Frequently Asked Questions: Criminal Background Screening


What comprises a basic criminal background check?

A basic criminal records check includes a search for felony and misdemeanor records at the county level, using all names and counties generated through a Social Security Number Trace.

Why do you recommend I run “all names, all counties, all the time”?

This approach is the best way to do a comprehensive felony and misdemeanor criminal records check. It allows you to certify to your company you did as complete a background check as reasonably possible at this court level. Following this approach is considered the industry standard, and conforming to the industry standard will be strong evidence of proper due diligence in the event of employment litigation.

What if I ask you to call me if you find more than 4 places to search?

Asking us to call you and obtain approval if your applicant has lived in more than a pre-determined number of places or under multiple names could create some challenges. If you run a full background check on an applicant with 5 places to search, but pick and choose counties/names on a different candidate that has 8 places to search, that could be considered a discriminatory process. You have done two different types of checks, one comprehensive, the other not. Selecting counties and names is based on the results of the SSN Trace. It is not an arbitrary process and the number identified does not differ based on whether you ask us to contact you. We recommend “all names, all counties, all the time” because it ensures a consistent, streamlined approach to your background screening process.

Doesn’t a statewide search cover this?

Research shows statewide searches are notoriously outdated, incomplete, and inaccurate. Only 33 states even offer access to a repository that holds criminal records. We cannot claim that statewide repositories, when a countywide search is available, are FCRA compliant. Our obligation is to provide you information from what is considered the most current, accurate source. Statewide repositories, with very limited exceptions, are not that source.

Then why do you ask if I want to run a New York Statewide search?

In most of that state, a repository check is the only option available for pre-employment screening purposes. In the areas of the state where a county search is available, we offer that to our clients. It is the only state in the nation where we recommend different options based on your applicant’s residential history and the only state where at times, the best available method is a database search.

Should I be running a federal district court search?

Federal district court searches are the first option we recommend for a client that wants to go above and beyond a comprehensive felony and misdemeanor court search. Crimes often adjudicated in the federal court system can include but are not limited to: drug trafficking, bank fraud, and kidnapping. Because not all crimes are handled at the local level, running the federal district court search in the same geographical areas as the countywide searches delivers an added layer of protection.

What about a “national” criminal background check?

The limitations found in statewide checks are magnified through a national check. The best commercially available databases hold records from approximately 40% of the country and have the same quality concerns found in state repositories. Like statewide searches, EmployeeScreen IQ only offers this type of database product as a complementary product to the standard countywide misdemeanor and felony and federal district court search. Any record found in a state or nationwide database must be validated at the county level to ensure it is accurate and current.

Kevin Bachman is the Director of Customer Relations at EmployeeScreen IQ. Kevin can be reached at 1-800-235-3954 x450 or by e-mail at

  • Randy

    About criminal background checks…What if an applicant has been charged with a felony or misdemeanor but has not been convicted of anything yet. will this information show up? Or is this considered illegal at this point because we are “innocent until proven guilty” in this country?


    • BATMAN

      I have this same issue. Can anyone please help. Thank you

  • Jimmy Bollenbach

    How long does a background check take?

  • Susan Caudill Matthews

    I have just gotten a job and my background check that was done on Friday has not come back yet and it is Monday. Is that a problem, or normal? I had to change my name with the social security office on Friday, because it was still under my maiden name. I took care of that and I know that I only have speeding tickets on my record, no felonies, but I just hate the wait.

    • Nick Fishman

      No worries on this Susan. Good background checks take a few days.

  • Sharon

    I am wondering if NYS only has the statewide repository option for NYC background screenings. For example if I want to check Queens County it cost $65 however a NY statewide check costs this amount as well. Would it be safe to say that for NY a statewide check is most accurate and will provide information for all NY counties?

  • Fred

    my job is performing a background check, i was arrested but have not been arraigned or convicted yet. Will the arrest show as a pending criminal record?

    • Nick Fishman

      If they are searching in the county where the arrest occurred, then you would have to assume they are going to find it. Sorry for the delayed response.

  • Josh

    Its funny that they say they can run county criminal history checks but under pa law employeers are subjust to ciivil liablity if they use information that is not on the pa criminal background check so if your small summary charge was never filed with the state police like lets say voiding human excreation then they won’t find it cuz it wasn’t a criminal offence

  • josh

    Recent entries made in the court filing offices may not be immediately reflected on these docket sheets. Neither the courts of the Unified Judicial System of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania nor the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts assumes any liability for inaccurate or delayed data, errors or omissions on these docket sheets. Docket sheet information should not be used in place of a criminal history background check, which can only be provided by the Pennsylvania State Police. Employers who do not comply with the provisions of the Criminal History Record Information Act (18 Pa.C.S. Section 9101 et seq.) may be subject to civil liability as set forth in 18 Pa.C.S. Section 9183.

  • Eric

    Do criminal background checks specify the offense? Or at least type of offense? For example; if it was a traffic infraction do they note that it was for speeding?

    • Nick Fishman

      Sorry for the delayed response Eric. Yes, a conviction record should always include details about the offense including the charges, what the person was convicted of or plead guilty to and the type of charge classification (felony, misdemeanor, infraction, etc.).

  • Mike

    In the State of Indiana, I read new HR laws have been passed. A non violent arrest with a dismassal cannot be reported to an empolyer. IS that correct?

  • RIck

    Odd question here, I called a non-emergency police number because I thought a friend was at risk of hurting himself. Turns out I was wrong, but my question is would that likely show up in a background check? From what I could gather the police officers decided not to check it out as I didn’t have his exact address since my friend had just moved. However, they were able to match his name to his past address. I called back later and retracted my statement but I highly doubt it was entered into record except preserved on the phone recording. If this would show up, is there anything I or he can do to remove this from record? Thanks.

    • Nick Fishman

      Don’t worry Rick. This won’t show up on a background check.

  • Jim

    Do infraction level traffic citations show up on a criminal background check?

    • Nick Fishman

      Thanks for your question Jim. It depends on whether the jurisdiction searched includes that information in their public record source. If it is included, it would probably be reported. Now, whether those records matter to employers is a different question. Most probably don’t care, but I imagine a laundry list of traffic infractions could be concerning. They also might be of interest to those that hire drivers or for candidates who will be driving as part of their job responsibilities.

  • meeker hymes

    i did a live scan with the county of riverside ca, i have two old cases from 2002 and 2006 they were expunged in 2009 should i be clear for the background check??

    • Nick Fishman

      As long as the expungements were filed correctly by the court, you should be fine.

  • Tony

    A recent background check asked for convictions in the last 10 years. I answered no as my conviction was 13 years ago. I am worried that they may still find out. I answered the question honestly but am worried as to what they may discover on the background check.