Criminal Background Checks for Employment
When running a criminal on-site history record search for employment, your organization may determine if an applicant or employee has a reportable criminal conviction. Felony and misdemeanor criminal records are held at superior or municipal county-level courts.
After determining which county (or counties) to search, a qualified researcher will access the specified county court records and conduct a search using the name and date of birth of the applicant or employee.
If a reportable case is found, a qualified researcher will review the criminal record for quality assurance to ensure it is associated with the applicant and meets all criteria established by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) as well as State-specific laws. After this review, the criminal record will be reported to the client in an easy-to-read report. The record will include the case number, filing date, type of crime (felony or misdemeanor), what they were charged with, disposition date, disposition, and sentencing information. Identifiers (such as full name, date of birth, etc.) found in the case are also reported to demonstrate the record matches the applicant’s provided name and date of birth information.
Under the FCRA, the reporting period for criminal convictions is seven years from the date of conviction, or release from prison. Records older than seven years are not reportable. Records that fall within the last seven years are reportable. For example, an employer is looking to fill a position in August 2017. If an applicant was convicted of Robbery in 1993, this record would be outside of the reporting period because it is older than seven years. If the applicant was convicted in 2015, however, this would fall within the reportable period and the record would be reported to the employer who requested the search.
Keep in mind that there are two types of criminal background checks:
- Index Searches, which utilize database records
- Hand Searches, which occur at the court in real-time specified by the client
An index search is a jurisdiction-specific database search, which can be used to quickly find all records associated with a name and date of birth. Index searches, however, tend to provide access to less information about the case – for example, an index search may provide the case number, charges, and disposition date for a criminal record. It oftentimes will not provide sentencing information, such as when the convict’s probation ended, which is generally valuable information when making an employment decision.
Not all index searches are the same; some counties offer more information than others, and not every county has an available index. Many counties in numerous states do not offer index searches, necessitating the use of hand searches in these jurisdictions.
Online index background checks are great for a quick snapshot; however, they are not nearly as accurate as hand searches. For example, if a case was filed very recently, a researcher could “miss” the record if the index has not been updated recently to include the case information.
Hand searches remain the best tool for locating detailed case information such as sentencing information, probation violations, fines and court-ordered restitution, diversion programs, etc. Hand searches are more time-consuming and expensive because a court researcher is physically conducting the search at the court per your instructions.