Criminal Background Check in California
Criminal Background Checks in California: What You Need to Know
Getting a job or renting an apartment can be tough for anyone, but it’s especially challenging if you have a criminal record. Many employers and landlords in California will run a background check before hiring or renting to someone. While they are allowed to consider criminal histories, there are strict laws in California limiting how far back they can look and what types of convictions they can factor into their decisions.This article will walk through everything you need to know about criminal background checks in California: what shows up on them, who can run them, laws restricting their use, and how to get certain records cleared or sealed. We’ll also look at the implications if you’re applying for a job, housing, or occupational licensing.
What Shows Up on a California Criminal Background Check
A basic background check in California will include criminal history information from both state and federal courts. This includes:
- Arrest records
- Misdemeanor and felony convictions
- Dismissed cases
- Pending cases
Arrest records without a conviction will also appear. However, California law prohibits employers from considering arrests that did not lead to a conviction (with some exceptions).Background checks typically go back 7 years in California. However, there are exceptions where employers can look back further for certain jobs. Sex offenses, serious felonies, and offenses requiring registration as a sex offender have no time limit.Juvenile records are confidential in California. They do not appear on standard background checks unless you were charged as an adult.Here are some common convictions that could show up:
- Drug crimes like possession
- Assault and battery
- Domestic violence
- Restraining order violations
Non-conviction records like diversion programs may also appear.
Who Can Run a Criminal Background Check in California
Employers, landlords, volunteer organizations, licensing agencies, and others can all legally run criminal background checks with your consent.However, California has strict laws about how and when they can be used in employment and housing decisions.For employment, the California Fair Chance Act prohibits asking about criminal history until a conditional job offer is made. The offer can then be withdrawn if the check reveals convictions that directly relate to the job duties.Landlords cannot have blanket policies denying applicants with criminal records. They must assess each person individually using factors like the nature of the crime and time passed.
California Laws Restricting Criminal Background Checks
California has some of the strongest laws in the U.S. limiting how criminal records can be used against you. Key laws include:
Ban the Box
The California Fair Chance Act prohibits employers with 5 or more workers from asking about criminal history on job applications. They cannot inquire about or consider records until a conditional offer is made.There are limited exceptions, like if the law requires a background check for that job.
Seven Year Limit
California employers are generally limited to considering convictions that are less than 7 years old. There are exceptions for certain serious crimes.This limit resets if you are convicted of another crime during the 7 years.
Direct Relationship to Job Duties
Employers in California can only rescind a job offer based on convictions that directly relate to the job duties. They cannot have blanket policies rejecting any applicant with a record.Factors like time passed since the offense must be considered.
Housing Discrimination Protections
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination based on criminal records. Landlords must assess applicants individually.
Salary History Ban
California employers cannot ask about salary history. This is important because lower incomes can be tied to having a record.
Sealing and Clearing California Criminal Records
If your background check is showing convictions that are making it hard to get a job, there may be options to seal or clear your California criminal record such as:
- Expungement – Removes conviction from public record and states you pled “not guilty.” Available for misdemeanors and some felonies.
- Reduction – Felony can be reduced to misdemeanor to lessen impact.
- Dismissal – Convictions dismissed under Penal Code 1203.4 won’t show up on most background checks.
- Certificate of Rehabilitation – Shows your rehabilitation after a conviction. Improves employment chances.
- Pardon – Rare but removes state convictions and restores rights.
- Sealing juvenile records – Keeps youth records confidential if certain conditions met.
Relief won’t be immediate but can help clean up your criminal record over time. Consulting an attorney to understand the options is highly recommended.
How Criminal Records Affect Getting a Job in California
Even with California’s strict laws, many employers are still reluctant to hire someone with a criminal record.The impact on your job search can depend on factors like:
- Type of conviction – Violent felonies often seen as most concerning. Small drug crimes may have less impact.
- Industry – Healthcare, schools, finance, security sectors tend to be most strict. Tech and construction less so.
- Time passed – More recent crimes cause greater concern.
- Relevance to job – Convictions closely related to duties pose bigger hurdle.
- Company size – Larger firms tend to run more comprehensive background checks.
While it may take more effort, there are still employers willing to look past a criminal record, especially for less serious crimes. Focusing your job search on companies that emphasize second chance hiring can help.Non-profits and certain government agencies also tend to be more open to applicants with records. Having strong references can offset concerns employers may have.
How Landlords Can Use Criminal Records in California
California has some of the strongest laws preventing housing discrimination based on criminal records. But landlords can still make it difficult for applicants.The California Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from having blanket bans on renting to people with criminal histories. They must assess each applicant individually, considering factors like:
- Seriousness of crime
- Time elapsed
- Age at time of conviction
- Evidence of rehabilitation
Even with California’s limits, some property managers still illegally deny applicants just because of a criminal record. This highlights the value of having an attorney review your case if you feel discrimination occurred.Non-profit groups like the Housing Rights Center also provide assistance with housing denials related to a criminal record.
How Criminal Histories Affect Occupational Licensing
Many jobs require an occupational license from California state agencies. The licensing boards conduct background checks and can deny licenses because of past convictions.There are some protections, like requiring the conviction be “substantially related” to the licensed job duties. But the licensing boards still have broad discretion to deny based on criminal records.Getting an occupational license with a record is challenging but possible in some cases. Documenting rehabilitation efforts and having employers vouch for you can help. Hiring an attorney experienced with licensing appeals is also beneficial.Some proactive steps like obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation prior to applying for the license can set you up for success.
Takeaways: Criminal Background Checks in California
California has extensive laws limiting how criminal records can be used against you. But background checks are still a hurdle when applying to jobs, housing, and occupational licenses.The impact depends on the nature of the conviction, time passed, and relationship to the position. Sealing or clearing eligible records can help overcome a criminal history.While challenging, many people with records do ultimately find employment and housing in California. Understanding your rights through resources like legal aid organizations can make a big difference.