The myth of the National Criminal Search.

If you’re like me you like a good spy thriller, doesn’t matter if it’s a book, a movie, or even a TV show.  One of the more entertaining ways to unwind after a long day is to watch the good guys chase the bad ones and hopefully a happy ending.

One of the constants in these types of stories is what I always call the command center.  It’s typically a room filled with computers, phones, and wall mounted flat screens where some shadowy government agency is tracking the moves of the hero, the villain, and everyone else in between.  Invariably there will come a moment in the story where the leader of this group needs information on someone, anyone.  They shout out a name and suddenly there they are on the big screen, their name, DOB, SSN, every known alias, their rap sheet, the name of their second grade teacher, it’s all there!  Sadly for us, this might be the least believable part of the entire plot.

The reality is that there is simply no one database that stores all of this information.  In fact there isn’t even a single database just to store criminal information.  No, the idea of a National Criminal Search is at worst a myth and at best a misnomer.

In order to have a true national criminal search every county in the United States, all three thousand plus would have to either connect to a single networked system or report every record that passes through their court to a centralized location.  Sadly most courts can’t even get the information to their own state repository with the level of accuracy or frequency required for a through search.  Unfortunately the level of technology used in the majority of our courts is often fifteen to twenty years behind the average American business and even if it were more up to date the fact remains that each state and sometimes even indidual counties use entirely different systems than their peers.

So what is that National Criminal you’ve been ordering and what does it do?  National Criminal searches, sometimes referred to as Multi-State or Multi-Jurisdictional searches, run your applicant’s name through a 3rd party database that collects criminal case information from a variety of sources.  These may include online criminal records, department of corrections records, administrative court offices, departments of public safety, and many more.  However, the records in some areas of the country are much better than others and there are areas with no coverage at all.

While these searches can be very useful they also require great diligence on the part of our records specialists to ensure any results returned truly belong to your applicant.  Any potential results are screened and strict reporting criteria is applied before additional steps are taken to verify the records.

The “National Criminal” might be a myth but the search is still a very valuable tool.  However, just like a hammer, it shouldn’t be the only tool in your box.  Contact us today to learn how this search can benefit you and how our team handles the information to be sure you are receiving an accurate, compliant report.

County versus State – the age old debate.

When it comes to searching for criminal records every CRA does things a little differently.  Some will tell you to search the entire state, some say each county, others may say both.  But when it comes down to it what is really the best method and what is a clever sales gimmick?  When it comes to county versus statewide the answer is: it depends.

As we’ve covered before every state and sometimes each county within a state can do things a little differently.  Multiple systems, court clerk restrictions, lack of IDs on the public index, etc.  With each court comes unique challenges and as such to recommend only county or only statewide is to ignore the more complicated truth.  Generally speaking the accepted best practice is to run county level searches because the county court is the official court of record.  State repositories are not mandated to maintain the official copy of the record, that is the county court’s responsibility.  However, there are several states across the country that do an excellent job of maintaining all records and all record types from every county.  Many of these are updated by the county in twenty four hours or less.  In these instances it is actually far more economical to run a statewide in place of a county.  You’ll receive far greater coverage at a reasonable cost and go beyond standard best practice.

Unfortunately, not every state is so technologically adept as to maintain a single accurate repository for their records.  However, Eagle Screen maintains a list of the states that can be searched as an accurate single state repository and with the proper settings to your account we can automatically search those areas for you when they appear in your applicant’s history.

Let our years of experience and industry knowledge guide you to the most background screening bang for your buck!