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Which criminal background search is best for your company?

Posted by Ryan Howard on Sun, Oct 20, 2019


Criminal searches can be confusing and the true answer to this question for employers is... it depends.

Factors that can influence this decision are industry specific, job-function specific, time sensitivity, and many others. With hundreds of background screening companies in America, and many with their own naming conventions for background checks, it can be especially challenging for companies that want the best candidate, as soon as possible. For the purpose of simplicity, let’s break it down to the most common types of criminal background checks and the time it takes to process each type of report.

What type of criminal background check is best for my company?

The Most Common Types of Criminal Background Checks

National Criminal (and Sex Offender) - Though there is no true “national” criminal database that is all encompassing of every jurisdiction in the United States, a national search generally refers to a multi-state and often instantaneous database search. Databases are usually maintained by third-party Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRA’s), and are updated at varying frequencies, depending on jurisdictional data availability.

Federal Criminal – Federal criminal searches look for records in one or more of the 94 U.S. federal district courthouses across the nation. This type of criminal search is typically requested by employers looking to hire upper management, partners, and C-level employees.  These searches are conducted for crimes involving violations of federal law (e.g., money laundering, counterfeiting, racketeering, crimes committed across states lines). Based on the applicant’s address history, Federal criminal record searches are conducted at the specific U.S. district court covering the region where an applicant has resided. Results are generally returned in 1 to 3 days.

Statewide Criminal – A true statewide criminal search is just that, “statewide”. All jurisdictions within that particular state report to their state’s central repository. There are some states however, such as California and Delaware that do not make a statewide search available. In those cases, county searches are required. Results can take as little as a few hours to return, and in some cases, as long as 60 days if a potential record or match is discovered.

County Criminal – A county criminal report involves a local court search, accessed by a physical court researcher or through the court’s online criminal records system. This type of screening report is known in the background screening industry as being the most current, accurate and best search available. To know which counties you should search, many companies will look at the address(es) provided by your applicant. A social security number (SSN) trace with address history or records found in a criminal database ‘national’ search will also determine which counties to search. Delivery of results ranges from minutes to 5 days.

Other Types – Additional searches that are more industry specific include: Civil Courts, Federal Sanctions (ie. OIG / GSA, OFAC), and International Watch Lists.

Consumer Reports 101: How to read criminal records

Advantages and Disadvantages of Criminal Background Check Types

Statewide vs. CountyCounty Search vs. Statewide Search

A county search does give the most up-to-date information on a criminal record, even more so than a statewide search, but that comes with a downfall.

An employer may run a county search where the applicant has lived, but that does not necessarily mean that they do not have a record in neighboring counties, just minutes away. VeriFirst suggests running the national criminal database search to help locate records before requesting a county search. This will help give employers a target area to search other than only where the resident has lived.

A statewide search provides a thorough search in the whole entire state of choice, covering all counties, but statewide searches require more patience. The state may call for additional requirements to conduct the search, causing a short delay in providing the report, and cause an even further delay in conducting your business. The other negative is there are higher costs associated with running a statewide search. Some states may charge an access fee of $65.00 or more to access their criminal records through the court house.

VeriFirst suggests contacting our highly trained FCRA-certified representatives for more information pertaining to the state where your company operates. We can tell you the exact cost charged by the state/county and if there are special requirements that need to be completed for that state.

Turnaround TimeInstant vs. Non-Instant Database Searches

VeriFirst collectively works with numerous databases to supply our clients with alternatives to "quick, easy, and cheap" instant nationwide criminal reports. Information acquired from an online database search may be inaccurate and incomplete, increasing the risk of non-compliance with FCRA regulations.

VeriFirst is contracted with the largest criminal high-quality databases, which help us offer more dependable data to employers. We have access to more than 1 billion criminal and eviction records from more than 300 data sets across the country instantly.

We also double check every record to ensure that employers stay in compliance with FCRA regulations. We insure that every record has identifiable information, and that there has been a disposition associated with the record. If there are incomplete or pending records, we educate our clients with the best approach to getting the most up-to-date results for the record in question.

Cost of a Background Check:  How Much Should You Pay?

Access FeesAdditional Access Fees

Our criminal record searches have affordable base prices, giving employers access to the most accurate results. Some counties and states, however, charge an access fee for obtaining the most up-to-date records.

We always encourage employers to contact VeriFirst for the exact cost of a county/statewide search before requesting criminal background checks.

If you still have questions concerning criminal background checks, please contact us. We're happy to help!

Topics: Types of Background Checks, Employment Background Screening