• National Criminal Database Check

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    This article will help you:

    • Understand what happens in a National Criminal Database Records Check
    • Decide whether to act upon information from a National Criminal Database Records Check
    • Understand your candidate's experience

    Checkr runs a National Criminal Database Records Check as a routine step in background checks. This search queries 2800+ databases and over 900 million records, to cast a wide net and find potential offenses. However, the records returned are often incomplete, lacking identifying information and/or the final disposition of what actually happened -- for example, whether the case was dismissed. Instead, we use the National Criminal Records Check to quickly find other records that should be searched for more detailed information. Checkr uses hits from this search to determine which county records should be searched for criminal records, including felonies, misdemeanors, and some infractions and traffic records.

    The National Criminal Database contains over 900 million records from various county and state agencies covering roughly one third of the United States. Data aggregators scour these county and state agencies, continuously updating the database. This database can be best described as a “pointer” records check, in that it points to other potential criminal records that may exist for a candidate. Because this search often provides incomplete or inaccurate data, we recommend that you pair it with county-level searches, which are more thorough. This search is used in virtually every criminal background check package to find additional “hits.” Once a “hit” is identified, Checkr dispatches researchers to the county where the national criminal search shows a possible record to obtain:

    • Additional identifiers to confirm it belongs to the individual in question
    • Complete and up-to-date case information (e.g., disposition, status)
    A National Criminal Records Check is not the same as a Federal Criminal Records Check. See our article on the differences between a national check and a federal check.

     

    Candidate Experience

    The National Criminal Records Check is included in Checkr’s basic report package, which includes SSN Trace, Sex Offender Registry Check, Global Watchlist Records Check, and National Criminal Records Check. The Global Watchlist Records Check cannot be run as a standalone Screening.

    Candidates will be asked to provide Personally Identifiable Information (PII), including their full name, date of birth, social security number, email address, and phone number.

    They will then be presented and asked to acknowledge receipt of applicable forms and notifications, including Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and an Acknowledgement and Authorization for Background Check.

    After the candidate consents, Checkr will initiate the Check.

    If you've applied for a job and are looking for more information on your background check’s status or progress, please log into the Checkr Candidate Portal.

  • Federal Criminal Records Check

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    This article will help you:

    The US tries cases in two different courts: state/local courts and federal courts. These are considered to be different jurisdictions and therefore try different categories of cases.

    Federal crimes differ from other crimes in that a federal crime is prosecuted under federal criminal law in federal courts. A county criminal search does not return results on the federal level.

    Federal criminal records are accessible only through a specific federal criminal search. There is no overlap with county or statewide searches, or with the National Criminal Records Check.

    Federal criminal offenses usually fall into the following categories:

    • Crimes against federal employees (postal carriers, TSA employees, etc.)
    • Crimes committed on federal land (e.g., national parks)
    • Bank robberies (all banks are protected by the FDIC, a federal department)
    • Commissions of crimes across state lines (e.g., a kidnapping occurring in California that crosses into Nevada, large-scale conspiracies)
    • Drug cases involving large distribution network(s)
    • Child Pornography (internet allows for transmission across state and country borders)
    • Other crimes that fall outside state and local jurisdictions

    Searches that uncover a criminal record can take 2-4 days to complete. Because most federal criminal records have all or most personally identifying information (PII) redacted, searches that yield no results are returned almost immediately. All federal criminal information is online, making in-court research unnecessary.

     

    Conducting the Federal Criminal Records Check

    Checkr first conducts a search of the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) database, which is the central repository for all publicly accessible federal cases nationwide. The database relies on name-based searches and provides no means to search using other identifiers (such as SSN or DOB). Primary and alias names are searched separately. 

    To ensure a comprehensive range of returned records, Checkr does not require exact name matching for the initial PACER search. This results in a broader set of potential matches. 

    Candidates whose initial PACER search returns no results receive a Complete Federal Criminal screening, and no additional federal search is conducted. 

    For candidates whose searched name returns at least one potential match, Checkr’s researchers conduct secondary searches to look for additional identifiers within the record file. These searches are conducted at the federal district court level to ensure that all potential cases identified are thoroughly investigated, in order to determine whether the case record belongs to the candidate. 

