Turnaround Times and Criminal Background Checks – Whats the deal?
If you run into issues when on-boarding a new hire and the background check is taking longer than you expected, its important to remember that there is more to a background check than what you may think. Criminal records are stored in a variety of different ways and its not a single click of the button to return all information on a person like many people think.
Its not like criminal minds and CSI Miami.
Popular TV shoes like CSI and Criminal Minds make it look like you can pull all the information on one person with the click of a button. This as we all know is not the case, and it’s simply an opportunity to educate employers and applicants on the compliance of criminal records as part of the employment background check. Criminal records domestically are stored in various locations:
- County Courthouses
- State Repositories
- Federal District Courts
- Statewide/Nationwide Sexual Offender Registries
How these records are stored across these different locations are not consistent State to State and can make turnaround times hard to predict. Lets discuss the nuances of each of these listed above…
We always stress to employers that the most accurate and up to date criminal records are held in each county courthouse nationwide (and unfortunately there isn’t a central location or search that will query information from all 3,500 + counties nationwide). Therefore, employers need to do their due diligence to identify counties that there new hires have resided in going back 7 years (this should be the reporting period employers are using to make a hiring decision). County courthouses store public records (felony and misdemeanors) by both a NAME and DOB match, these two key identifiers is what background screening companies must have as a minimum to report records. Certain county courthouses will also charge an access or “pass through” fee for public record information.
Some Courthouses have an electronic system where all the records exists, but a lot do not. So the turnaround times depend on the response of court clerks or requests for information about a certain individual. The state of Massachusetts requires a fax request to be sent to the court clerks directly for them to search their system and return any records founds. Alternatively you can physically search all the docket books in the file room in the court clerks office which can sometimes take hours / days to find any matching results.
Some states do offer a complete criminal record search in every county within the state usually facilitated by either state police or bureau of investigation within that state. These records could have additional identifiers outside name and date of birth (i.e. race, gender, and last known address). However, employers must still ensure the main identifiers are a full name and date of birth match to stay compliant with the “maximum possible accuracy” component of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Just like county courthouse access fees, the same came be said for statewide criminal searches which impose a fee to access statewide criminal records. Also, statewide criminal searches aren’t available in every state, in those cases employers would have to conduct a county by county search.
Federal District Court Records:
A federal criminal history record search directly accesses federal district level records in the United States. A federal criminal history record search is a vital part of a national criminal background check for employment. This search is especially recommended for all high-ranking, financial, executive, and managerial positions. Identifiers that appear in federal criminal records include filing date, case number, charge, disposition, disposition date, and sentencing information.
Since federal criminal records are held at the federal district level more “hits” will be generated if a common name has been searched. Currently, records at the federal level only have one main identifier (full name match), and omit or redact the dob. This is why it is imperative that when requesting a federal criminal search a full name including middle name is documented to identify if in fact a “hit” belongs to the subject of the report. Any initial records will have to be reviewed to determine if a 2nd identifier is possible (i.e. current address, driver’s license number, or last 4 of the social security number).
As you can tell by the above information, its not cut and dry. Luckily we have the best network in the industry for getting all the information you need for an in depth and complete background check. The majority of our background checks are completed in under 1-3 days with many coming back within just hours.
Talk to a member of our team today to find out how we can streamline your background checks and give your applicant a fast and great on-boarding experience.