Enhancing Pre-Employment Screening: The Pros and Cons of the National Criminal Records Database
Did you know that the National Criminal Records Database is a crucial resource for employers when assessing job candidates' criminal histories?
The Role of the National Criminal Records Search in Pre-Employment Screening
Not to be confused with Federal District Courthouse Criminal searches, which returns records that are distinct misdemeanors and felonies in nature, the National Criminal Records Database is also known as the NCIS. This search involves querying a vast collection of over 2,800 databases sourced from State, County, and US Territory agencies across the country, serving as a key, initial step in evaluating a candidate’s criminal background. Employers often utilize the National Criminal Records Database as a fundamental part of their pre-employment screening process, aiming to make well-informed hiring decisions. Let’s break down its most important pros and cons.
Pros of the National Criminal Records Search for Criminal Background Checks
The National Criminal Records search offers a quick way to search for criminal records for many applicants across different areas. Turn returns results from the National Criminal Records Database is < 1.19 seconds.
- Wide Coverage
The National Criminal Records search contains records from various jurisdictions, including counties, states, US territories, and federal agencies. This means you can access a broad range of criminal history information.
Unlike local Courthouses, there are no additional processing or pass-through fees. You pay one, flat price.
Cons of Relying Solely on National Criminal Records Search
- Not the Source of Truth
The National Criminal Records database aggregates State and Local records. Due to not being the “source of truth,” the National database might not have the most up-to-date or comprehensive record details. For example, if a charge was recently expunged or pleaded down, the National Criminal Records Database might not have the most recent disposition.
- Missing Identifiers
Oftentimes criminal records on the National Criminal Records Database are missing important identifiers like middle names and / or suffixes, complete dates of birth (day / month / year), Addresses, SSN #s, etc. This sparsity in record detail can lead to false positives, which results in potential downstream legal consequences.
- Lack of Context
The National Criminal Records search often lacks details about the specific charges, dates or outcomes of cases. You may not know the circumstances, crime type, or even the severity of the offense.
Complement a National Criminal Records Search with Address-based Criminal Searches at Local Courthouses
The National Criminal Records Database is most valuable when used as a compass that helps point to potential criminality and then paired with local criminal searches at applicable County Courthouses for further investigation.
Turn has direct access to all 3,144 Courthouses in the USA, along with US territories and their subdivisions, and offers multiple variations of local County Courthouse level Criminal searches that can be paired with the National Criminal Records database.
- Contingent County Courthouse Criminal Search
A County Courthouse level Criminal search that is only administered if a charge is identified from the National Criminal Records Search. If paired with an address-based County Courthouse Criminal Search, it will also administer Courthouse level Criminal searches if charges are identified on the National Criminal Records Database that occurred outside one’s address-based Courthouse search.
- Current County Courthouse Criminal Search
A County Courthouse level Criminal search administered with the County Courthouse in which the candidate currently resides.
- 7-year lookback County Courthouse Criminal Search**
County Courthouse level Criminal searches administered at all unique Counties with address history over a 7-year lookback.
- 10-year lookback County Courthouse Criminal Search**
County Courthouse level Criminal searches administered at all unique Counties with address history over a 10-year lookback.
**Note: 7 and 10-year lookbacks address-based lookbacks offer the most comprehensive coverage when paired with the National Criminal Records search. 7 and 10-year intervals are best practice because most States’ reporting windows for felony convictions and non convictions is 7 years.
The pros of criminal searches conducted at local County Courthouses are as follows
- Criminality Correlates with Residence
Studies have found that an offender typically prefers to commit offenses in an area where they currently reside and have lived for at least two years. Therefore, searching at the county level uncovers more accurate and detailed information in specific areas where the candidate has lived.
- Source of Truth
County Courthouses possess the most current and complete case information, reducing the likelihood of overlooking misrepresentative information found solely on the National Criminal Records Database. Additionally, complete record detail also helps to avoid false positives that adversely impact an applicant’s candidacy, furthermore resulting in potential violations of consumer rights protected under the FCRA.
Compliance and Fair Practices
Employers utilizing third-party providers like Turn must adhere to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) guidelines. These include obtaining written consent from candidates before conducting background checks, providing candidates with copies of background reports and a summary of their FCRA rights, and following specific steps in cases of adverse action. Providers like Turn have access to nationwide databases and can assist in ensuring compliance with federal, state, and local background check laws.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offers guidance to prevent discriminatory practices in the use of national criminal background checks. Employers should ensure their screening processes apply uniformly to all candidates.
It’s essential to be aware of state and local laws that may impact the background check process, such as “Ban the Box” laws (such as the recent changes in Chicago). Employers operating in various jurisdictions should consult their legal counsel to ensure compliance with relevant laws.
Working with trusted third-party providers like Turn, which employs technology to reduce bias and maintain compliance with federal, state, and local laws, can help organizations navigate the complex landscape of background checks.
National Background Checks pose an efficient tool for employers, they cover a wide range of areas that could easily be complemented with county court information based on an applicant’s address history. As a result, reports are more detailed, accurate, and provide an up-to-date picture of the candidate’s criminal history.
Turn’s Blog does not provide legal advice, guidance, or counsel. Companies should consult their own legal counsel to address their compliance responsibilities under the FCRA and applicable state and local laws. Turn explicitly disclaims any warranties or assumes responsibility for damages associated with or arising out of the provided information.