment Background Checks to Conduct

A state background check should not be the only search you conduct during the hiring process.

To gain an accurate and holistic picture of your applicant, consider the following additional searches:

State Background Check Laws

Federal Laws

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The FCRA is a consumer privacy law that restricts the information consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) can gather and report and governs what employers can do with the information revealed on background checks.

CRAs can’t report the following information when it’s seven years or older for jobs with annual salaries below $75,000:

  • Arrests that didn’t result in convictions
  • Paid tax liens
  • Civil judgments
  • Civil lawsuits
  • Chapter 13 bankruptcies

If a state background check reveals an old arrest that didn’t lead to a conviction, it won’t be reported.

The FCRA doesn’t restrict how far back criminal conviction information can be reported.

Some state laws might place time restrictions on the reporting of conviction records, however.

The FCRA also mandates employers complete the adverse action process when a background check reveals negative information about an applicant before the employers can deny employment based on that information.

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Title VII)

Title VII makes workplace employment discrimination illegal when it’s based on the protected characteristics of applicants and employees.

This law is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which has issued guidance to employers about what they should do when a background check reveals criminal conviction information.

If you learn an applicant has a criminal conviction, you must assess the information about the conviction as it relates to the job for which the applicant is under consideration before you decide not to hire them.

Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act

The Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019 applies to federal agencies and private companies that contract with the federal government.

Under this law, employers can’t ask about criminal history information on their applications and can only conduct criminal background checks after extending conditional job offers.

State Laws

Many states have employment background check laws that govern state background checks.

Some states have passed ban-the-box laws that restrict when in the hiring process employers can conduct criminal background checks.

Some limit how far back criminal background checks can go, and others have expungement laws that allow people with certain convictions to have their records expunged after a certain period.

Let’s take a look at some state laws below.


The criminal repository in Alabama is maintained by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Employers can subscribe to submit requests.

Alabama primarily follows the FCRA and Title VII and has few state laws governing state background checks.

However, the City of Birmingham has a ban-the-box law that applies to public-sector employers that prohibits them from requesting criminal history information on applications.

The Alabama Redeemer Act expanded expungement to cover more misdemeanors and felonies. Expunged records can’t be used for employment decisions.


California’s criminal repository is maintained by the California Department of Justice, but access is restricted to law enforcement agencies.

Individuals can submit requests for their criminal records by submitting LiveScan fingerprints, but employers can’t submit direct requests for state criminal background checks in California.

The Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act (ICRAA) also places a seven-year restriction on the ability of CRAs to report conviction records from the time the sentence is discharged.

Cal. Lab. Code 432.7 restricts employers from asking applicants about criminal charges that didn’t lead to convictions, sealed or dismissed records, or diversions.

Cal. SB 731 was passed in 2022 and provides for the automatic expungement of non-violent and non-sexual felonies that occurred after Jan. 1, 2005, as long as the individual did not receive any new convictions within the subsequent four years and completed their sentence.

Finally, California passed the California Fair Chance Act, which is the state’s ban-the-box law.

This law prohibits employers from asking about criminal history information or performing background checks until after they have extended conditional job offers.


In Florida, the state’s criminal repository is maintained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

Employers can submit online requests and submit $24 fees per report.

Florida follows the FCRA and Title VII but doesn’t otherwise restrict employment background checks.

New York

In New York, the state’s criminal repository is maintained by the Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Employers can’t submit direct requests for state criminal records checks. Instead, individuals can submit requests to obtain their records.

New York has multiple laws that govern background checks, including the following:

  • New York City Fair Chance Act – Can’t complete criminal background checks until after a conditional job offer and must separate background checks into two, including one with criminal record information and a second with other types of background information
  • NY Gen Bus L § 380-J (2019) – Restricts reporting of drug or alcohol convictions seven or more years old in general and also restricts reporting of other convictions older than seven years for jobs paying less than $25,000
  • NY Corr L § 752 (2019) – Employers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants with one or more criminal convictions unless they directly relate to the job


The Texas Department of Public Safety maintains the state’s criminal repository.

Employers can create an account to complete searches.

Texas follows the FCRA and Title VII but does not otherwise restrict employment background checks.

A few cities have ban-the-box ordinances, including Austin and DeSoto, that apply to both private and public employers.

Harris County has a fair chance hiring policy that applies to public sector employers only.

5 Compliance Best Practices

1. Know Your State’s Laws

Before conducting a state background check, make sure to review the laws in your state to ensure you maintain compliance.

2. Wait to Complete a Background Check

Even if your state doesn’t have a ban-the-box law, it’s still a good idea to wait until later in the hiring process to conduct a criminal background check.

3. Verify Information Contained in a State Background Check

If you conduct a state background check on your own, make sure to confirm the information by checking local county court records.

If you work with iprospectcheck, we’ll verify and validate the information for you by performing additional searches as needed.

4. Complete an Individual Assessment

If you learn an applicant has a criminal conviction, assess it as it directly relates to the job for which the applicant is under consideration.

5. Complete the Adverse Action Process

Complete the following steps if you learn about an applicant’s conviction and decide not to hire them because of it:

  • Send a pre-adverse action notice that identifies the conviction, and provide a copy of the report.
  • Give the applicant five days to present evidence of rehabilitation or show that the information is wrong.
  • Send a final adverse action notice and provide the applicant with a copy of their rights under the FCRA and state law.


1. How far back does a state background check go?

How far back a state background check might go will depend on the state.

Some states place seven-year restrictions on the reporting of criminal history information, including California, Kansas, New York, and others.

Many states either have 10-year limits or none at all and will allow criminal convictions to be reported regardless of how old they might be.

2. How long do state background checks take?

How long it might take to complete a state background check will depend on how it is conducted.

If you submit a request to your state’s criminal repository, it might take a few days up to a few weeks.

When you work with iprospectcheck, we are often able to complete comprehensive background checks and return reports in a matter of hours.

3. What is the difference between a federal and state background check?

A state background check searches the criminal repository in the state for criminal record information from state courts and law enforcement agencies.

However, it won’t include information about convictions in other states or federal courts.

A federal background check searches for criminal records within the federal court system but won’t include state-level criminal history information.

4. Are state background check records updated regularly?

The frequency with which state criminal records are updated varies.

Some counties regularly upload information to their state’s criminal repository, but others don’t.

This makes it important, in some states’ cases, to perform additional checks instead of solely relying on a state background check.

iprospectcheck: Your Trusted Partner for Accurate and Comprehensive State Background Checks

While state background checks are important, they should only be a part of a comprehensive background check.

Information revealed on a state background check needs to be validated at the county level to ensure its accuracy.

At iprospectcheck, we conduct comprehensive employment background checks that can provide a holistic picture of your applicants.

To learn more about our employment background checks and to receive a free quote, contact us today: (888) 509-1979

DISCLAIMER: The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Consult your counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

Know Before You Hire

About the Author
Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers is a highly accomplished business executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic vision and leadership to companies ranging from the fortune 500 to iprospectcheck, a company which he co-founded over a decade ago. Matthew is a valued consultant who is dedicated to helping companies create and implement efficient, cost effective and compliant employment screening programs. Matt has been a member of the Professional Background Screeners Association since 2009 . When not focused on iprospectcheck, he can be found spending time with his family, fly fishing, or occasionally running the wild rivers of the American west. A lifetime member of American Whitewater, Matt is passionate about protecting and restoring America’s whitewater rivers.