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70 million Americans have a criminal record – Where are the records?

As noted in the previous article, because someone has a criminal record, it doesn’t mean they won’t be a fit for your company.

Most employers will answer that all records are available in a National Criminal Report.

Is there such a thing?

Let us first understand what the word national means. The Oxford dictionary defines national as: ‘relating to a nation, common to or characteristic of a whole nation.’

Using this definition, then a National Criminal Report will be your best defense, right?!

Well, not everything is as it seems to be.

The term national, when used with criminal reports, is misleading, and should give you pause when you see it. There is not a database that is 100% complete, private or public, for all criminal records in the US. A better way to view these criminal reports is as Multi-State or Multi-Jurisdictional coverage.

What’s the difference?

It’s the same report, but the difference in names is more informative. A National Criminal report provides false hope that this is the best method of finding potential criminal records. A Multi-State, or variation thereof, makes you take a step back to learn more about the information you are receiving.

Nonetheless, this report searches many state criminal records and sex offender registries. Ask your provider to provide you with coverage information for a complete list. It is not the quick fix panacea you may be looking for, especially when hiring, this report still has its value as a base report.

How should you use it?

When used as a base report, it is an economical way to uncover more areas to search that you would have otherwise skipped. For instance, you have a candidate named Michael. He applies and is currently living in Chicago, but vacationed in Dallas where there is a conviction. If you were only looking for records in Michael’s current residence, Chicago, you would have missed the records in Dallas.

If the Multi-State criminal record search can inform you of charges in another state, then that’s pretty good, right?!

That’s a good start. There are other factors we need to combat.

  • Limited information can be available

Some states and counties restrict the availability of information. Coverage in these areas is scarce, sometimes rendering this search useless.

  • ‘Freshness’ of the data provided

The FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) requires Employers to use the most up-to-date and correct information. These reports may not contain the most up-to-date information. Only rely on information that is confirmed at the source.

Are you missing recent cases? If there is a lag time in adding records to databases, how will you find recent cases?

What could you do?

Relying only on a Multi-State Criminal search might be more economical, you are opening the potential liability for your company. Think about running a County Criminal report to complement your Multi-State search. When selecting reports for use in your screening process, please make sure you have a full understanding of the various reports available and the shortcomings they may have.

HR Preferred is determined to help Build HR Confidence in their screening process. And as a company standard, we do not provide a Multi-State Criminal record search by itself.

Gain HR confidence in background checks by having a conversation with your screening provider. Share pertinent information with them so they can help you out. Which states do you work in? What positions do you hire? What does your recruiting process look like? This information helps a screening provider deliver a preferred application and background check method.


This information is provided as a courtesy, may change, and is not intended as legal guidance.

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