Level 1 Background Checks: Meaning, Use, Limitations, Disqualifying Offenses

Jayson Baxter
October 7, 2022
A man in a yellow t-shirt and blue jeans is questioning what level 1 background checks mean while he holds a clipboard, and on the right is another person in blue jeans and dress shirt who is holding a grey magnifying glass and leaning against a screen with the numbers 1, 2, 3, and, 4 on them, but only number 1 is highlighted and there's a portrait of someone on the screen too.

Level 1 background checks are the most basic level search that can be conducted, but sometimes it’s not clear what exactly a level 1 check means in comparison to other types of background screenings, if there are any limitations, and which offenses are considered disqualifiers.

Luckily, anyone can run a background check to see what shows up for themselves or others, but when considering 95% of employers utilize some form of record check, it’s also important to understand the intricacies of a level 1 check and the laws that govern them before preparing or applying for a position.1

What Does Level 1 Mean on a Background Check?

Simply put, level 1 background checks cover one jurisdiction or geographical area (such as a county or state), and is basically a name search (sometimes including name and date of birth) that includes local criminal history reports along with employment verification.

Because it is a name-based search – the most basic kind of background check – the information returned can be very limited.

However, a level 1 screening should not be confused with a tier 1 background check. To be clear, tier 1 is the lowest level check performed by the federal government for employees and includes much of the screening information contained in a level 2 or level 3 background check.2

What Are Level 1 Background Checks Per Florida Statutes?

Florida is the only state that has codified level 1 background checks and this means the state has passed a law defining what a level 1 check is, how it is used, and the limitations placed on it; although plenty of other states and establishments use a similar definition.

Details on the FDLE database showing it's the main criminal history record check in Florida and costs $24.

Chapter 435 of the Florida Statutes regarding employment screening has three conditions or standards that must be followed regarding level 1 screenings. These are:

  1. Individuals required to undergo a level 1 check must be screened for state-wide criminal history through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, undergo an employment history screening, and be checked against the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Registry. It can also include a local criminal record check.
  2. The person screened cannot have any pending charges or convictions or plead no contest for criminal offenses outlined in the standards for Florida’s level 2 screenings.
  3. A candidate being screened cannot have a conviction or have pleaded no contest to a domestic violence offense.3

Level 1 background checks can be useful; however, they are often not as extensive as higher level checks, and as with others, there are also limitations to this basic type of background check.

Limitations of Level 1 Criminal Background Checks

Because it is a name-based check covering only one geographic area, there are some distinct limitations to a level 1 background check which makes most employers or landlords use a higher level check when making decisions such as hiring or leasing.

One of the biggest limitations to a level 1 check is limited criminal history that can be returned since it usually covers just one state or jurisdiction. This means that a national background check is not being conducted and a person’s criminal history in another state may go undiscovered in a level 1 check.

Another limitation is the possibility of multiple hits on a name when conducting a search. For example, if someone has a fairly common name for that particular region of the country, multiple records could be found based on the name alone. Without additional identifiers, it would make it difficult to determine which record goes with the intended subject.

On top of that, level 1 background checks typically do not include education verification which means that a person’s education listed on an application or resume may not be completely accurate. Without education verification, it is impossible to confirm if someone completed a diploma or degree program, and therefore, they may not be fit for the position at hand.

Since only Florida has outlined by law what a level 1 check covers, the variations in other states can also be a limitation to this type of screening. Outside Florida, there are no true standards for what should and should not be included in a level 1 check.

Screenshot showing that level 1 and level 2 checks are terms defined by Florida statues where level 1 is bame based and level 2 is run on a state and nationwide level using fingerprints.

All in all, a level 1 background check is primarily for name and limited criminal history information, they are usually conducted to see if a subject has any disqualifying offenses on their record.

Level 1 Background Check Disqualifying Offenses

Screenshot showing a list of disqualifying offenses such as felonies, violent offenses in the past 10 years and a few other under certain statues.

Disqualifying offenses are defined as those violations that would prevent someone from obtaining gainful employment or leasing a home or apartment. There are a number of disqualifying offenses that can be returned on a level 1 record check and these matters can negatively influence housing and employment opportunities.