    Because of the relatively limited amount of personally identifiable information (PII) included in federal record files, and the non-standardization of such data, these records undergo an additional level of review. When cases returned by researchers do not meet Checkr’s strict PII matching criteria to be included in the report, they are further reviewed by Checkr’s Quality Assurance (QA) team. If QA determines that there are not sufficient identifiers, they will conduct additional public searches to determine if any may be found.

     

    Candidate Experience

    The Federal Criminal Records Check must be run in conjunction with the basic report package. The Federal Criminal Records Check cannot be run as a standalone Screening.

    Candidates will be asked to provide Personally Identifiable Information (PII), including their full name, date of birth, social security number, email address, and phone number.

    They will then be presented and asked to acknowledge receipt of applicable forms and notifications, including a Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and an Acknowledgement and Authorization for Background Check.

    After the candidate consents, Checkr will initiate the Check.

    If you've applied for a job and are looking for more information on your background check’s status or progress, please log into the Checkr Candidate Portal.

  • State Criminal Records Check

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    This article will help you:

    What happens in a US State Criminal Records Check?

    A State Criminal Records Check is used to discover criminal records in a specific state. Adding a State Criminal Records Check to a background screening package can provide you with additional coverage to find potential criminal records outside of a candidate’s home county.

    Information returned in a State Criminal Records Check may include the following:

    • Defendant’s Name
    • Case Number
    • Charge Classification (Felony/Misdemeanor)
    • Charge Type
    • Disposition (Guilty, Dismissed, etc.)
    • Disposition Date
    • Sentencing Information

    What is state record quality?

    When looking at a report, you may see a State Criminal Records Check with results reading: More research was conducted due to state record quality. See county searches.

    Why would you see this message? In some states, Checkr may need to kick off a county search based on incomplete information in the state search.

    The extent and quality of the State Criminal Records Check varies by state:

    • True Parity: Some states search every single county within the state.
    • Partial Parity: Some states search most counties, but not all.
    • Non-Parity: Some states search only a few counties within the state.

    Due to varying state laws and practices, not every single county within a “Partial Parity” or “Non-Parity” state reports to a statewide repository. Each state database also functions differently.

    The county courthouse, not the state database, is the source of truth for most criminal records. Each of the 3,200 counties in the US decides how to make its records public. In most states, many counties do not make their data available for an aggregate true statewide search.

    For maximum thoroughness, we recommend running this search in addition to, rather than instead of, a county search. The best practice is to search county by county and add statewide searches where there is either true or partial parity.

    Unavailable states

    Not all states have publicly available records. Checkr will not run state searches on the following unavailable states:

    • California
    • Louisiana
    • Massachusetts
    • Nevada
    • New Hampshire
    • Ohio
    • West Virginia
    • Wyoming

    Does a State Criminal Records Check include US territories?

    US territories American Samoa (AS), Guam (GU), Northern Mariana Islands (MP), Puerto Rico (PR), US Virgin Islands (VI) are available as part of the State Criminal Records Check. A US territories search is not enabled by default. If you wish to enable these searches for your account, work with Checkr Customer Support to add these territories to your Package. When configured on your package, Checkr will trigger a US territory search when indicated by the candidate’s zip code, or addresses returned by the SSN Trace.

    Candidate Experience

    The State Criminal Records Check must be run in conjunction with the basic report package. The State Criminal Records Check cannot be run as a standalone Screening.

    Candidates will be asked to provide Personally Identifiable Information (PII), including their full name, date of birth, social security number, email address, and phone number.

    They will then be presented and asked to acknowledge receipt of applicable forms and notifications, including a Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and an Acknowledgement and Authorization for Background Check.

    After the candidate consents, Checkr will initiate the Check. 

    If a US territories search is required, an exception will be triggered to gather additional candidate information, which may include: 

    • Government ID
    • Current address
    • Address in country
    • Place of birth
    • Mother’s maiden name

    If you've applied for a job and are looking for more information on your background check’s status or progress, please log into the Checkr Candidate Portal.

  • County Criminal Records Check

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    This article will help you:

    Most felony and misdemeanor cases are filed in county courts, so county criminal record searches are one of the most complete sources for criminal records. All felony and misdemeanor criminal records, and all cases tried in local jurisdictions, regardless of disposition (guilty, dismissed, etc.), are housed at the county court.

