Can a 28-year-old offense, arrest or charge prevent you from obtaining a position of public trust? While much of the security vetting process is confusing, there are explicit questions on the SF-85P for things you need to note. What is not as clear is the reasoning for a denial for a job… which we can presume is due to suitability reasons.

This ClearanceJobsBlog subscriber writes:

I was denied public trust for a mistake I made 28 years [ago] hanging out with the wrong people. I haven’t had any run-ins ever since. When filling the EQIP, it asked in the last 7 years have you had any arrests – I answered NO. I got letter from them to explain the arrest, I explained what happened, and was very apologetic for my actions. I wasn’t even interviewed and today got a letter saying that I was denied based on the felony offense. Is it possible to appeal even though it says final result? Please help.


On the SF-85P, you can expect questions pertaining to the last seven years regarding the following:

  • Being issued a summons, citation, or ticket to appear in court in a criminal proceeding against you.
  • Being arrested by any police officer, sheriff, marshal, or any other type of law enforcement official.
  • Being charged with, convicted of, or sentenced for a crime in any court.
  • Being on probation or parole.
  • Currently being on trial or awaiting a trial on criminal charges.

Like other background investigators on the thread, ClearanceJobs recently wrote about how suitability denial gets the best of national security applicants – suitability guidelines are a completely different set of rules aside from the adjudicative guidelines. And each agency has a set of their own that they weigh candidates against. And while it may seem unfair to deny an applicant a position based on a 28-year old offense, commenters are quick to note that suitability requirements are often tied directly to the position. A felony theft charge may be difficult to overcome if you’re looking to be deemed suitable for a government banking position. But pivot into a different field, and your suitability chances would likely be different.

The silver lining? You were not technically denied a security clearance, so at least you don’t have to answer yes to that question if it’s ever asked of you again.


Depending on the agency this applicant applied to, there is potential for writing an appeal for being found unfit for this agency or position. There are a few federal agencies that allow for written appeals, mainly DoD type agencies (this is because the DoD adjudicates their public trust determinations the same as security clearances). If this applicant applied to an agency like NSA or CIA, there aren’t usually any appeal rights.

Learn more about why suitability is the wild wild west of federal hiring here.


Much about the clearance process resembles the Pirate’s Code: “more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.” For this reason, we maintain – a forum where clearance seekers can ask the cleared community for advice on their specific security concerns. Ask CJ explores questions posed on the ClearanceJobs Blog forum, emails received, and comments from this site. This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation.

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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 10+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