What terms appear on a criminal background check, and how should employers read them? Learn how to read and understand them in a few simple steps.
trust & safety
Why National Criminal Background Checks Are Important
A comprehensive criminal background check helps you build a team you can trust, while also mitigating risk and protecting your company’s reputation. Using criminal record background checks during your hiring process helps you:
- Hire qualified candidates
- Minimize risk and create a safe, secure workplace
- Safeguard assets, employees, and customers
- Protect your organization against liability claims
- Maintain your organization’s reputation and trust within the community
- Make fair decisions for fair chance hiring
- Comply with federal, state, local, and industry regulations
- Follow company hiring policies
is the standard scope, but older records are reported if they
are readily accessible and legally reportable.
What You’ll Learn From Criminal
Criminal Background Checks help you make an informed decision about your candidate and assess any risks associated with bringing someone with a criminal record onboard. Searching national, federal, state, and county databases can reveal a candidate’s criminal history, including any:
- Felony criminal convictions, including murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, theft (values larger than $500), and aggravated assault
- Misdemeanor criminal convictions, such as vandalism, trespassing, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, prostitution, and theft (values less than $500)
- Pending criminal cases
Criminal background checks may also report history of incarceration as an adult, arrests pending prosecution, active warrants, and infractions.
Types Of Criminal Background Checks
GoodHire offers several types of national criminal background checks. Our intelligent technology platform links candidate records using aliases, Department of Corrections records, dates of birth, and other identifiers to create more complete profiles. This approach enables us to deliver more accurate and comprehensive candidate results. The following table shows the criminal records searches we offer, what they’re best used for, and different search options.
Nationwide Criminal Databases Records Search*
Thousands of jurisdictions for state and local crimes.
Identify criminal jurisdictions. Good first step.
Add aliases used.
Monthly Ongoing Alerts.*
* Ongoing Alerts: For extra reassurance, GoodHire offers monthly continuous monitoring through the Nationwide Criminal Databases Search so you can be alerted to relevant changes in your employees’ records and stay informed.
Federal Criminal Court Records Search
U.S. district and appellate courts for federal crimes.
Financial or sensitive information handling jobs.
Add aliases used.
County Criminal Court Records Search
County courts for cases with their charge, disposition and sentence.
Most comprehensive, accurate check.
7 or 10 year history.
Select which counties to search. Add aliases used.
Statewide Criminal Records Search
State courts, police & law enforcement records.
Complements county searches. Required by some industries.
Add aliases used.
Select which states to search.
Sex Offender Registry Searches
Especially when working with vulnerable populations.
Add aliases used.
Watch List Search
Domestic (and international) government sanctions and watch lists.
Public sector, security, sensitive information positions.
Domestic or Global.
International Criminal Records Search
Records in any of 223 countries.
US workers with foreign backgrounds.
Country lived or worked.
RCMP Criminal Records Check
RCMP’s Canadian Police Information Centre
Verifies accuracy of disclosed convictions.
More Information About Criminal Background Checks
Disposition and sentencing relate to the outcome of a legal case, but each term refers to a different aspect of the process. Find out what these terms mean on a background check.
Using information to make hiring decisions based on information from sex offender registries can be complicated. Find out how to make informed, compliant decisions.
A comprehensive screening typically includes more than one type of criminal background check. Let’s take a look at four different types and what’s included.
What You Need To Know When
Reviewing Criminal Search Results
Employers using a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA), like GoodHire, to run national criminal background checks to assess candidates during the hiring process have important responsibilities to ensure a fair and respectful process for the candidate, and to comply with various laws and regulations that govern employment screening. Find out how GoodHire’s built-in tools and workflows help you stay compliant.
Federal Fair Credit
Reporting Act (FCRA)
When the results of a criminal records search prompts a decision to deny employment, the FCRA requires employers to follow specific adverse action steps.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) & Title VII
The EEOC offers recommended guidelines to conduct individualized assessments so employers can make fair, informed decisions.
Ban The Box & Fair Hiring Laws
A patchwork of state, county, and city laws move the criminal history inquiry until later in the hiring process. These laws may apply based on both the employers’ and candidates’ locations. Further, some local laws may also have specific requirements for the adverse action process.
Your Organization’s Hiring Policy
If your business is conducting background checks, your hiring and screening policies should be consistent and compliant to prevent discrimination and avoid litigation and enforcement from federal agencies.
types of searches
Common Types Of Criminal Record Searches
Searches 850 million records from thousands of jurisdictions nationwide to report crimes prosecuted in state and local courts, including Department of Corrections, Administrative Office of Courts and state, county and township courts.
Federal Criminal Court Search
Searches the U.S. Federal Government’s PACER criminal record system, a national index for U.S. district, and appellate courts, to report crimes that are prosecuted under federal criminal law in federal courts such as tax evasion, fraud, embezzlement, identity theft, interstate trafficking, and kidnapping.
County Criminal Court Search
Searches county courthouses to find any convictions and pending cases including DUI, DWI, assault, theft and burglary. Searches are available for all 3,200 county courthouses in all 50 states. Since many counties have not digitized their court records, professional court runners search these county court records.
Statewide Criminal Records Search
Searches state level criminal records from sources including State Judicial Court System, State Police, State Department of Law Enforcement, Administrative Office of the Courts for infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Since some states don’t include complete county history, county-specific searches are recommended to ensure thorough results.
