Obtaining and understanding criminal records


Most people think that a background check consists of a criminal records' check. This is not the case. Yet, criminal records' searches are an important part of every pre-employment screening program. There is no simple way to search for criminal records. We recommend that employers use as many avenues as possible to determine whether an applicant has been convicted of a crime.

Some important factors to consider:

•    There is no complete nationwide criminal background check that covers all states and counties in the United States, but there is a nationwide search that covers multiple counties and states. The exception to this is the Federal Bureau of Investigation database or National Crime Information Center (NCIC). NCIC is currently only available to law enforcement agencies and certain industries outside law enforcement which include banks and nursing homes.

•    Federal Criminal records - The American judicial system is actually made up of two separate court systems: state and federal. When employers fail to search the federal courts for criminal records, they might miss the fact that a job applicant has been convicted of carjacking, money laundering, counterfeiting, embezzlement and tax evasion.

•    County Criminal records - Searching for criminal records has never been more complex. There are 3,141 counties and county equivalents in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and most of these thousands of counties keep their records in different ways. Complicating matters, due to concerns about identity theft, courts are removing dates of birth, middle names and social security numbers from records, making it difficult to match criminal records with applicants. Finding the right records for the "right" person has become much more challenging, despite technological advances. Take the name, "Robert Smith." There are approximately 2.5 million people in the U.S. with the last name Smith, and even more with the first name of Robert. It takes time, skill and experience to sift through thousands of records to match records to the applicant.

•    Statewide Criminal records - Many states do offer a statewide criminal records' search, but in some cases, obtaining these records can take weeks and sometimes months. Further, most records at the state level are for convictions only. By searching only the statewide records you would not know if your applicant is awaiting trial or sentencing. Further, some states only report felonies, while others include misdemeanors. Yet, despite these limitations, statewide searches of criminal records can be an important part of a pre-employment screening plan as these searches often yield state-wide convictions.

•    "Nationwide searches" - We have all seen it, "Instant, nationwide criminal check" for only $9.95." These promises are made all over the internet. Sound too good to be true? It is. These nationwide searches are extremely limited and often inaccurate.

Recommended Best Practices

Will job applicants have access to my customer lists, money, inventory or interact with customers? Will they drive company vehicles? Will they become aware of company plans and strategies? Will they have a company credit card? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, KlinkCheck recommends that you develop a comprehensive pre-employment screening program that includes federal, county and state criminal records' searches.



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