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Online Criminal Database Searches

Should you rely only on a criminal database search?

Despite the fact that nationwide criminal databases are often an effective background screening strategy, employers must be aware of the constraints and legal vulnerability related to utilizing them. In the event that the employer does not recognize the pitfalls, they might possibly end up in court wishing they would have invested in a county court criminal search.

Online criminal records database searches tend to be useful for the reason that they encompass a significantly larger coverage area when compared with conventional searches, which in turn are done at the county courthouse. A standard criminal search is performed at separate courthouses tend to be pertinent on the job candidate’s past address history. Considering the fact that the United States has over 3,200 counties, not all courts can be cross-searched simultaneously or individually online, for that matter.

Another negative aspect of relying only on a nationwide or multi-states criminal database search from a private proprietary repository is that any expungement after the case was closed may not be reflected.

Are criminal databases accurate?

Criminal databases can be accurate, but they are not always complete or up-to-date. They may also contain errors or inaccuracies due to issues such as data entry mistakes or incorrect information provided by law enforcement agencies. Additionally, some people may be incorrectly listed in a criminal database due to issues such as mistaken identity or administrative errors. It’s important to note that these databases are operated by different organizations, and the accuracy and completeness of the information they contain can vary widely.

Where does the record data come from?

Database criminal records are data-mined from a wide array of sources consisting of state criminal records repositories, department of corrections and criminal county courts that produce data files in raw format. By simply spreading a substantially broader coverage as compared to a county court search, a nationwide criminal database might possibly detect records in other counties or states that would otherwise not be found at the selected county criminal court search where subject predominantly resided for the past seven years.

The truth is, it can be extensively debated that the employer’s lack of turning over every stone by using a preliminary criminal search on a database establishes an inability to incorporate due diligence due to the fact that criminal databases are not 100% accurate.

Case in point

A recent hire commits a violent crime at the workplace. The employer made a decision to only search county courts where the subject resided for the past 10 years feeling confident that they are acting in compliance with FCRA guidelines. It just so happens that a serious criminal record was filed in another county or state that would have been easily found for $20.00 on a nationwide criminal database search — the employer is now staring at a negligent hiring lawsuit where there have recently been multi-million dollar settlements.

Aliases or former names

Criminal databases are cross-searched by first, last name and exact date of birth. Unless the court clerk whom originally entered arrest data into the court system included name variations or aliases, an employer might get a false negative. It is very commonplace for criminal offenders to give variations of their real name at the time of arrest hoping to get lost in the court system. On female subjects, they may also have a handful of different last names.


Nationwide criminal databases should be used as a supplementary guiding tool, but should not be relied upon to ultimately determine a hiring decision. A human resources manager should not develop a false sense of security, because there are situations where a person with a violent criminal record will not show up. By itself it is not a one size fits all product as it should be used in conjunction with an onsite criminal county court search. An online criminal database will point you in the right direction, but not your final destination.

Each state has their own set of laws concerning what an employer is able and unable to use when it comes to rejecting an applicant based on their past criminal history. Simply because an employer found a criminal court record, but did not bother to look at the final disposition does not justify rejecting a potential job applicant. For instance, they may have been found not guilty of the crime or the record was expunged at a later date. Keep in mind, innocent until found guilty.

DISCLAIMER: Nationwide criminal database information provided is subject to the following restrictions and/or limitations:

Coverage and Content: Data may not be available from all states or all counties or all smaller subdivisions within. Some items of data may be available from some but not other jurisdictions, and many of the sources of court records have attempted to protect personal identifiers by no longer providing data fields containing Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, or telephone numbers.
History: Some jurisdictions provide deeper history than others, often due to the advent of computerized record keeping, which did not occur at the same time everywhere; consult the coverage chart for indications of historical availability in any particular jurisdiction.
Currentness: Some jurisdictions provide more recent data than others, and some jurisdictions have ceased to make records available to the public; consult the coverage chart for indications of currentness in any particular jurisdiction.
Reliability: The data provided through this service is a snapshot in time and may not reflect all action that has occurred since the electronic record of the reported event(s) were obtained.
Accuracy: Data entry errors occur everywhere every day. Positive ID requires fingerprint search. Disposition inquiries should be directed to the reporting agency.
Verification: Since records may not have sufficient information to establish an exact identity, search results should be taken only as an indicator of information available. Records are for informational purposes only.
Completeness: Information provided through this service is from public court records, but does not comprise all information from the official court records available to the public. Court pleadings, for instance, may be found in case files that may be viewed and copied at a courthouse. Confidential cases, sealed cases, sealed documents, and expunged records also are not available through our service.
FCRA: You should not rely only on a nationwide criminal database or the information it provides to make decisions about consumer credit, employment, insurance, tenant screening, or any other purposes that would require FCRA compliance. If so, you may want to provide your applicant with a 613a letter.