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Do Federal Convictions Appear on Background Checks in Pennsylvania?

According to the results of a 2017 survey conducted by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, nearly 95% of all employers in the United States run background checks on job applicants. As technology erodes our privacy, background checks will only become even more common. Unfortunately, this is bad news for anyone with a criminal history, including people convicted of federal crimes in Pennsylvania.

Not all background checks are the same. State and federal crimes occur at different levels of government and might not show up in the same background check. State-level background checks tend to be more common and do not yield federal criminal results. However, a federal criminal background check is not out of the question. Even so, there are limits to when and how background checks can be conducted.

If you have a criminal record, your past convictions might show up in a background check. However, federal convictions might not necessarily show up, depending on what kind of check is run. If you have concerns over your federal criminal history, speak to our Pennsylvania federal crimes defense attorneys. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 for a free case review.

Federal Convictions and Pennsylvania Background Checks

There is no singular method for background screenings or checks. The United States is not a single government but 51 different governments working together. The federal government is at the top, and 50 state governments work alongside each other. When a potential employer runs a background check, they are requesting information from a particular government database. Employers cannot request federal information from a state-level database and vice versa.

Federal crimes will not appear in a state background check. However, a state-level background check will turn up any Pennsylvania criminal convictions in your record in Pennsylvania. However, that does not mean that federal crimes are completely hidden from employers. A federal background check will yield any federal criminal history you might have. If you have a federal criminal record, speak to our Philadelphia white collar crimes lawyer about disclosing your record to employers.

Many employers might only run a state-level background check. In such cases, a past federal conviction might not come up at all. However, if the employer runs a federal check, your federal criminal history will be made known. Many public employers, especially those in education, tend to run multiple background checks as the applicants may be working with children. Applicants for positions that deal with money and require a high level of trust might also be subject to federal background checks because white-collar crimes like embezzlement are often charged at the federal level.

Who Performs Background Checks in Pennsylvania?

Some background checks are more extensive than others. Some simply verify information, while others dig into the prospective employee’s criminal record. As a general rule, the most thorough background checks are conducted on applicants to positions that involve working with children, such as teachers and school guidance counselors. Commercial drivers like truckers and bus drivers are also subject to extensive pre-employment investigations, which serve to verify clean criminal records as well as clean driving records. Government employees who may deal with sensitive information and require a great deal of trust are also extensively screened.

Employers are generally required to be transparent with prospective employees about background checks. If you are in the process of applying for a new job and have not heard any information about background checks, you are allowed to ask. This might be a useful strategy because you can determine whether you need to disclose any part of your history before it comes up in a background search.

As mentioned above, most employers are running some type of background check on potential employees. However, the type of screenings used by employers will vary based on what they are hiring for. For example, trucking companies often want to see a potential driver’s driving history, including moving violations and DUIs. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, three different background checks are utilized:

  • Department of Human Resources Child Abuse History Clearance
  • Pennsylvania State Police Request for Criminal Records Check
  • Federal Criminal History Record Information (CHRI)

As you can see, there are checks not only for criminal histories but also histories of abuse. Talk to our Pennsylvania federal crimes defense attorneys if you believe you will be subject to one or more criminal background checks, including federal screenings. We can help you understand your rights during the screening process.

Laws Regarding Background Checks in Pennsylvania

The laws governing background checks vary widely from state to state, and employers who fail to comply may be subject to penalties. In Pennsylvania, relevant statutes include the Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRI) and the Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards ordinance (FCRSS).

Under the CHRI in Pennsylvania, potential employers can consider felony and misdemeanor convictions when deciding whether to hire an applicant. However, decisions may only be influenced by an applicant’s criminal history if the convictions would relate to the applicant’s suitability for the job. This means if a certain conviction is irrelevant to the applicant’s ability to do the job, the employer may not consider the conviction.

The FCRSS is a local ordinance unique to Philadelphia, although other counties within Pennsylvania have adopted similar measures. According to the ordinance, questions regarding an applicant’s criminal history are not allowed to appear on job applications. This rule has been termed the “ban the box” rule, referring to past practices involving applicants checking a box for yes or no in response to a question about past convictions. This rule not only applies to convictions but to arrests and criminal charges that did not lead to convictions. Employers are not even allowed to ask about your criminal history until after the first interview. The rule also requires employers to conduct background checks only after determining that a candidate is otherwise suitable for the job.

According to these rules, employers cannot use your criminal history, including federal crimes, against you if the convictions do not relate to the prospective job. Employers are also not permitted to require you to disclose your criminal history yourself. This means that if the employer does not plan on running a federal background check, it is unlikely they will be made aware of your federal convictions.

These rules are designed to protect prospective employees and prevent employers from using unfair hiring practices. If you believe an employer violated these rules and cost you your job, contact our Pennsylvania federal crimes defense attorneys for help.

Expunging Federal Convictions and Background Checks in Pennsylvania

As discussed in our article about expunging federal crimes, unfortunately, expungements are generally not possible for a federal conviction. Congress does not permit federal convictions to be expunged in any circumstance. This means that a federal conviction will remain on your record forever, no matter how serious or minor. Expungements are, however, permitted at the state level in all states, including Pennsylvania.

There are, however, a few limited exceptions for certain drug offenses committed by persons under 21 years old. In place of an expungement, persons with federal convictions may be interested in obtaining a Presidential Pardon. While Presidential Pardons are not equivalent to expungements and will not seal the record of the conviction, they will help restore certain legal rights.

Expungements are important to consider when applying for work because expunged convictions should not show up in background checks. An expunged state-level criminal conviction is sealed and treated as though it does not exist. While federal crimes cannot be expunged and might be seen in a background check, expunged state crimes will not show up. Speak to our Philadelphia money laundering defense attorneys for more information.

Call Our Federal Crimes Defense Lawyers

If you are facing federal charges or going through the criminal appeals process, you need legal support from our experienced criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia. At the Law Offices of Lloyd Long, our team has extensive experience fighting federal felonies like money laundering and white-collar crimes. To arrange for a free case evaluation, call (215) 302-0171.