Sex Offender Registry Search
Searches registries across all states to uncover where a candidate may be currently registered as a sex offender.
Domestic Watch List Search
Searches U.S. government sanction and watch lists, including the FBI’s Most Wanted and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Learn about our sources.
Global Watch List Search
Searches international sanction and watch lists, including INTERPOL Most Wanted list and the European Union terrorism list. Learn about our sources.
International Criminal Records Search
Searches a foreign country’s criminal records for candidates with international backgrounds who are working in the U.S. Each of 223 countries has its own application checklist detailing required information, forms and turnaround times.
Using criminal background checks
during your hiring process is
a smart move.
Criminal Background Checks: What You Need To Know
Employers and volunteer organizations may use criminal background checks to assess whether a candidate is honest, trustworthy, or may potentially pose a threat to others. Screening may also help protect company assets, mitigate risk, and avoid potential negligent hiring lawsuits.
A criminal background check is generally included in a pre-employment or employment background check—a legal investigation into a person’s past that helps inform decisions about whether to hire, promote, contract with, or use a person’s services. Depending on the type of criminal background check selected, a criminal record check may search national, federal, state, and county databases to provide information about a candidate’s criminal history.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what you need to know about criminal background checks.
What Is A Criminal Background Check?
A criminal background check may search national, federal, state, and/or county criminal court databases to report information about a candidate’s criminal history, such as felony and misdemeanor criminal convictions, and any pending criminal cases.
Different types of criminal record checks may reveal different offenses, depending on the court records that are searched. For example, a search of one state’s criminal records database will only report criminal activity in that selected state’s criminal court system. However, employers may choose to search multiple states and counties based on where the candidate has lived, or if a nationwide search reveals criminal activity in more than one state.
What Information Will Employers Check?
Employers have different screening goals depending on the nature of the work and positions they’re filling. Many organizations check criminal records to learn about any misdemeanors or felonies in a candidate’s background, such as assault, theft, burglary, or DUIs.
Following are different types of criminal record checks that may be included in an employment background check, and what jurisdictions are checked:
|Type of Criminal Record Search||What It Checks|
|Nationwide Criminal Databases||Searches thousands of jurisdictions for state and local crimes|
|Federal Criminal Court||Searches U.S. district and appellate courts for federal crimes|
|County Criminal Court||Searches county courts for cases; includes the charge and disposition|
|Statewide Criminal Records||Searches state courts, police and/or law enforcement records|
What Shows Up On A Criminal Background Check?
The information that shows up on a criminal background check can include felony and misdemeanor criminal convictions, and any pending criminal cases. Criminal background checks may also report history of incarceration as an adult, active warrants, and infractions. Infractions may only be reported if they are within the last seven years.
Arrests that did not lead to convictions may appear in some background checks as long as they are within the last seven years; GoodHire excludes them in its screenings to conform to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines.
Criminal background checks may also include a Sex Offender Registry check, which searches registries across all states to report where a candidate may be currently registered as a sex offender.
It’s important to understand how to read a background check, and what the different terms and abbreviations mean. A criminal background check report includes the name of the crime, disposition (conviction, non-conviction, or pending), and disposition date. GoodHire does not report non-convictions.
Following are examples of the types of records that may show up on a criminal background check:
|Type of Record||Examples|
|Felony Criminal Convictions||Murder, manslaughter, rape, kidnapping, arson, theft (values larger than $500), and aggravated assault|
|Misdemeanor Criminal Convictions||Vandalism, trespassing, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, prostitution, and theft (values less than $500)|
|Infractions or Violations*||Jaywalking, littering, drinking in public, disturbing the peace, boating violations, building permit violations|
* Petty offenses that are typically punishable by fines but not jail time, and are not considered criminal offenses. Depending on the jurisdiction, infractions may or may not show up on a criminal background check, but under federal law they may only be reported if they are within the last seven years.
There are many different types of background checks, each of which uncovers somewhat different personal background information. It’s important for both employers and job candidates to understand what kind of information is included in each type of background check, and how that information can be used.
How Long Does A Criminal Background Check Take?
Some criminal background check results may be returned within a few hours, such as a national criminal databases search, while other types of screenings may take between 1 to 3 days or longer.
Criminal background checks that look for criminal records at the county level may take several days—especially in counties where the records aren’t digitized or that require the assistance of a court employee.
How Do I Get Started With Criminal Background Checks?
If you’re ready to conduct a background check on one or more employees, you’re in good company—95% of employers use employment background screening as part of their hiring process.
GoodHire makes employment screening easy. Our user-friendly dashboard, intuitive workflows, and built-in compliance tools help simplify the background screening process. Let us know how many checks you need, provide some information about your company, then select the pre-bundled package that fits for your needs.
All of our pre-bundled packages include a Nationwide Criminal Databases search and Sex Offender Registry search. We also offer options to customize your background checks with add-on searches, such as Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) checks, Education Verification, and Employment Verification, for a more complete background check.
Employers that use a background check company, such as GoodHire, to run a background check must follow federal, state, and even local laws that regulate employment screening. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) sets out requirements for consumer reporting agencies (employment screeners like GoodHire), as well as rules that the employers who use the reports must follow.
The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.