Background Screening – Criminal Records 101

Background Check - CautionBy:  Tony Lipinski
Sr. Solutions Consultant

First off, I have been in the screening industry for 13 years and have a degree in Sociology with an emphasis in criminology. So hopefully, the information I’m providing will help you decide what is best for your enterprise. Please don’t construe this article as legal advice, it is simply a recap of best practices I have from my experience within the industry. You may also wish to review another related article which backs up my conclusions.

A National Background Check in the United States does not exist and is a misnomer. There is not any source currently; including the FBI NCIC, which has access to all records in the United States. The information is forwarded to the FBI from jurisdictions throughout the US.  In many cases, information is not forwarded properly which means it will not show up or can be incomplete.  For this reason, we highly suggest that the reporting jurisdiction is searched if an arrest record or incomplete / partial information is found.  This will help to ensure the accuracy of those records.

Best sources for “Best Practice” for a Due Diligence employment screening:

1) Fingerprinting – We can fingerprint and send the request for processing via the FBI NCIS database. However, it has to fall under a statute for processing. These checks run through Trusted Employees can take one to three weeks for complete results.

2) National Criminal SuperSearch – This is the database most screening companies, (Including Trusted Employees), access which contains information forwarded from jurisdictions throughout the United States. Each screening company may call this product something different like “national criminal records search”.  The limitations for this search are that it does not cover every jurisdiction in the U.S. and what is provided varies from state to state. We suggest using this search as a tool to locate records outside of the jurisdictions already searched. In addition, we suggest adding the originating jurisdiction where a record is located to ensure accuracy.  This is requirement in order to be compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) which all Reporting Agencies, including screening providers, must follow.  For Trusted Employees, this search is completed within minutes of submission.

Please note that the MN BCA statewide and Department of Corrections are the sources of information on the National Data base search with regard to MN records. The MN BCA is like the FBI NCIC search in that it is dependent upon the reporting of  jurisdictions within the state.  If a jurisdiction does not submit or submits incorrect information, the record will not show up or could be erroneous. Schools K-12 and Tenant screening in MN are required by law to conduct a MN BCA search.  Typically, over half the records do not show up on the statewide criminal search when compared to a full county by county criminal search.

3) County Criminal Search – Trusted Employees suggests conducting a County Criminal Search to ensure our customers are doing thorough due diligence. The county courts hold the records of any broken state law in the county where the infraction occurred. At Trusted Employees we provide all of the counties in MN as one search as we have access to all 87 counties. We have the same capability in about 20 other states which have a similar comprehensive search available. In states like Illinois and California that do not have a comprehensive search available, we search the counties of residence. For example, if someone is from Chicago, we search Cook County, IL.   For Minnesota and most of the Midwest, Trusted Employees completes County Criminal Searches within 12-24 hours. The rest of the U.S. may take two to three business days.

4) Statewide Criminal Search – In most cases, including MN, Statewide criminal searches are a repository of information from the county to the state. If the county does not forward the information to the state repository, it will not be reported. In addition, not all statewide criminal searches are available to non-criminal justice agencies. Trusted Employees completes this search within minutes for Minnesota.  Other States may require special forms can take up to several weeks.

5) Federal Criminal Records Search – Federal criminal records include breaking a Federal Law such as money laundering, drug trafficking, internet crimes, bank robbery, crimes crossing a state line and crimes on Federal property. There are 94 Federal Districts in the US and these districts do not report to the States or counties and the States and counties do not forward to the Federal Court system. Trusted Employees searches the Federal districts within the state of residence. For example, Minnesota has one Federal District so we search that Federal District Court,  Wisconsin has 2 Federal Districts so we research both districts, and so on.  Trusted Employees typically completes this search within one to three business days.

The National Criminal SuperSearch, County Criminal, Statewide Criminal and Federal Criminal are all searched by name and cross-referenced with date of birth. We may also cross-reference driver’s license, address, and physical description if the name is common. The record will be located under the name of the arrest.  Social Security Number is not on any criminal records as the records are public.

Social Security Trace – This is a tool we use to locate any additional possible names or addresses as reported to credit agencies. If someone has a record to hide, they may not provide all names used or addresses on their application / release so this is a good tool to locate additional information which is returned instantly via Trusted Employees.

Our goal at Trusted Employees is providing our customers with the best search for their business at the best possible price. Our suggestions for those of you wishing to implement a cost effective background screening program within your enterprise are as follows:

  • Social Security Trace – Locates additional names and addresses not provided
  • Criminal Search – Searches counties of residence for records
  • National Criminal SuperSearch – National criminal records database search of 400 million various state and local agencies
  • National Sexual Offense History – we search all 50 states + DC for reported sex offenders

For Financial / Professional positions, we recommend adding a Federal Criminal Search.

I hope this information is useful as you review your internal policies and screening providers. Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions about National Criminal searches or conducting background screening in general.

Tony Lipinski
Sr. Solutions Consultant
Trusted Employees
10505 Wayzata Blvd, Suite 200
Minnetonka, MN 55305-1502
PH 952 259-3019 / 888 389-4023
FAX 952 545-3973 / 888 389-4024

Legal Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only and by no means should replace or substitute other legal documents (governmental or non-governmental) reflecting similar content or advice. If you have any questions concerning your situation or the information provided, please consult with an attorney, CPA or HR Professional.

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