Criminal History Reporting: The 7 Year Rule
People often ask me whether a criminal conviction falls off their record after seven years. The answer is no.
First of all, let’s clarify what a record is. Your criminal history record is a list of your arrests and convictions. When you apply for a job, an employer will usually hire a consumer reporting agency to run your background. The report the agency provides is not really your official criminal history; rather, it is a report of what they found based on public records.
The Seven Year Rule
Where did the seven year rule come from? Under federal law, the consumer reporting agencies cannot report an arrest that is over seven years old. However, they may report a conviction no matter how old it is. So if you are arrested and the charges are dismissed, the consumer reporting agency is not supposed to report the arrest if the arrest is over seven years old. However, if the arrest results in a conviction (a finding of guilt) then the agency can report the information forever.
The seven year rule has one important exception–if you are applying for employment and the salary is over $75,000, the agency can still report the arrest.
Overall, in the criminal history reporting context, the seven year rule provides almost no protection to job applicants with arrests.
Remember that a consumer reporting agency cannot report non-public information. So if your arrest is expunged by a court or if you have a Deferred Adjudication that was sealed with Non-Disclosure, the agency can no longer report the arrest regardless of when it happened.