What Is a Level 2 Background Check?
Updated · Apr 06, 2022
Have you been asked for a Level 2 background check? Or perhaps you’re an employer looking to prevent negligent hires?
Background screenings are virtually a must in 2022, but not everyone is aware of what they entail. Don’t worry—we’re here to explain.
Read on to learn:
- What is a Level 2 background check?
- Why do these checks exist?
- How do they work?
- What will come up on a background screening (and what won’t)?
- How can you do a Level 2 check on yourself?
What Is a Background Check?
Any investigation that confirms you are who you say you are, is a background check. There are different cases where a background investigation could be required, although one of the most common has to do with employment.
If you’re wondering what jobs don’t do background checks, you might want to look into the food and customer service industries. Still, statistics show that 96% of employers run some sort of check, so don’t be surprised if they ask for one anyway.
Employers run background checks to make sure they won’t run into any trouble by hiring you. For example, if a financial advisor with a history of stock embezzlement commits fraud once again, the company will almost certainly be found guilty of a negligent hire. Similarly, hiring a nurse with a history of patient abuse would be considered negligent if they reoffend.
To prevent this, employers might run a Level 2 background screening when you apply for a high-responsibility position.
(If you’re curious about firearm purchase checks, credit reports, and the rest, we have a dedicated piece on the different types of background checks.)
What Is a Level 2 Background Check?
It’s an in-depth, fingerprint-based report that looks into both state and national registries.
State-level regulations vary as to who needs these checks and how far back they go. For example, in Florida, level 2 checks are a must for people who work in high-responsibility positions or with vulnerable groups (minors, patients, the elderly, etc.).
In Texas, criminal background checks go back seven years and employers can only go back further if your salary is over $75,000.
In this article, we’ll focus on Florida’s version of a Level 2 check. First, because it’s fundamentally equivalent to Level 2 investigations in other regions.
And second, because Florida is technically the only state where Level 2 checks officially exist, as defined in Chapter 435 of the Florida Statutes (F.S.)
What Does a Level 2 Background Check Show?
Level 2 checks use your fingerprint to pull up records, as it yields more information than a name-based search alone.
Since they’re meant for high-responsibility jobs, there’s a long list of offenses that will raise a red flag on a Level 2 check. You must keep in mind that this type of screening exists to protect the people you’ll be working with.
You can see the whole list of Level 2 background check disqualifying offenses in Chapter 435. But basically, crimes such as kidnapping, trafficking, manslaughter, patient abuse, and pretty much any offense related to hurting a vulnerable person is considered unacceptable.
So, felony convictions show up on a Level 2 check, of course, but what about the rest? Here’s an overview:
- Do warrants show on background checks?
No, they don’t. Until a warrant has been executed, it’s not a part of your criminal record.
- Do arrests show up on background checks?
They might. A background report shows if you were charged but not convicted in the past seven years. However, some background screening services omit those to ensure equal employment opportunity.
- Do misdemeanors show on background checks?
Yes, they do. A misdemeanor conviction is still a conviction—and it might be a red flag on your Level 2 check.
- Do pending charges show up on pre-employment background checks?
Yes, in most states, they do. In Kansas, however, they can’t be reported; whereas in Michigan, only pending felonies are shown.
Officially, drug screenings are not required for Level 2 checks, but some employers might still ask you to have one done.
How Far Back Does a Level 2 Background Check Go?
On a national level, there is no limit to how far back they can go when searching for convictions; however, there are some restrictions. For instance, drug abuse prevention and control offenses only show up if they happened in the past five years.
And, although a felony conviction will always come up in a Level 2 criminal background screening, you can apply for an exemption three years after you served your sentence, so that it’s no longer considered a disqualifying offense.
There are also disqualification exemptions for:
- Crimes that were felonies but would be misdemeanors now.
- Delinquency that would be a felony if committed by an adult.
- Misdemeanors (if you did your sentence).
However, you must be granted an exemption by the head of the relevant agency—and that doesn’t happen very often.
How Do a Level 1 and a Level 2 Background Check Differ?
A Level 1 background screening is a basic, less-detailed report of an employee’s (or applicant’s) history, reserved for low-responsibility positions. It doesn’t look into national records or use fingerprints.
As per the Florida legislation, it includes:
“Employment history checks and statewide criminal correspondence checks through the Department of Law Enforcement, and a check of the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, and may include local criminal records checks through local law enforcement agencies.”
A county criminal record may appear on Level 1 screenings, but only if the employer checks with local law enforcement. If the criminal record is from another state, it probably won’t be in a Level 1 screening, but it will appear in a Level 2 background investigation.
Key takeaway: A Level 2 check is a fingerprint-based report on your criminal and employment history. In Florida, it’s a must if you work with vulnerable groups like minors or the elderly.
Other Background Checks
Background checks can go even deeper than Level 2—and often they do.
Although a Level 3 background check is not defined by Florida’s (or any other state’s) legislation, it’s a term used across the country for an in-depth screening.
It’s the golden standard for executive roles.
Level 3 checks are also performed specifically for certain professions. For example, the Fraud and Control Information System (FACIS) Level 3 investigates healthcare professionals' medical background and criminal history.
It’s a nationwide screening that includes information from thousands of specific state sources, such as the Alabama Board of Optometry or the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry.
Finally, the term Level 4 background check usually refers to the comprehensive investigations run on executives.
They look into media image, financial history, and more. A Level 4 check essentially ensures that a high-profile employee doesn’t have any skeletons in their closet—even if said skeletons have nothing to do with the law.
Key takeaway: There are additional levels of background checks. These return more information, but they’re not defined under a specific law nor are they required for all professionals.
Would you like to know how to run a background check on yourself?
Here is how you can do it:
- Use a commercial service. Companies like GoodHire run background checks for you, showing you the same information that an employer would see. Prices for these reports start at $19.99, though this usually only includes Level 1 background check information. There are more accessible background check services as well that provide detailed information for a fraction of the price. Intelius and US Search combine accuracy and affordability particularly well.
- Check databases manually. You can see a lot of your own records by simply requesting them. For example, you can do a free SSN track with the Social Security Administration and view national sex offender registries across all 50 states. You can also ask for your criminal records from any courts you appeared in. Just keep in mind that getting your documents manually is rarely actually free, as it involves administrative fees. Plus, it’s definitely more time-consuming and it won’t yield Level 2 fingerprinting results.
Key takeaway: Going to agencies separately might be cheaper, but it’s more time-consuming, while commercial services can be a bit pricier, but they tend to be more convenient. Either way, they’re both good options so you can see what your background check says about you.
So, to sum it up, what is a Level 2 background check?
It’s an in-depth track of your identity, criminal history, and career. Its name comes from the Florida legislation, but you might also find the term outside the state, referring to a detailed background investigation.
Level 2 checks exist to protect vulnerable people from potentially abusive situations. That’s why employers run one on anyone who works with children, in elderly care or in any healthcare position.
Is your (future) career in one of these fields?
Check your own background to see if you’ll pass—you can request information manually or use a commercial service like GoodHire, which does the work for you.