What Is a “Lookback” Period?

What Is a “Lookback” Period?Checking someone’s criminal history is an important step when hiring, helping you understand if they’re trustworthy and won’t pose a safety risk at work. The “lookback period” can play a crucial role in determining the outcomes of these evaluations.

Simply put, a lookback period is the time period examined when checking if someone has a criminal record or criminal charges. It’s essentially like looking back in time to see if anything concerning shows up in their past.

What is a lookback period used for?

A lookback period is used to review a specific time frame in an individual’s past, typically in the context of background checks or criminal record searches. It helps assess and understand a person’s history, such as criminal activities or other relevant events, during a defined period. The purpose is to provide insights for various applications, including employment, housing, or other situations where a person’s background is relevant in Franklin. The duration of the lookback period can vary depending on factors like the type of check, the severity of the offense, and local regulations. It also encompasses various aspects like employment history, credit records, and notably, any prior criminal activities.

Importance of understanding lookback periods in criminal background checks

Why bother with understanding lookback periods? Well, it’s all about being proactive. Knowing the ins and outs of how far back a background check reaches allows individuals to anticipate potential concerns and address them beforehand. As different entities follow distinct policies and legal guidelines, having a grasp of lookback periods empowers individuals to present themselves transparently and, where possible, take steps to rectify any past missteps.

The type of crime influences a lookback period

Understanding lookback periods involves recognizing the differences between misdemeanors and felonies. In simple terms, misdemeanors are less severe offenses, often resulting in less than a year of imprisonment. Felonies, on the other hand, are more serious crimes, usually carrying sentences of over a year. These distinctions play a crucial role in determining the duration of the lookback period. When exploring popular crimes, it’s evident that different offenses can have varied implications.


Driving under the influence (DUI) is a common offense with specific implications for the lookback period in Tennessee. These charges, stemming from impaired driving due to alcohol or drugs, often have a notable impact on how long past incidents are considered in background checks. In Tennessee, the lookback period for DUI offenses is generally 10 years. This means that when conducting a background check, employers or other entities may take DUI convictions that occurred within the past 10 years into consideration.


Theft offenses, encompassing a range of actions from shoplifting to more serious forms of larceny, also influence the lookback period. Employers and other entities may weigh theft charges differently based on their nature and severity. This timeframe in Tennessee for theft offenses can vary depending on the exact offense and if there were any repeat offenses. The presence of a theft conviction in the lookback period can ultimately influence an employer’s decision-making process, particularly for positions where trustworthiness and financial responsibility are crucial.

Domestic violence

Domestic violence charges carry unique implications for the lookback period, given the sensitive nature of these offenses. The severity of consequences can impact how far back in time these incidents are considered in background checks. Employers and organizations may take a closer look at domestic violence charges due to the potential implications for workplace dynamics and safety.

Sex crimes

Sex crimes, including various offenses of a sexual nature, may have different lookback periods based on the severity of the crime and other factors. In Tennessee, certain serious sex crimes may not have a specific lookback period at all, meaning they could be considered at any time during a background check whether it’s been five years or 50.

Lookback period stipulations

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) establishes specific time limits, known as lookback periods, for different types of information in consumer reports. For arrests that did not result in convictions, along with liens, collections, and civil judgments, the FCRA imposes a seven-year lookback period. Bankruptcies, on the other hand, have a slightly longer period of 10 years.

It’s also important to mention that these time limits are not applicable when employers directly conduct searches without involving a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA). In the realm of criminal convictions, the FCRA allows these to be reported indefinitely, no matter how old the record is. This emphasizes the enduring impact that criminal convictions can have on an individual’s background, even as other types of information have limited lookback periods under the FCRA.

The lasting consequences of criminal convictions

When it comes to criminal convictions, the impact extends far beyond the courtroom. In Tennessee, as elsewhere, having a conviction on your record can significantly influence various aspects of life. First and foremost are the employment implications. Many employers in Franklin conduct background checks, and a conviction may raise red flags, affecting job opportunities. Beyond the professional realm, criminal convictions can bring about social and personal consequences. They might influence relationships, community standing, and overall quality of life.

Avoiding criminal charges is the best course of action

Being aware of the potential consequences can serve as a guiding principle in navigating life choices, encouraging responsible behavior and decision-making. This truly highlights the significance of making informed decisions to prevent legal troubles from the start. Making choices with foresight can help contribute to a more positive and sustainable future, reducing the risk of encountering legal challenges and their lasting effects.

The impact of prior convictions resonates across multiple areas of life, affecting employment, relationships, and personal well-being. Lookback periods, designed to enhance penalties and deter repeated offenses, highlight the long-term consequences of criminal records. If you find yourself facing questions about your criminal charges, seeking guidance is important. The experienced team at the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates stands ready to provide dedicated legal representation in Franklin, Brentwood, Columbia, and throughout Middle Tennessee. By scheduling a consultation, either by phone or through our contact form, you can take the first step toward addressing your legal concerns and working towards a more secure future.