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Published: Jun 08, 2023 10 min read

HR professionals must take on many tasks to ensure their organization's success, from finding the best recruiting software and job posting sites for employers to identifying the best background check sites.

This last task is becoming increasingly important as, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resources Management, 92% of surveyed employers conduct some form of pre-employment background check.

One type of background check that employers and government agencies use is a level 2 screening. This fingerprint-based background check is used to determine an individual’s suitability for positions that involve a higher level of trust.

For example, a level 2 background check might be used to vet an individual applying for a job with federal law enforcement agencies or working with a vulnerable population (e.g., children or older adults).

This type of background check involves searching through state and national criminal records and court documents and verifying education credentials and employment history — all to ensure that the check's subject has no significant issues that would make them unsuitable for the position in question.

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What is a level 2 background check in Florida?

In Florida, level 2 criminal background checks are generally required for roles involving responsibility or trust. These include positions in healthcare (e.g., doctors, nurses and other medical staff), law enforcement, education, childcare and adult care.

Level 2 background checks entail a state-level criminal records check by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and a national criminal records check by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The FBI runs applicants' fingerprints through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, which is extensive and holds records encompassing arrests, criminal convictions and terror watchlists.

You can find details, rules and exemptions concerning background checks in Chapter 435 of the Florida Statutes.

How far back does a level 2 background check go?

While the most common lookback period for pre-employment background checks is seven years, the laws that regulate the types of criminal records that can be reported and how long they can be accessed vary by state.

Florida laws, for example, don't specify how far back a level 2 background check can go with regard to criminal records. However, the state does follow the guidelines set forth in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) concerning their reporting.

According to the FCRA, background checks cannot include arrest records over seven years old. This means that arrests older than seven years from the date of the background check that did not lead to convictions cannot be used to disqualify an individual from a job or other position.

Convictions, on the other hand, are not subject to the seven-year rule and can be disclosed regardless of when they occurred.

What level 2 background checks reveal

Level 2 background checks are extremely detailed and can reveal a wide range of information about an individual’s past.

With access to sealed court records, detailed employment histories and in-depth criminal history information, employers are able to gain a comprehensive insight into an individual’s suitability for the role in question.

The following sections will examine each of these components in greater detail.

In-depth criminal history

Level 2 background checks involve searching state-level and federal criminal records, including arrests, convictions and pending cases.

The FDLE will search through all available records to establish whether an individual has been convicted of a felony, charged with misdemeanors or involved in any other type of criminal activity in the past.

As previously mentioned, arrests that are older than seven years that did not lead to convictions will not be disclosed in a level 2 background check. Civil lawsuits and civil judgments older than seven years are also omitted from the report.

Sealed court records

Certain court records can be sealed by a judge in order to protect the privacy of an individual. These records are not available to the public but can be accessed through a level 2 background check.

The FDLE will search for any sealed court records pertaining to the individual in question, such as records related to juvenile delinquency conviction and detention.

Expunged records, on the other hand, are not available to potential employers and will not be disclosed in a level 2 background check.

Detailed employment history

Level 2 background screenings also include an employment history check, including the names of the applicant's previous employers along with job titles and exact dates of employment.

This information can be used to verify information included in a job application or resume. Employers may also use this information to determine if the individual’s work history demonstrates any patterns or behaviors that could be an issue in the new role.

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The limitations of level 2 background checks

Level 2 background checks are comprehensive and can provide employers with a great deal of information about an individual’s past. However, it is important to note that these background checks have some limitations.

For example, level 2 background checks don't include medical records and will not turn up warrants, as these are not actually part of an individual’s criminal record. And, in some cases, minor charges may not be included in background screenings if they don't directly apply to the role in question.

Applicants that have had a prior felony can apply for an exemption to the charge being used as a disqualifying factor if three years have passed since they completed their sentence.

Exemptions are also sometimes granted for misdemeanors (if the sentence has been fully served), crimes that were considered felonies at the time but are now misdemeanors and certain types of juvenile delinquency convictions.

The head of the hiring department or agency is usually the person who grants exemptions and generally does so on a case-by-case basis.

Level 1 vs level 2 vs level 3 background check

Level 1, level 2 and level 3 are levels of background checks that involve searches of different sets of records and offer varying degrees of detail.

Level 1 background checks tend to be more basic than level 2 or 3 checks and usually only include a basic name search, review of public records and investigations for any prior criminal activity at a state level. A level 1 check will also include a basic employment history verification and a search through the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website to see if an individual is registered as a sex offender.

