If you want to become a security guard, criminal convictions in your record will affect your chances. Many states require security guards to take out a license; if the state's background check turns up a felony conviction, that may disqualify you. Even if you qualify for a license, larger employers may make their own background checks.
In some states, such as Kentucky and Maine, you don't need a license to work as a security guard. In many other states it's mandatory, even if you're working unarmed. The requirements for a license vary from state to state, but "no felony convictions" is a common one. It's the rule, for example, in Nevada, Rhode Island and Tennessee.
Other states bar you from the field if you have specific felony convictions. Oregon, for example, has a long list of red-flag felonies:
- Buying custody of a child
- Female genital mutilation.
The state also lists a string of misdemeanor convictions that disqualify you from becoming a security guard. These include strangulation, resisting arrest, public indecency, "maintaining a dangerous dog" and driving intoxicated.
Your state may issue licenses through the attorney general's office, the department of public safety or your local county government. Do research online to find the department to apply to, and whether your record would be an issue. The state doesn't just rely on applicants to tell the truth. You'll have to undergo a background check to get your security guard license.
If you're going to work for a small company, your employer may accept the results of the state review rather than spend time and effort double-checking. Bigger employers are more likely to run their own background check on top of the state effort. The more demanding the job, the more thorough the investigation: An unarmed guard gets less scrutiny than someone who carries a weapon. A conviction involving vehicles may be acceptable if you want to be mall security, but a no-go if you've applied to drive an armored car.
Some states that don't license guards do set requirements for who companies can hire. In Maine, for example, security firms must register their guards with the state police. The company can't register you if you fall short of certain standards:
- You've been convicted of a crime that could be punished by a sentence of a full year.
- You've received three or more convictions in the past five years that can be punished by shorter sentences.
- You've been convicted of posing as a policeman, falsely claiming to be a security guard, inciting employees to strike or interfering with the peaceful right to strike. These convictions are only an issue if they took place within the last five years.
Erasing Your Past
Your state may make it possible for you to expunge your record. California, for example, will issue you a Certificate of Rehabilitation if you meet certain requirements, such as living in California for five years since your release from prison. If you earn the certificate, your felony conviction is no longer a bar to getting a state security guard license.