Depending on the scope of the search allowable by law or requested by an employer, records of convictions of a felony or misdemeanor are usually reported on a background check. Non-convictions may be reported in some cases depending on the date of the charge or whether a case has been dismissed. Federal and state law will determine how far back criminal records can be reported.

A felony is typically defined as a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than one year or by the death penalty. Felonies may include crimes such as arson, assault, battery, fraud, homicide, kidnapping, rape, robbery, sex crimes, and terrorism.

Misdemeanors are often less serious crimes and are generally punishable by less than 12 months in jail. Community service, probation, fines, and imprisonment for less than a year are commonly issued punishments for misdemeanors. Obviously, each state may vary as to what is classified as a misdemeanor or felony.

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