Level 1 Disqualifying Offenses When Renting or Leasing Housing

When a level 1 check is conducted by a landlord or property manager, they are looking for disqualifying offenses that may prevent someone from living in a certain area. For example, if an apartment or home is beside a school, a person with a sex offense charge could be disqualified from leasing that particular residence.

Other disqualifiers on a level 1 report that could prevent someone from obtaining housing include convictions for burglary, domestic violence, or other violent crimes that could present a safety hazard to other tenants.

When using disqualifying offenses to take adverse action on a potential renter, the landlord or property manager must advise the person of the adverse action (disqualifier) and what prompted it per the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

A screenshot showing that landlords can run consumer reports though certain companies, but they must be FCRA compliant.

Do lawsuits show up in a level one background check when looking for an apartment or house? Typically they do not since a level 1 check is focused primarily on criminal history and the national sex offender registry.

Level 1 Background Check Criminal History Disqualifiers

Employers conducting level 1 checks are often looking for criminal charges or convictions that may impact a person’s ability to perform the duties of their job or are otherwise not compatible with the image the business wishes to have with the public.

The red flags help protect the agency and its clients from further harm or abuse.

For example, a person with a child abuse conviction will be disqualified from working in child care, and a person convicted of elder abuse would be prevented from working in a nursing home.

Local criminal history information can show up on a level 1 report. Other types of disqualifying offenses include domestic violence convictions, sex assaults, violent crimes or crimes of larceny.

A screenshot showing various types of criminal history that will disqualify applicants from level 1 background check, things such as child abuse, sexual assault, violent crimes and more.

Any conviction that can negatively impact a person’s ability to perform their job is considered a disqualifying offense in a level 1 report but this is largely dependent on the position and employer so a more in-depth list can be found below.

Level 1 Disqualifying Offenses in Florida

Florida outlines the specific disqualifying offenses in its employment screening statute. Level 1 background checks in Florida looks for those disqualifying offenses that would prevent someone from being hired.

An employment background check in Florida can be a level 1 or 2 screening.

The table below shows which offenses are considered disqualified under Chapter 435.

Level 1 Background Check Disqualifiers in FL Background Checks
Sex offense against disabled client 393.135
Sex offense against mental health client 394.4593
Abusing, neglecting or exploiting the elderly or disabled persons 415.111
Conspiring to commit any of the disqualifying offenses listed in Chapter 435 777.04
Murder 782.04
Manslaughter or aggravated manslaughter of elderly, disabled, or child victims 782.07
Vehicular manslaughter 782.071
Killing an unborn child by injuring the expectant mother 782.09
Felony assault and battery 784
Assault on a child/minor 784.011
Kidnapping 787.01
False imprisonment of another 787.02
Enticing or luring a child 787.025
Luring, enticing, or removing a child from the state with criminal intent in custody matters 787.04(2)
Failure to present a child at a custody hearing or failure to deliver a child to the legal guardian 787.04(3)
Displaying a firearm or weapon within 1000 feet of a school 790.115(1)
Possession of a weapon on school property 790.115(2)(b)
Sexual battery 794.011
Prohibited sexual acts with minors 794.05
Prostitution 796
Lewd and lascivious behavior 798.02
Indecent exposure 800
Arson 806.01
Burglary 810.02
Felony voyeurism 810.14
Felony video voyeurism 810.145
Felony theft or robbery 812
Felony fraudulent selling of the controlled substance 817.563
Aggravated abuse or neglect of an elderly or disabled person 825.102
Lewd or lascivious acts in the presence of an elderly or disabled person 825.1025
Felony exploitation of an elderly or disabled person 825.103
Incest 826.04
Abuse, aggravated abuse, or neglect of a child 827.03
Contributing to the delinquency of a minor 827.04
Sexual performance by children 827.071
Violently resisting arrest 843.01
Preventing law enforcement or correctional officer from communicating or from protecting themselves 843.025
Helping an inmate or detainee escape 843.12
Helping a juvenile detainee escape 843.13
Obscene literature 847
Recruiting others into a criminal gang 874.05
Felony violations regarding drug abuse prevention and control relating to minors 893
Sexual misconduct with forensic clients 916.1075
Cruel and unusual treatment of inmates resulting in gross bodily injury 944.35(3)
Violations regarding the escape from correctional custody 944.40
Harboring an escapee 944.46
Bringing contraband into a correctional facility 944.47
Sexual misconduct in a juvenile correctional facility 985.701
Bringing contraband into a detention facility (jail) 985.711

A level 1 NCSI background check includes identity verification and local criminal history. It is used by a number of sporting organizations including Team USA, the official governing body for the United States Olympic Team.