    County records, which make up the majority of criminal offenses, are available in all counties in all 50 states, and are located in county courthouses across the 3,200 counties in the US. These records are not reported to the federal database, and will not be found in a federal search. Often, the existence of a county criminal record is determined by conducting a search in the National Criminal Database search, which is used as a pointer to county or state records.

    The following items may be reported on a county criminal record search:

    • Defendant’s Name
    • Case Number
    • Charge Classification (Felony/Misdemeanor)
    • Charge Type
    • Disposition (Guilty, Dismissed, etc.)
    • Disposition Date
    • Sentencing Information

    The process of searching at the county level varies from county to county. Some county searches are returned on the same day, while some take several days or more, depending on the search methodology. Most counties provide a Public Access Terminal (PAT) where records can be searched, in real-time, at the court. Slower counties typically require a court clerk-assisted search be performed, whereby an employee of the court conducts the search on Checkr’s behalf.

    Candidate Experience

    The County Criminal Records Check must be run in conjunction with the Basic+ report package. The County Criminal Records Check cannot be run as a standalone Screening.

    Candidates will be asked to provide Personally Identifiable Information (PII), including their full name, date of birth, social security number, email address, and phone number.

    They will then be presented and asked to acknowledge receipt of applicable forms and notifications, including a Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and an Acknowledgement and Authorization for Background Check.

    After the candidate consents, Checkr will initiate the Check.

    If you've applied for a job and are looking for more information on your background check’s status or progress, please log into the Checkr Candidate Portal.

  • US Territory Search

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    This article will help you understand:

    What is a US territory search?

    A United States territory search can be enabled as part of a State Criminal Records Check to discover potential criminal records in the US territories of:

    • American Samoa (AS)
    • Guam (GU)
    • Northern Mariana Islands (MP)
    • Puerto Rico (PR)
    • US Virgin Islands (VI)

    Please note: Checkr’s National Criminal Database, County Criminal Records, County Civil Records and Motor Vehicle Records (MVR) Checks do not cover US Territories. 

    How do I add a US Territory search to my package?

    A US territory search is not enabled by default. Contact Checkr Customer Support to configure your package. While running the State Criminal Records Check, customers can choose to Always search or Limit the search to specific US territories. 

    What is the average turnaround time (TAT) for a US Territory search?

    Average turnaround time will vary depending on the US Territory included in the search:

    • Guam (GU): 7-8 business days
    • Puerto Rico (PR): 4-5 business days
    • US Virgin Islands (VI): Less than 1 
    Average turnaround time reflects the time to complete after all candidate data is collected. Exceptions could delay or prevent the check from being processed.

    Are there additional costs associated with a US territory search?

    Yes, additional fees apply. Please contact Checkr Customer Support for more information.

    Is additional candidate data required for a US territory search?

    Yes, when a US territory search is required, an exception will be triggered to collect additional Personally Identifiable Information (PII) from the candidate. Depending on the territory being searched, the candidate may be prompted to provide:

    • Government ID
    • Current address
    • Address in country
    • Place of birth
    • Mother’s maiden name

    What is the candidate experience?

    A US territory search may not be run as a standalone check. It is run as a component of the State Criminal Records Check which must be run in conjunction with the basic report package

    Candidates will be asked to provide Personally Identifiable Information (PII), including their full name, date of birth, social security number, email address, and phone number. 

    They will be presented and asked to acknowledge receipt of applicable forms and notifications, including Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and an Acknowledgement and Authorization for Background Check. 

    After the candidate consents, a pointer search will be initiated and the candidate’s zip code will be analyzed to determine if a US territory search is needed. Once the US territory search is determined to be needed, an exception will be triggered to collect additional candidate information. After the candidate provides additional information, Checkr will then initiate the US territory search. 

    If you've applied for a job and are looking for more information on your background check’s status or progress, please log into the Checkr Candidate Portal.

  • What is the difference between national, federal, state, and county checks?

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    This article will help you:

    • Distinguish between Federal Criminal and National Criminal Database searches (which are often confused)
    • Set expectations about what each search is and isn’t
    • Use packages that include these searches more effectively

    Most background checks include some type of criminal records check, but the term “criminal records” can be ambiguous. One common area of confusion is the differences between Federal Criminal Checks and National Criminal Database Checks. These are different from County Criminal Checks, where most detailed records are found.

