National Criminal Database Searches: It Isn’t What It Is
October 14, 2008
Readers of our blog know full well our position regarding the use of national criminal record databases as the sole method of conducting a criminal records check on an applicant. These databases contain information that is often inaccurate and outdated. When searching for criminal records, your best bet will always be a comprehensive countywide criminal records check. National criminal record databases are a great supplement to a countywide search as they may point us in the direction of where to look for additional records (in the event that county did not show up on the applicant’s SSN trace), just not very good on their own.
If a company is using a national database as its sole criminal check on a potential employee, they are not only wasting their money but they are opening themselves up for a whole heap of trouble. For starters, a record found on a national database may appear to belong to your applicant, but really doesn’t. (Think common names) Records found on these databases may not even provide the correct charge or conviction status. The database may say the person was not convicted of a crime when they actually were (the accurate charge and conviction status will always be found at the courthouse the person went to). Even worse, you may run across arrest records and records that have been expunged since the information was sold to that national criminal records provider (both no-no’s).
To top it off, national doesn’t really mean national. No county or state reports their information to any one particular national database, if they report information at all. If they do report the information, they may only do so once or twice per year. So if you are using a national database as your only method of conducting the criminal background check, you are running a very high risk of getting a “no record” back on someone who has a record and getting a “record” back on someone who actually doesn’t. Both can cause quite a dilemma. Following up a national “hit” with a county search can confirm whether the record does belong to your applicant and/or the information from the database is complete and accurate.
ABC News published an article about the pitfalls of running national criminal database searches as a stand alone search. It’s definitely worth a read.
We have also written quite a bit about national criminal database searches. It’s a very popular topic for us. Enjoy!
Click on the links to read:
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