Level 1 checks show a person’s local criminal history, and these criminal charges can stay on a person’s record for years or a lifetime unless they are removed by either sealing or expunging the record.

When Do Charges Fall Off Level 1 Checks & Screenings?

The longer a charge is on a person’s record, the longer it can have a negative impact. Each state has its own laws regarding sealing or expunging records, background check laws, and statutes of limitation for filing charges. For example, some states follow the FCRA 7-year limitation on looking back at a person’s record Until charges are removed from the public record, they will show up on level 1 background checks.

All of the factors mentioned above affect when charges fall off level 1 checks and screenings. The article “How Long Does a Misdemeanor Stay on Your Record?” gives more insight into when minor charges can fall off a person’s record which can determine what shows up on a level 1 background check.

For charges that resulted in non-conviction, it is possible to expunge or seal the record in most states, and some states have automatic removal written into the statute when certain conditions are met.

As far as level 1 checks go, do pending charges show up on a background check, and when do they fall off someone’s criminal record? In most cases pending charges are considered public records, so they can show up on a background check. For level 1 screenings, it would depend on whether or not the charges are in the geographic area being searched.

Many states use a 7-year background check as the standard, but criminal history may include a longer timeframe. When do the 7 years start on a background check? Typically it is 7 years from the date of completion of sentencing. An example of a 7-year state is Kansas which limits the time a person can look into someone’s criminal history.4

Do dropped charges show up on a background check and more specifically, a level 1 check? Again, it depends on the state and its laws regarding public records.

The list of states below has automatic removal of non-conviction charges from a person’s record.

Automatic Expungement Laws by States That Have Enacted Relief
State Brief Description
California Dismissed misdemeanors
Connecticut Dismissed charges 13 months after dismissal
Delaware Charges dismissed in the accused’s favor
Georgia Charges not referred to court for trial
Illinois Dismissed charges
Kentucky Charges dismissed with prejudice
Michigan Specified dismissed charges
Nebraska Dismissed charges
New Jersey Dismissed charges
New York Charges dismissed in the accused’s favor
North Carolina Charges after 12/1/2021 were dismissed without leave or dismissed by a judge
North Dakota Dismissed charges after completion of deferred prosecution
Oklahoma Dismissed first-time drug charges following deferred prosecution
Pennsylvania All non-convictions
South Carolina Dismissals in summary court unless fingerprints were taken
South Dakota Dismissed first-time felony or misdemeanor charges
Tennessee Upon the accused’s request when the case is dismissed
Texas Upon Order of Nondisclosure in deferred prosecutions
Utah Charges dismissed with prejudice
Virginia Deferred and dismissed marijuana charges

Whether a disqualifying offense is a misdemeanor or felony will determine how long it stays on a person’s record. The nature of the offense will also determine if it can be sealed or expunged in states that allow removal of the record from public view and ultimately, there are a number of factors that determine how long charges stay on record.

In addition to charges showing up on a background check, there are other level screenings that can show a great deal more.

What’s The Difference Between Level 1 vs Level 2 vs Level 3 Background Checks?

There are various types of background reports that can be completed on an individual and the most common types include level 1, 2, or 3 checks – each with different levels of scrutiny.

The various requirements of an employer and the amount of information needed determines what gets checked in a background check and above level 1 are level 2 and 3 checks that include NICS background check information since they both involve fingerprinting.5

Level 1 Background Report

A level 1 screening is the most basic report and a name-based search, it usually covers only one geographic area such as the state where the check is conducted. More than one hit or person can return on a level 1 report making it less reliable than other screenings.

It’s important to note that a level 1 background check is the least invasive check conducted on a potential employee or tenant.

Level 2

A level 2 background check includes the same information as a level 1 check, but it often includes fingerprinting an individual to check for disqualifying crimes as well. This means a level 2 check is a nationwide criminal record check instead of just a local one and gives a prospective employer or landlord a more detailed picture of a person’s history.