As discussed, level 2 background checks are significantly more comprehensive and involve searches of both state-level and federal criminal records as well as sealed court files. Through the use of the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), the check scours through national criminal records as well as global terror watch lists.

Level 3 background checks are even more extensive than the previous two levels and offer employers a look into an individual’s full background. This type of check is not outlined in any of Florida's background check laws but is often used for executive-level positions in the healthcare industry.

A level 3 check can look into the professional licensing of the individual, education and employment verifications, civil records, criminal records and various state-specific databases related to sanctions, debarments, exclusions and disciplinary actions (e.g. disciplinary action from the Florida Board of Dentistry or the Alabama Board of Nursing).

Aside from these three levels, there is also a type of background check typically reserved for high-level executives of large or influential companies known as a level 4 background check.

A level 4 background check will dive deep into the individual’s personal life and their reputation in the public sphere, for example by looking at social media profiles or conducting interviews with past associates. It may also include extensive drug screening and in-depth financial checks.

Level 2 background check FAQs

What are disqualifying offenses for level 2 background check?

Disqualifying offenses for level 2 background checks in Florida include various types of felonies, serious misdemeanors and crimes of moral turpitude.

The following is a partial list of disqualifying offenses:

Murder, Arson, Aggravated stalking or assault, Drug trafficking and manufacturing, Sexual misconduct, Burglary and robbery, Domestic violence or abuse, Weapons violations within 1,000 feet of a school, Certain white-collar crimes (e.g. fraud, embezzlement), Kidnapping ,Child Abuse, Prostitution.

Again, this is just a partial list, as there are numerous other offenses in Chapter 435 of the Florida Statutes that could potentially cause an individual to fail a level 2 background check.

Generally speaking, any conviction involving a violent act, sexual misconduct or any crime that is considered to be particularly harmful against vulnerable populations could potentially disqualify someone from passing a level 2 background check.

Can you pass a level 2 background check with a misdemeanor?

It is possible to pass a level 2 background check with a misdemeanor, depending on the type and severity of the offense. As previously mentioned, certain misdemeanors can be disqualifying offenses for this type of background check.

For example, misdemeanors involving abuse or neglect of children, violent behavior, or any crime of moral turpitude could potentially cause an individual to fail a level 2 background check.

Additionally, if the misdemeanor is recent or the individual has a history of repeated offenses, they may be more likely to fail the check.

How long does a level 2 background check take in Florida?

Generally speaking, a level 2 background check in Florida takes between two and three days to complete.

Although fingerprint checks and references to national databases are usually completed relatively quickly, confirming past employment history, education and credentials can take more time. That's because these aspects of the background check may require manual verification.

Delays can also result from unexpected surges in requests, system outages or staffing shortages, and from the method used to submit the application and fingerprints.

If submitted in a paper format, the fingerprints sent to the FBI will be on an FD-258 fingerprint card. Aside from the mailing time, the fingerprints will then have to be manually digitized before being compared to the automated FBI database.

On the other hand, if an electronic submission is used, fingerprints are immediately compared to the databases and the entire process can be completed more quickly.

How much is a level 2 background check?

To order a level 2 background check in Florida through the Department of Law Enforcement, individuals must have an Organization Record Identifier (ORI) number issued by a state or federal agency.

The ORI number will determine which agency the background check will be sent to as well as its costs. Depending on the ORI number, the price can range between $70 and $100.

Summary of Money's guide to level 2 background checks

  • Level 2 background checks are a vital step in the hiring process in Florida.
  • A level 2 background check is a comprehensive fingerprint-based check used by employers, government agencies and other organizations to assess an individual's suitability for positions requiring a high level of trust.
  • The check involves searching through state and national criminal records, education and credentials records, sealed court documents and employment history.
  • In Florida, Level 2 checks are typically required for fields like law enforcement, education, healthcare and positions that work with vulnerable populations, among others.
  • A variety of past offenses can be disqualifying during a level 2 background check, including misdemeanors that involve abuse or neglect of children, violent behavior, sexual crimes or crimes of moral turpitude.
  • The Fair Credit Reporting Act does not allow arrest records that are over seven years old to be reported. However, this does not apply to every state or to every type of job. Rules in some states may differ.
  • Level 2 checks typically take between two and three days to complete depending on the method used for submitting (paper fingerprinting cards and manual verifications can extend the process).
  • These types of screenings typically cost between $70 and $100.
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