Clarifying the Different Types of Criminal Background Checks

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criminal background check types

Conducting criminal background checks provides many benefits to employers and the public including creating a safer workplace, reducing the risk of negligent hiring lawsuits, reducing employee theft, and more. However, determining which type of criminal background checks to conduct can be challenging.

In some cases, employers may unknowingly be exposing themselves to risk by not being aware of the limitations of certain types of criminal background checks, or could be conducting the wrong types of background checks depending on the goals of their program.

For example, the reporting of criminal history records may be limited either by the search depth that you select or by applicable Federal or State reporting limits. When the crime involves a sexual offense, however, you may be able to obtain current information about an applicant’s registration as a sex offender by conducting a search of the National Sex Offender Registry. In another example, when you limit criminal background checking to a particular state or geographic area, you may not discover crimes committed in another region.

In addition to the differences in criminal record reporting, there are also numerous jurisdictions and different types of jurisdictions across the United States,and the jurisdictions typically do not communicate with each other.

Therefore, to help ensure a more thorough criminal background check, employers may need to consider more than one type of criminal history check.

Some of the available sources of criminal, civil, and prohibited parties information include:

  • County Criminal Records: Uncover misdemeanors or felonies among one of the more than 3,400 county courts in the US.
  • State Criminal Records: Learn about crimes committed throughout an applicant’s state(s) of residence from state police records or state criminal records databases (where available). 
  • National Criminal Records: National criminal records searches can help identify crimes committed by the applicant while traveling or uncover data hidden in county databases where employers did not think to check. National criminal records searches should be used to compliment traditional local searches, as not all municipalities may participate or provide records in a timely manner. Possible records are verified at the source before being reported.
  • Federal Criminal Records: Search records of crimes that are prosecuted in federal court such as tax evasion, fraud and embezzlement, mail and wire fraud, and more. 
  • Prohibited and Restricted Parties Search: These screens list individuals that you cannot hire because they are known terrorists, money launderers, narcotic traffickers, illegal weapons traders or are subject to an economic sanctions program. A handful of government agencies maintain a list of prohibited and restricted individuals and entities
  • Sex Offender Registry Search: Conduct a state or nation-wide search to learn if an applicant is a registered sex offender
  • Federal bankruptcy records: Identify individuals that have adjudicated cases of bankruptcy which may reveal a propensity for financial mismanagement.
  • Driving records: Used to identify individuals with unsafe driving records to limit corporate risk.
  • Civil upper and lower courts: Identify individuals that have been involved with lawsuits including product liability, breach of contract, small claims and more.
  • International: Employers may wish to review the foreign background of a domestic hire or conduct international searches for their global offices.

Employers that understand the extensive selection of criminal history background checks available will be able to develop a more effective background screening program that identifies the best talent and meets their business needs.

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HireRight is a leading provider of on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening, and electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions that help employers automate, manage and control background screening and related programs.

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