A criminal background check can reveal a wide variety of information. However, you must consider the specific needs of your business and applicable laws such as EEOC and ban-the-box requirements when selecting which searches to conduct.
A county court search looks for convictions and pending cases at the county level, which can often be combined with state searches for candidates who have lived in multiple counties. This can be a crucial component for positions that involve contact with children or adults.
Felonies are serious crimes that usually result in jail time and high monetary fines. They may also include more significant consequences, such as years of probation, reporting to a parole officer, and an entry on criminal records.
The circumstances surrounding an offense and a person’s past convictions determine whether a crime is classified as a felony or a misdemeanor. For example, if a person steals property worth over a specific value, it will likely be a felony. If a person knowingly commits child abuse, assault, or sex crimes, they will usually be charged with a felony.
Many states classify felonies by letter or number, while others have a classification system that ranks crimes on a crime-by-crime basis. A CRA will typically perform searches of municipal, county, state, and national databases for information on felonies.
These searches will uncover convictions, pending charges, and arrests. Generally, a CRA will also check for details in national sex offender registries and global homeland security searches, which will help to increase the chances of discovering a felony conviction or pending charge.
Misdemeanor is a portmanteau of the words “bad behavior” and “lawbreaking.” It refers to a legal offense that is more severe than an infraction but less serious than a felony. Common misdemeanors include assault, shoplifting, and trespassing. Companies completing criminal background checks usually search only for convictions of misdemeanors and felony crimes; arrest records and pending charges typically are not reported.
A criminal record—even a dismissed or uncharged misdemeanor—can significantly impact a person’s life and future. It can make finding a job or apartment, getting scholarships, or obtaining specific licenses and permits harder.
Criminal records stay on a person’s record for life, and even if the charges are ultimately dropped or erased (either through expungement or a record sealing process), they can still damage an individual’s reputation and make it difficult to maintain professional or personal relationships that is why types of a criminal record check must be applied. Jail sentences for misdemeanors vary by state, but they are generally shorter than those of felonies and do not result in the same monetary fines as felony charges.
Juvenile records are arrests and convictions that occur when an individual is under 18. Some states allow individuals to petition the court for juvenile records to be sealed or expunged once they reach legal adulthood.
If a person’s juvenile record is sealed or expunged, it will not appear in a background check, and the individual won’t have to report the incident on a job application. However, if the record isn’t sealed, employers can ask the individual to disclose the record during an interview.
Sealing or expungement procedures vary by state and federal law and can change anytime. A person’s eligibility to have juvenile records expunged also depends on the crime’s severity, rehabilitation efforts, and other factors.
If a person has a juvenile record that doesn’t qualify for an expungement, they may be able to apply for a confidentiality order. These orders are less protective than sealing but offer limited protection to individuals with forcible felony convictions such as murder, robbery, and sexual abuse.
While some people may think that legal infractions aren’t necessary, they still carry the potential to harm a candidate’s chances of landing a job and can have a lasting impact on their marketability. They are also permanent records that do not automatically get removed despite time passing, so they’re worth looking out for.
Infractions include traffic violations such as speeding and running a red light, noise violations, and even failing to keep pets on a leash. Because they are less severe offenses, infractions generally do not involve jail time, probation, or criminal records and are handled at the county court level. This means they will not appear on a state or national criminal background check and are only visible to those charged with an infraction.
Performing a local search of your candidates’ criminal records is one way to learn more about their history, but the number of counties limits this type of background check search. To widen the scope of your search, consider a service that offers continuous checks. This will ensure you know of any reportable changes to a candidate’s criminal record between your annual examinations.
Despite what crime dramas and Hollywood films might show us, fingerprints don’t play the central role in a background check. Criminal records are sorted by name, not by fingerprints, and even the best fingerprint background checks can miss things that a simple name-based search could easily find.
The most common background checks include a national criminal database search and county searches in every jurisdiction where the candidate has lived in the past seven years. Some of the top background check services use sophisticated API integrations to expedite investigations for conviction information, allowing them to provide accurate results quickly.
Depending on the job, employers may also want to run county civil court searches and Department of Justice sex offender registry searches as part of their pre-employment screening protocols. Although these aren’t usually included in a typical criminal record check, they can help employers screen for issues that might affect business operations and the safety of employees and customers. For example, a search of civil court records might uncover instances of fraud or embezzlement that wouldn’t be caught by a criminal record check alone.