Will Crimes Committed Before the Age of 18 Show Up on a Background Check? 14 Feb 2019


Whether you’re concerned about a crime from your youth showing up on a background check or you’re an employer who’s concerned about getting incomplete information, knowing what will show up on your background check is critical.

Finding a new employee is a burdensome process. It can cost thousands of dollars for your business. It can take away months, or years, of your time. The last thing you need is for a misdemeanor from the distant past to create a red flag.

If your potential new hire committed a crime before they were 18, they might also have a clean record. Knowing how this legal peculiarity works will provide your business with added certainty in finding applicants with integrity.

Crimes Committed Before Age 18 Will Depend on State Laws

Young person in handcuffs being escorted by a police officer

The term “juvenile felons” refers to people who commit a crime before becoming a legal adult.

People become legal adults anywhere from the age of 16 to 19, depending on the state. So, to find out more about an individual’s record, you might first need to check your relevant state laws.

However, a judge can expunge or seal a juvenile record, thus removing it from public access. An expunged record is one that is completely eliminated, as if the conviction never happened. A sealed record isn’t destroyed, but it is no longer accessible. In the majority of states, a juvenile offender can only seal their record after five years or upon becoming a legal adult. In either case, expunged and sealed records don’t show up on a background check.

In fact, most teenage convictions are unlikely to show up on a background check. There are some exceptions:

  • Minors usually go through a different criminal justice system than legal adults. But, some states can charge children as young as 13 as adults.
  • For more serious crimes, a judge can only remove a criminal record from the public record under certain circumstances.

Sealing and removing criminal records from the legal system won’t remove all evidence of a crime.

Other evidence of the wrongdoing might remain on:

  • Records within higher levels of government (FBI, immigration)
  • Private databases (background check companies)
  • Other external sources (social media, news outlets)

While it’s likely that juvenile crimes won’t show up on a background check, it depends on state laws. For example, in 2016, California amended labor laws to make juvenile criminal history inaccessible to employers.

Additionally, a juvenile record followed by no criminal history as an adult is probably not disqualifying for many jobs.

Eliminate Liars Using a Few Easy Steps

Lawyers often tell their clients to be upfront and honest about their criminal past. But, this is no guarantee that your applicant won’t lie about their criminal past.

What can employers do if the applicant lies about past criminal records?

Try to filter out fibbers through pre-screening, phone calls, and interviews. Test your applicant on key dates, their credentials, and common industry knowledge. Ask for original copies of official documents. Conduct a background check. Remind your applicant that lying is a fireable offense.

What if your applicant isn’t lying but merely forgot about their juvenile crimes? As it often takes years before a juvenile felon can seal their criminal record, some might forget to do so. In this case, a background check might provide a nasty surprise. This happens more often to people who have moved to different counties, states, or countries while growing up. Ask for additional information and details in this scenario to find out the truth.

What If a Felon Is Upfront and Honest?

If a candidate truthfully tells you about past felonies, should you consider them?

Usually, if a felon is applying to a job, they have checked their rap sheet with the states they lived in. If you’re an employer and you announce that you will perform a background check, you have pre-eliminated at least some of these felons. If the candidate checks all other boxes, you might need further information. Ask for more details about the crime and the circumstances that led up to it.

Even a minor crime from childhood can change the course of a person’s entire life, affecting their finances, civil liberty, psychology, and education. Of the colleges that ask applicants about juvenile records, 20 percent deny students due to their records. A third consider an applicant with a criminal history negatively.

Some companies will use boxes on forms to sort felons from non-felons. But, many states now have “ban-the-box” legislation that prevents employers from asking about convictions on the initial application. However, “ban-the-box” legislation does not stop employers from conducting background checks in later hiring stages.

Make Your Background Check Fit Your Purpose

A background check should always fit the job. How much information is enough?

Background checks can vary in breadth. They can search at the local, state, national, or international level.

Background checks also vary in depth. Larger companies might need longer periods to sift through more categories of data. A background check often provides much more than mere criminal history. There are records on right to work status, sex offender status, credit, professional records, personal relationships, and much more. Secure government positions might require the use of intelligence services for deeper vetting.

You need to find the right service for the type of job.

Find the Service for Your Needs

Recruitment can be nerve-wracking for both applicants and employers. You might be spending thousands of dollars and months of your time filling out forms and waiting around for responses. In the end, you could still end up with somebody who has committed a crime early on in their life. A background check is one step towards making sure your applicant is competent, safe, and honest.

Trusted Employees has decades of experience when it comes to background checks. You can find the information you need in the fastest possible amount of time. Contact us today and chat with one of our experts.