Screenshot explaining level 2 background checks are finger print based, done by the Department of Children and Families, put through a system names Care Provider Background Screening Clearinghouse and include everything a level 1 does and more.

In Florida, level 2 checks are used with positions that involve working with vulnerable populations such as childcare, elder care, or working with disabled individuals. With greater responsibility and public trust comes a greater level of screening, and level 2 provides this information.

Level 3

The most common type of background check is a level 3 background check. It includes all the elements of level 1 and level 2; however, it also includes employment and education verification as part of the screening process. Level 3 checks can also include pre-employment drug and alcohol screenings or a physical examination to make sure someone is fit for the job duties.

This can also be a c level background check due to the increased responsibilities attached to the position the person is applying for. This includes a much deeper dive into the person’s background to verify they are the right one for the position.

This can be used as a background check for a visa application to determine if a person meets the necessary criteria for entry into the country.

The amount of information that shows up on report varies, but each one still has value when conducted. So figuring out the difference between different levels of background checks helps the employer determine which is best for their use.

What Shows Up on Level 1 & Level 2 Background Check?

Each type of background screening shows important information about the applicant, and although most show the persons name and criminal history, the amount of information varies by level .

Criminal history involves traffic offenses, infractions, misdemeanors, or felonies. It can also include pending charges and dropped or dismissed charges in states that do not automatically expunge non-convictions. Any criminal matter that is still considered a public record is discoverable in a level 1 check.

A level 1 check can possibly show employment history; however, this is usually just where the person worked and when. It does not include a reference check or shows why a person left a place of employment.

A level 2 screening includes the same information as a level 1 report, but it also includes a national criminal background check through the FBI so charges from anywhere in the U.S. may show. Fingerprinting is included in the level 2 screening allowing employers or property managers to get a better indication of the person’s character.

When companies perform routine background checks after employment it is possible to have a failed background check after a job offer. When adverse action is taken based on the information in the report, there may be additional requirements the company has.

At-will states are not required to provide a reason for the termination or rescinding of a job offer when a level 1 screening shows disqualifiers.

How to Perform a Level One Background Check

Employers, many use commercial screening companies to conduct background screenings for them and these companies must comply with state laws regarding the information included in the report.

They must also adhere to the Fair Credit Reporting Act regarding what information is disclosed and what notifications must be given to the applicant.

On the other hand, when a person knows they will be subjected to a background check for a job or as part of tenant screening, they can conduct a personal background check on themselves by using a third-party search site or by conducting their own search by using online government agency portals.

This can benefit individuals wanting to find out more about a potential love interest, friend, and more.

While it isn’t the most common type of background check performed, there are still companies that rely on this screening to start the process of onboarding a new employee. Knowing all about level 1 background checks meaning, limitations, and disqualifying offenses can help make informed decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does a Level 1 Background Screening Cost?

Level 1 checks can cost anywhere from $0-20 depending on who is doing the check. Individuals can access public portals themselves for free. Third-party site fees vary depending on the company and information requested but the average is $15.

What Does Level 1 Mean on a Sterling Background Check?

This screening is a county court search. In other words, it is the person’s criminal history for the county the person lives in going back seven to 10 years depending on the state laws.


How Human Resource Professionals View the Use and Effectiveness of Background Screening Methods. (n.d.). How Human Resource Professionals View the Use and Effectiveness of Background Screening Methods. Retrieved August 17, 2022, from <https://pubs.thepbsa.org/pub.cfm?id=9E5ED85F-C257-C289-9E8E-A7C7A8C58D00>

Understanding U.S. Government Background Investigations. (n.d.). Home [ors.od.nih.gov]. Retrieved August 17, 2022, from <https://ors.od.nih.gov/ser/dpsac/services/know-before-you-go/Pages/understanding-background-investigations.aspx>

Home. (n.d.). OnlineSunshine. Retrieved August 17, 2022, from <http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0400-0499/0435/0435.htm>

Home. (n.d.). Kansas Government. Retrieved August 17, 2022, from <https://www.kansas.gov/government/legislative/bills/2000/2685.html>

National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) | Federal Bureau of Investigation. (n.d.). FBI. Retrieved August 17, 2022, from <https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/nics>

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