How to Conduct a Comprehensive Criminal Records Search

Conducting comprehensive criminal background checks as part of your hiring process helps ensure your employees’ and clients’ safety and security. It also reduces the risk of hiring someone with a criminal past that could cost your business lost resources or damaged reputation.

A county criminal record search provides detailed information on all accessible felony and misdemeanor records. It includes convictions, adjudications withheld during a hold period, and expunged/erased records.

State and County Records

A comprehensive criminal background check requires a search of state and county records. State records detail arrest, indictment, conviction, and sentence data reported to the state by police departments and district attorney offices, as well as by courts and other criminal justice agencies. Petty offenses like traffic violations are generally not included in state criminal history records.

The New York State Office of Court Administration’s CHRS database comprises criminal case information reported by town/village, city, and county/supreme courts within the 62 counties. CHRS reports do not include cases sealed by the court. Also, the search does not include cases involving unserved Orders of Protection and mental health or probate matters.

Other types of searches can be used with CHRS to help identify an applicant’s complete criminal history. For example, a sex offender registry search inspects the sex offender registries of all 50 states and U.S. territories. Global and domestic watchlist searches can help employers screen candidates for criminal records and industry bans on foreign soil. In contrast, international criminal record checks search a network of domestic and international government watchlists. Using an FCRA-compliant background screening provider can ease the burden of performing a thorough criminal records check on applicants and ensure compliance with relevant federal, state, and local laws. Checkr’s advanced platform searches thousands of databases, law enforcement sources, and registries to provide accurate and comprehensive results.

Federal Records

Federal criminal records searches leverage public access to the electronic court records (PACER) system and search criminal case information from the U.S. District Courts for violations of federal laws and offenses committed across state lines. These searches are commonly included as part of comprehensive background checks for employers, although it is essential to note that some crimes cannot be expunged from a federal record.

Unlike county or state criminal record searches, which are limited by geography, national databases transcend county and state levels and offer an in-depth view of criminal histories. One example is the National Crime Information Center, operated by the FBI. This database includes criminal records of fugitives and missing persons. It also holds records of federal offenders and is supplemented by papers voluntarily submitted by State repositories.

The scope of a federal criminal records check should include all names used over the applicant’s lifetime and all addresses where they lived for at least seven years. It is because criminal records are typically filed under the person’s name when they committed the crime, and if your scope only includes their current name, you could miss cases entered under different terms. It is especially true for criminal records entered under aliases like drug trafficking convictions. This type of search requires the help of a specialized background screening company with access to these national databases.

International Records

In addition to statewide and county records, comprehensive criminal background checks include federal and international searches. The former contains investigations for crimes prosecuted by federal agencies (like the FBI and DEA), while the latter examines criminal records from countries where your candidate has lived.

A country-specific search is more involved than a county-level search, as the information gathered will vary widely depending on that region’s laws and privacy standards. But international tracking isn’t necessarily more expensive, and it can be conducted within a day or less if using a provider that works with national criminal databases and other digital repositories.

A national database search utilizes a multi-step process with a team of specialists that verifies identity and eligibility and uses AI smart data technology to match and filter results to comply with state and federal law. Most importantly, it can instantly deliver FCRA-permissible reports for employment screening.

A federal criminal record solution is another way to conduct a more in-depth check, looking for crimes that could not be prosecuted at the state or county level, including significant felonies like drug possession, child abuse, and embezzlement. Additionally, a nationwide criminal super search provides information from courts and departments of correction nationwide to help ensure that a candidate hasn’t used job moves as a cover-up for past illegal activity.

Instant Searches

Depending on state law and the method used to store records, a criminal background check can involve various sources and methods. Some searches must be conducted in person at a local courthouse; others are performed through an online database. The information gathered through these searches is then used to create a report and determine eligibility for employment or rental applications, among other things.

A comprehensive search may include:

  • Sex offender registry searches.
  • An industry-specific criminal record screening.
  • A global and domestic watchlist search.
  • An international illegal record search.

When paired with the county criminal record screening, this screening provides complete documentation of criminal convictions and sanctions against an applicant.

When a search is conducted through an online database, it can provide results instantly. It is the case when a person’s name, date of birth, or email address is entered into a people search website. These websites can also scan millions of public databases, law enforcement, and registries to compile criminal history reports for a fee.

A comprehensive background check requires a process that can take time to implement. A third-party service can streamline the process and help you comply with all applicable regulations, including disclosure and authorization, adverse action, and notice requirements. A reputable CRA can provide a single platform that searches thousands of databases, law enforcement, and registries for accurate, comprehensive results.

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