What is included in a National Criminal Background Search?

3 min read
Fri, Mar 03, 2017


From 10+ years experience performing background checks, we know that employers are looking to save both time and money when hiring. Saving time and money also means ensuring the right person is hired because employee turnover definitely puts a dent in hiring costs. At a minimum for all candidates, a national criminal background check is definitely on the list of recommended basic background checks. Some employers may do an internet search for a "national criminal check" and hope to find quality data to help with their hiring decision. Be wary.

Is a National Background Search all-inclusive? The short answer to this is no. 

National Criminal Records Database

Unlike what television crime dramas show, there is no single comprehensive database that holds all identifying information, addresses, driver's license, fingerprints and criminal history on everyone. The closest national criminal database, that typically only law enforcement can access, is the FBI National Crime Information Center (NCIC). The database helps "criminal justice professionals apprehend fugitives, locate missing persons, recover stolen property, and identify terrorists. It also assists law enforcement officers in performing their duties more safely and provides information necessary to protect the public."

The NCIC isn't one single database but a conglomeration of different systems' data, including the FBI fingerprint database. Federal, state, county, and municipal courts are responsible for entering and modifying the data accessed by the NCIC. Because of numerous different ways crimes are classified, depending on their jurisdiction, and differing processes for entering the data, the information in the NCIS isn't all-encompassing nor complete, with only 50 - 55% of all criminal records included.

The database isn't searchable to employers for hiring, in general, except for certain cases, where state or federal law mandates access, or in the case of regulated industries such as banking and healthcare.

Dependable Criminal Record Data

Some third party brokers or internet websites may claim they have a national criminal database. These databases do not directly integrate into state or county court systems, therefore the public information gathered to create their database may be outdated or incomplete. When records are added to a national database, they may also later be modified or expunged and that information is never updated in the database.

  • Some courthouses do not sell their data to national databases.
  • Some courts do not report on a regular basis to national databases.
  • Some counties are not required to report their data.
  • There is no regulated way for counties and other municipalities to report data.

If an employer wants a criminal record check within a certain jurisdiction, it would be wise to check not only a national criminal background search, but also more local level criminal checks like a federal, statewide, or county search. The best way to obtain the latest, most accurate and dependable criminal records is to go directly to the source systems containing the arrest or criminal information. 

National Criminal Check Data Map

 Contact VeriFirst to learn more about our 
50 State National Criminal and Sex Offender Database Coverage

Double Verified and Compliant

Skip the internet search and work with a professional screening company so the information is complete, double verified and FCRA compliant. The VeriFirst Double Check is automatically initiated whenever there is a "hit" during a criminal record search. If there is a hit, the double check ensures that the applicant is the correct applicant and that the criminal record resulted in a conviction. 

As employers know, it is imperative that the hiring process and the assessment of criminal records in employment decisions are FCRA and EEOC compliant. A professional background check company will work with hiring managers and hr professionals, not only to make the process time and cost-efficient, but also to stay within compliance and hire the best applicant for the job.

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