HOW TO STAY COMPLIANT: Understand the Criminal Reporting 7-year Rule

When navigating the choppy waters of criminal records, a common question comes up. “Why can you report criminal convictions that are over 7 years old?” The simple answer is because the Fair Credit Reporting Act, (the federal law that regulates background check companies like One Source) allows for convictions to be reported indefinitely unless prohibited by state law. The 7-year rule we often hear about relates to credit history information, not criminal information. Here’s a clearer way to understand the Criminal Reporting 7-year Rule.

Where did the seven-year rule come from?

Under federal law, the consumer reporting agencies cannot report an arrest 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. 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. Source: Fred Dahr Attorney

There are currently 5 states that do not allow for criminal convictions to be reported unless the applicant makes a certain amount in a year and three that prohibit regardless of income: See State Restriction on Criminal Reporting

  • California, Montana, and New Mexico
    • Strict 7-year rule, regardless of income
  • Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Washington
    • 7 years of information if the applicant makes $20,000 or less

It is always helpful to include the income and the applicant’s state of residence when entering orders. This ensures One Source knows how to keep you compliant. Want to know more? Feel free to reach out to the Operations team at 800.608.3645 or email us at

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