Trust & Safety
Why Criminal Background Checks Are Essential
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:
- 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
- Develop public safety and security
100,000 employers of all sizes have trusted GoodHire for better background checks.
Reliable, Accurate Results
What You’ll Learn From Criminal
A criminal history record helps 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 in the United States can
A criminal background check may reveal a candidate’s criminal history information, including:
- 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
A criminal record check may also report history of incarceration as an adult, arrests pending prosecution, active warrants, and infractions.
Types of Searches
GoodHire’s Suite of Criminal Background Checks
Searches 850 million records from thousands of jurisdictions in the United States 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.
What You Need To Know When
Reviewing Criminal Search Results
Employers using a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA), like GoodHire, to run a criminal history record check 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.
Criminal Background Checks: What You Need To Know
Employers and volunteer organizations may use a criminal background check service 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 record background check is an investigation into a candidate’s criminal history. Employers often include this type of background check in their pre-employment screening process to help select candidates who are eligible and qualified for the position they want to fill.
While criminal background checks can help employers make informed hiring decisions, they must be conducted in a way that complies with local, state, and federal hiring laws. Here’s what you need to know about conducting criminal background checks within your organization.
What is a criminal background check?
A criminal background check for employment may include a search of national, federal, state, and county criminal databases to report misdemeanor and felony criminal convictions or pending criminal cases. Different searches may reveal different offenses, depending on the court records you include. For example, a state background check 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.
A criminal background check may reveal important information about a candidate, but it’s often only part of a comprehensive pre-employment screening. The difference between a background check and a criminal background check is the scope of the search. A comprehensive background check goes beyond a criminal records search and may include multiple screenings, such as driving record (MVR) checks, credit checks, drug testing, education verification, employment verification, and more.
Employers may select which screenings to include based on their organization’s background check policy and the relevancy to the positions for which they’re hiring.
What shows up on a criminal background check?
A criminal background check for employers can show felony and misdemeanor convictions, infractions, and pending criminal cases. Some searches may also report history of incarceration as an adult, arrest pending prosecution, active warrants, and infractions. Depending on the scope of the search, domestic and global watchlists may be included which show industry bans, such as healthcare sanctions. Sex offender registry checks may also be included, which show the offender’s date of registration and current status.
Here are some offenses that may show up on a criminal background screening.
|Type of Record
|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 are typically punishable by fines but not jail time, and may not be considered criminal offenses in all jurisdictions. Depending on the jurisdiction, infractions may or may not show up on a criminal history record. Under federal law, non-criminal records may only be reported if they are within the last seven years. Arrests that didn’t lead to a conviction within the last seven years may also appear in some background checks.
When you receive a candidate’s criminal history report, it may include the criminal charge, disposition, and disposition date. It’s important that employers understand how to read a background check so you can make informed decisions about job candidates and use the results in compliance with fair hiring laws.
How long does a criminal background check take?
Turnaround times depend on the scope of the search and whether you choose to search on your own or partner with a consumer reporting agency (CRA), like GoodHire. Generally, the industry average for a background check for criminal records takes one to three business days, though it varies.
For example, database searches, such as Social Security number (SSN) traces, national background checks, and sex offender registry searches, often return results within minutes. Other searches, such as county criminal record searches in jurisdictions without digitized records, may take more time.
How far back do criminal background checks go?
How far back background checks go depends on the type of information you’re searching for and the laws determining what can and can’t be reported. In most states, a criminal history background check includes criminal convictions no matter when they occurred. However, there are 10 states that restrict the reporting of convictions to the last seven years, unless other rules apply.
Under the guidelines established by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), background check providers may report arrests for up to seven years, even if the arrest didn’t lead to a conviction or the charges were dismissed.
How do criminal background checks work?
Generally, the hiring manager will order a criminal history background check after a candidate receives a conditional offer of employment. If the employer is working with a CRA, they must provide the candidate with their intent to conduct a criminal record check and then receive the candidate’s written consent before proceeding. The candidate will also provide information such as their full name, date of birth, and Social Security number.
