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Which criminal background search is best for your company?

Posted by Angelica Martinez on Mon, Apr 23, 2012


What type of criminal background check should I run?

This is a common question among employers and for a good reason – criminal searches can be confusing. And though I don’t like to say it, the real answer is: “It depends”. Factors that can influence this decision may be industry specific, job function specific, time sensitivity, and many others. There are hundreds of background screening companies in America, many of which have their own naming convention for the types of searches available. For the purpose of simplicity, let’s break it down to the most common.

 Common Types of Criminal Background Checks

  1. National Criminal (and Sex Offender) - Though there is no true “national” criminal database that is all encompassing of every jurisdiction in the US, a national search generally refers to a multi-state (and often instant) database search. Databases are usually maintained by third-party Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRA’s), and updated on varying frequencies depending on jurisdictional data availability.
  2. 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, etc.). 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.
  3. Statewide CriminalA true statewide criminal search is just that, “state-wide”. Meaning all jurisdictions within the 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 (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 / match is discovered.
  4. County CriminalA local court search, accessed by physical court researcher or through the court’s online criminal records system. A county criminal search 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, or via a SSN trace with address history, or based on potential records found in a criminal database ‘national’ search.  Delivery of results ranges from minutes to 5 days.
  5. Other Types – Additional searches that are more industry specific include: Civil Courts, Federal Sanctions (ie. OIG / GSA, OFAC), and International Watch Lists.

So now that we’ve identified the primary criminal search 'types', how about their advantages and disadvantages?

Statewide vs. CountyCounty Search vs. Statewide Search

Running 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 down fall. It is easy to run a county where the applicant has lived, but that does not necessarily mean that they do not have a record in neighboring counties, possibly just minutes away. VeriFirst suggests running the national criminal database search to help locate records before requesting a county search. This will help give you a target to base your search other than just 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 definite findings and cause even a further delay in conducting your business. The other negative is there are higher costs associated with running a statewide. There are some states like New York that charge an access fee of $65.00 to access their criminal records through the court house. VeriFirst suggests contacting our highly trained FCRA certified representatives more information pertaining to the state that your company is operating out of. 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

Verifirst collectively works with numerous databases to supply our clients with quick, easy, and cheap alternatives for conducting instant nationwide criminal reports. We are contracted with the largest criminal databases, which help us offer higher-quality data to our consumers. We can get access to more than 1 billion criminal and eviction records from more than 300 data sets across the country instantly. At this point you might be asking yourself, how VeriFirst filters the results to find your applicant. VeriFirst double checks every record to ensure that your company stays in compliance with the FCRA guidelines. We insure that every record has identifiable information, and that there has been a disposition associated with the record. What does VeriFirst do with records that are pending or incomplete? VeriFirst will always call our clients and educate them with the best approach to getting the most up-to-date results for the record in question.

VeriFirst offers a combination of instant and non-instant records to provide the best approach in creating a complete consumer screening report. Non-Instant County, Statewide, and Federal background checks can be used by themselves, but when paired with the information found in an instant search. Non-instant searches increase their effectiveness by pin pointing the direction of the search to a specific record in question. Our system has been proved to educate and help hiring professionals/property managers make the best decisions with the best information available.

Access FeesAccess Fees vs. Non Access fees

Our non-instant searches have affordable base prices, giving you access to the most up-to-date results, but non-instant searches may come with an additional cost that most companies do not know about. Certain counties and states have decided to charge an access fee for obtaining the most up-to-date records.

A majority of counties court houses across the country do not charge an access fee and the courthouses that do charge an access fee. Only charge a small amount in comparison to statewide searches. A majority of states do charge access fees. These fees can range from five dollars all the way to sixty five dollars. We always encourage our clients to contact VeriFirst for the exact cost of a county/statewide search before requesting a non-instant search.  Especially for companies that runs multiple counties/statewide.

VeriFirst is a leader in the background screening industry, and offers a full suite of available screens.  

If you have questions, or would like help identifying which criminal searches would be most suitable for your company – drop us a line. Contact Us

Choose VeriFirst the first time, because we help you make the right decision every time.

Topics: Types of Background Checks, Employment Background Screening