No Easy Button for Searching Criminal Records for Due Diligence Investigations

We estimate that 95% of all background checks conducted on individuals nationally include some type of criminal record check. A criminal record check is one of the most important elements of a due diligence background check however, most people do not understand the complexity of searching them. It is not always as simple as plugging a person’s social security number into a database and seeing what comes back. Because of privacy concerns almost all courts containing criminal records do not allow you to search their public indexes by social security number.

Understanding the criminal justice system is key to conducting a comprehensive criminal record search.

Thousands of people are charged with a variety of crimes daily by police departments, state and federal law enforcement agencies, and sheriff’s departments.  Each of these arms of the criminal justice system operate in very specific courts of jurisdictions. They also report crimes to specific repositories that may not be linked together. Consequently, searching one database or jurisdiction may not produce a comprehensive criminal record search.

Here are some of the most common court searches that when conducted in combinations provide a comprehensive criminal record check.

Local, Regional, Municipal and Mayors Courts

(City of Cleveland vs Smith) If you violate a city or municipality law you may be charges in one of these jurisdictions. These courts do not adjudicate felonies and primarily deal with minor infractions and lower crimes such as traffic and parking violations. Because this information may not have a bearing on a business decision our customers do not always request it.

County Court Criminal Records

(Ohio vs Smith) If you violate a state law your case will be adjudicated in a state court. These courts primarily deal with misdemeanors and felonies. For instance, a felony or misdemeanor criminal charge for financial crimes can be found in a county (state) court. These state courts do not adjudicate federal crimes.

Federal Court Criminal Records

(USA vs Smith) If you violate a federal law your case will be adjudicated in the federal court system. For instance, if a person was charged with a crime by a federal government agency (i.e., FBI, DEA, FTC, Department of Justice) the case will be adjudicated in the Federal Court system. Please keep in mind that Federal Court Criminal cases will not appear in County Court Record unless it originated as a state crime but was later determined to be a federal crime.

Because criminal records can be found in various locations does it make sense to run a “National Criminal Record” search?

National Criminal Record Databases

Although these types of searches may appear quick, comprehensive, and inexpensive, they may not include records from the courts you need searched. The providers of these searches often download data from numerous publicly available criminal data sources and allow you to search them all at once. Although you can search a significant amount of data, some courts are not included in these databases and that means you are left with trying to determine if the search was accurate and comprehensive in coverage.  Furthermore, if this search uncovers a record, it may require additional independent research at the source court to verify its accuracy. Without re-verification you could make decisions with information that may not be up to date or positively identified to your subject.

Let CS Business Screen be your “Easy Button”

CS Business Screen Recommends searching all the above-mentioned criminal record sources to insure you get a more comprehensive search than searching a single source.