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Criminal court searches help you identify those job applicants with a past history of violence, dishonesty, theft, substance abuse and other problems. Performing a criminal check will help minimize your chances of disruption to your workplace and your mission. It will protect your employees, customers, resources and your company’s reputation. Screening out the bad apples will also save you money and time that would be spent hiring and training new people to replace those that shouldn’t have been hired in the first place. Additionally, since you can be found liable for negligent hiring and retention, and can be held liable for the acts of your employees, it has the potential to save you lawyer’s fees, jury damage awards and bad press.
Despite internet offers of “instant national criminal record checks” there is no one place to check to see if a person has a criminal record anywhere in the country. In the United States there are two sets of courts, the county courts which cover state laws and federal courts that deal with federal laws. The courts have different jurisdictions, cover different geographical areas, and cover different crimes and each keep their own records. For example a domestic violence conviction will not be found in a search of the federal courts, and a bank robbery conviction will not be found in a search of the county courts.
National database searches, statewide database searches, hand searches at the county seat courthouse and federal district criminal court searches are all available, and they all have their place. In a perfect world, we’d recommend that all of those searches be run, but understanding budget constraints and the requirements of particular positions, many chose to run only some of the searches on some candidates. We recommend, at a minimum, that any background screening you do include the county level search. For your executives or more sensitive positions, we also recommend the federal court search. Database searches are a good supplement to those searches, but only as a supplement as there are limitations on what they find, how accurate they are, and what you can legally do with database records in making hiring decisions.
COUNTY LEVEL COURTHOUSE SEARCH
The best, most accurate and most current search is the county level search done at the county seat courthouse. A county level courthouse search will capture all convictions for state crimes and will insure you get up to date records and that the record does belong to your candidate. We recommend, at a minimum, that any background screening you do include the county level search.
There are advantages and drawbacks to any database search and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has requirements for employment decisions involving database searches. Each state is different, some will have only records of people convicted of felonies who ended up spending time in the state prison, other states don’t have recent records, others don’t update the records if a crime has been expunged or if the person violates probation. Other states don’t include records from every county in the state. There are a few states that don’t even have a database search available. Many of the state databases have inaccuracies or do not have identifying data to ensure that the defendant in a case is your applicant. They don’t include federal criminal convictions. For a complete state by state list of the Database Data Source Descriptions click here.
To ensure compliance with the FCRA, all records found through national or statewide database searches are subject to further investigation and verification by a county level courthouse search before they can be reported. For a complete state by state list of the Database Data Source Descriptions click here.
The National Database Criminal Record Search is a compilation of the available states database discussed above plus some federal exclusion lists. For a complete list of the National Database Data Source Descriptions click here.
FEDERAL CRIMINAL SEARCHES
A search of the Federal District Criminal Courts is a useful addition to your screening as it covers crimes and jurisdictions that are not covered in any of the other searches. Depending on the position your candidate will be filling, and the extra degree of due diligence required for some positions, federal checks are a useful addition to the county-level criminal searches. While many companies will search only those Federal Districts that are requested, our search covers all 94 of the Federal District Courts in the country.
INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL SEARCHES
Advanced Reporting offers criminal record searches around the world through our extensive network of court researchers located in each country. Subject to local laws we look for and report crimes and offenses that are comparable to felonies in the United States. Where available, misdemeanor equivalent cases will be reported as well.