    Common myths about criminal search types

    Myth: Federal and National searches are the same.

    Fact: Federal and National Checks are not one and the same. Checkr's National Check covers a collection of nationwide databases, while a Federal search specifically finds criminal records in Federal jurisdictions.

    Myth: If you run a Federal or National search, you don't need to run county searches.

    Fact: Federal, National, and State Checks don't supersede County checks. In other words, they won’t find everything that a county criminal check will. For many criminal records, the county courthouse is the source of truth.

    Myth: The Federal search uses FBI or Department of Justice (DOJ) databases.

    Fact: None of these searches are FBI or Department of Justice searches. Unless there is a statute authorizing private industries to have access, only law enforcement agencies and private industries authorized by law (child care, financial institutions, healthcare) may access FBI data. FBI and DOJ searches can only be conducted through positive identification (such as fingerprinting), and have their own pros and cons compared to name-based background checks.

    National Criminal Database Check

    What it is: A database search of millions of records

    What it is not:

    • An FBI or Department of Justice search
    • A thorough search of Federal Criminal records

    Usage: Cast a wide net for potential records and serve as a "pointer" to other criminal checks.

    The term “National Criminal Database” is a bit of a misnomer, in that the check does not cover all of the United States, but it does query 1,800 databases covering approximately 900 million records.

    The National Criminal Database Check is used in virtually every criminal background check to find additional “hits.” Once a “hit” is identified, Checkr dispatches researchers to the county where the national criminal check shows a possible record to obtain:

    • Additional identifiers to confirm it belongs to the individual in question
    • Complete and up-to-date case information (such as disposition and status)

    A search of the National Criminal Database without county-level searches would be inadequate -- information found during the National Criminal Database Check is often not up-to-date or complete and is only used for pointer purposes. A county-level check would always be required to obtain complete and accurate information.

    For more information, see our article on National Criminal Database Checks.

    Federal Criminal Check

    What it is: A search of criminal records in Federal jurisdictions

    What it is not:

    • An FBI or Department of Justice search
    • A search of state or county criminal records

    Usage: Find Federal crimes for a more thorough search, especially in industries where crimes such as fraud or embezzlement are job-relevant.

    Federal Criminal Checks use the US Federal Government’s PACER criminal record system, which covers all 94 federal jurisdictions and includes crimes against federal employees, crimes committed on federal land, crimes that cross state lines, and other specific categories.

    It can be easy to confuse a “federal criminal check” with the “national criminal database” (described above) and state/county-level criminal searches. Unlike these other records, federal criminal records are only accessible through a specific federal criminal check.

    For more information, see our article on Federal Criminal Checks.

    State Criminal Check

    What it is: A search of statewide criminal databases

    What it is not:

    • An FBI or Department of Justice search
    • A thorough search of all records in every county

    Usage: To find additional criminal records in the candidate's state, outside of their home county.

    A State Criminal Check use statewide databases to discover criminal records. Many companies use State Checks to uncover additional records outside of the counties where the candidate has lived.

    Not all counties report into state databases, and each state database functions differently. For example, New York's state database includes reports from all counties by law, but California's does not. Because the county courthouse is the source of truth for most criminal records, we recommend running this search in addition to, not instead of, a county check.

    For more information, see our article on State Criminal Checks.

    County Criminal Check

    What it is: A thorough search of criminal records available at the county level, where most records occur.

    What it is not:

    • An FBI or Department of Justice search
    • A search of federal criminal records or national criminal databases

    Usage: Recommended for the candidate's home county (and potentially past counties of residence) to find the most thorough information on potential criminal records.

    County criminal records, which make up the majority of criminal offenses, are located in county courthouses across the 3,200 counties in the US. Thus, they will not be found in a federal check. Oftentimes the existence of a county criminal record is determined by conducting a search in the aforementioned National Criminal Database Check, which is used as a pointer to county or state records.

    All felony and misdemeanor criminal records, regardless of disposition (guilty, dismissed, etc.) and whose cases are tried in local jurisdictions, are housed at the county court.

    A comprehensive criminal background check should include county, federal, state, and national database searches, all of which are offered as part of Checkr’s checking packages.

    For more information, see our article on County Criminal Checks.