Searching for Criminal Records – There is No Panacea

Feb 29, 2016

Many individuals and employers believe there is a magic way to search for criminal records.  For example many believe you just enter the person’s Social Security Number, and all criminal records of that individual are revealed.  Sorry to disappoint you, but searching for criminal records is not that easy.  In reality, most criminal records do not even have complete Social Security Numbers, so in order to search for criminal records, one must search by the exact legal First, Middle, and Last name and exact Date of Birth.

In addition there is no criminal database that contains all criminal records.  There are over 3,100 counties in the Unites States, and even more court houses in those counties.  Some counties simply are opposed to providing their information to any background screening company for the purpose of being included in a criminal database, while other counties are technologically incapable of doing so.  Further, the Federal Court system always requires a separate search.  Federal Criminal Records Searches are never part of any county criminal records search or any criminal database search.  Federal crimes often include so-called “white collar” crimes, such as money laundering, tax evasion and embezzlement, but they can also include other crimes such as racketeering and drug traffic.

Another myth that exists is that fingerprints will uncover all criminal records.  Commonly known as the “FBI files,” this NCIC database (National Crime Information Center) only has about 50% of all the crimes in the county.  Further, except for certain regulated jobs, the NCIC is only accessible for criminal justice matters.  To complicate matters even more, the NCIC database also contains arrest records, which often do not even end up being tried in a court of law, and arrest records alone should not be used as a basis for denying employment.

Performing a “best practices” employee background check is critical for all employers.  It will help mitigate risk and also help protect employers from Negligent Hiring and Retention Liability lawsuits.   “Best practices” generally means checking for criminal records under all legal names and for counties, an individual has lived in over the past seven years.  A reputable and knowledgeable background screening company can help your company or organization in obtaining a “best practices” employee background check.     

When hiring a company to perform the employee background checks for your company, be sure that you use a reliable background screening company, and one that is also a well-informed consumer reporting agency (CRA).  A responsible CRA understands the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the federal law that not only regulates employee background checks, but imposes very specific disclosure requirements, both upon you, the employer, and upon the consumer reporting agency (CRA).

Posted by: Rudy Troisi.  President, Reliable Background Screening.

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