Taking a look at criminal history checks and the many misconceptions that are tied to them.
Misconception: A nationwide criminal check will encompass all records for an individual though out the country.
Truth: Although this may seem like logical reasoning, it is indeed wrong. A nationwide criminal check can miss many convictions on a state and local level. There are no regulations that require states or counties to report to a national level, leaving records often missing important information about the individual. The nationwide search will include the state sex offender registry data, but further research is always needed as many of the databases are not up to date. Nationwide searches are most effectively used to “fill in the gaps” for additional state or local searches not defined by current residence.
Misconception: As soon as the courts decide on verdict, the record is updated.
Truth: The records are not automated. A state court must manually input the data into the record. Generally the records are updated very quickly, but that is not always the case. Also, not all counties report to a state level, so even if the applicant makes you aware of a specific record in a state, the statewide search may not contain the record. Though this type of search is likely more inclusive of up to date county records than a nationwide, records often lack critical case identifiers, prompting further investigation before a record can be released.
Misconception: A federal crime, such as bank robbery or drug trafficking, will show up in a nationwide, statewide, or countywide criminal search.
Truth: Federal crimes, also referred to as “white collar” crimes, are reported on a federal level only. With that being said, there is not a federal search that contains records for the entire nation. There are even many jurisdictions or districts within each state that have to be searched on an individual level.
Misconception: Every county level criminal record report will always be returned in the same amount of time.
Truth: A county level report requires research at the individual courthouse being searched. Each courthouse has their own set of business hours and days. When attempting to obtain the records from a courthouse, the screening agency will have to work within the hours of availability set forth by that courthouse. Fortunately, when the record does come back, it has already been verified with identifiers that match the applicant to the record. Additional investigation is not required when this type of record is pulled, and provides the most accurate and current source of information.
There are other general misconceptions about criminal reports.
Misconception: When a record is pulled, an individual’s entire criminal history will be shown.
Truth: The FCRA governs the reportable information contained in a record as well as the length of time that the information may be reported. Following the most stringent guidelines, only convictions occurring in the last seven years will be reportable. Arrest records, deferred adjudication, offenses before the age of 18, and any offense occurring longer than seven years prior will not be shown.
Misconception: Records are always correct.
Truth: There is no guarantee that the record for an individual is 100% accurate. While courts and reporting agencies strive to maintain accurate information, there is always room for error. The data contained in a record is input by hand, and unfortunately no human is perfect. There are procedures set in place by the FCRA to allow for investigation in the event that the information is not correct. If during the investigation, the record is found to be inaccurate, it is changed to reflect the appropriate information.
While there are many more misconceptions concerning criminal reports, your background screening company should always be able to answer your specific questions regarding the subject.