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 about 3,300 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 — crimes of financial fraud — such as money laundering, tax evasion and embezzlement, but they can also include other crimes such as racketeering and drug trafficking.

The Myth of Fingerprints in Criminal Searches

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.

Why is it Important for Employers to do Criminal Background Checks?

Performing a “best practices” criminal background check is critical not only for all employers, but also for any organization that needs to check criminal background history — whether it be on prospective members, franchisees, tenants or volunteers. “Best practices” criminal background checks will help mitigate risk and also help protect employers (and other organizations) 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.

For example, crimes committed under a maiden name will not be discovered, if only the married name is searched at a county courthouse or other jurisdiction. A reputable and knowledgeable background screening company can help your company or organization in obtaining a “best practices” criminal background check, and uncover these crimes that would otherwise not be found.

How to Search Criminal Records

When hiring a background screening company to perform the employee, member, franchisee, tenant or volunteer background checks for your organization, 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 and other background checks, but imposes very specific disclosure requirements, both upon you, the employer (or other organization), and upon the consumer reporting agency (CRA).

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