Depending on the search requirements, the CRA will use the individual’s personal identifying information to search public record criminal databases at the county, state, national, or federal level. If the background check for criminal records uncovers criminal offenses, the CRA takes additional steps to review the results before delivering the final report to the employer.
Criminal background check employment laws
Multiple federal and state laws and regulations govern background checks. Here’s a brief overview of each.
Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
The federal FCRA regulates how employers can use pre-employment criminal background checks in hiring, including what can be reported and how far back searches can go. The FCRA requires employers to:
- Provide a written disclosure to the candidate of your intent to conduct a background check.
- Get written permission from candidates before conducting a background check.
- Send a pre-adverse action letter to the candidate if you’re considering not moving forward with the employment process because of information you uncovered in the background check.
- Provide a copy of the background check to the candidate.
- Allow the candidate time to respond to the findings and dispute information they believe to be inaccurate (if applicable).
- Review the candidate’s response and any information that was updated.
- Send a final adverse action letter to the candidate if you decide not to move forward with employment.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
The EEOC enforces federal laws against workplace discrimination and provides guidelines for how employers may use criminal records in making employment decisions.
To prevent unintentional discrimination against candidates with a criminal record, the EEOC recommends that employers consider an offense’s nature, relevance, and recency before making a hiring decision (also known as the nature-time-nature test). The Commission also encourages employers to conduct an individualized assessment so the candidate has an opportunity to provide additional information and context about the offense.
Currently, more than 180 locations, including states, counties, and cities have ban-the-box laws that may impact the types of information employers may consider during the hiring process related to a candidate’s involvement in the criminal justice system. These laws provide guidelines that govern when an employer may ask about a candidate’s criminal history or conduct a background check.
State Laws And Regulations
While the FCRA and EEOC apply at the federal level, some states, counties, and other local jurisdictions have their own laws governing background checks. You must also comply with these laws and regulations if they apply to you. Here are a few examples of criminal background check laws by state.
California has several state laws that govern the use of criminal background checks during the hiring process, including ban-the-box laws. The laws limit what consumer reporting agencies can report and information employers can use to make employment decisions.
Employers must send pre-adverse action notices, letting candidates know what offenses could lead to an adverse hiring decision. If an employer contemplates not hiring an individual because of items found on a background check, you must conduct an individualized assessment before making a hiring decision and give candidates time to respond to the pre-adverse action notice.
Many counties and cities throughout the state of California have local ban-the-box and fair hiring laws that may also apply.
Florida has no statewide ban-the-box laws, but some counties and cities do. However, two statutes apply to background checks for employers in regulated industries, such as childcare and healthcare. FL Statute 435.02 requires employers in these industries to conduct background checks on employees. FL Statute 943.0542 requires employers in regulated industries to perform Level 1 and Level 2 checks through local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
In Ohio, a statewide ban-the-box law applies to public-sector employers. The Ohio Fair Hiring Act (HB 56) prohibits a public employer from asking about an applicant’s criminal background until they make a conditional job offer, and they may not ask about sealed records. If a candidate has a sealed record, they can respond to questions about their criminal history as if the record doesn’t exist. Public-sector employers must also conduct an individualized assessment before taking adverse action.
Although the Ohio Fair Hiring Act is the only statewide background check law, cities and counties within Ohio may have other screening laws you need to comply with.
In Texas, federal fair hiring guidelines apply, but no state laws restrict using a candidate’s criminal history in the background check process. Some Texas counties and cities have local ban-the-box laws that you must follow if they apply to you.
Colorado has two statewide ban-the-box laws—the Colorado Chance to Compete Act and House Bill 12-1263.
The Colorado Chance to Compete Act applies to all Colorado employers. It allows employers to obtain a criminal background report at any time during the hiring process. However, it prohibits employers from asking about a candidate’s criminal history on an initial application form and makes it illegal for companies to say that people with criminal histories can’t apply.
House Bill 12-1263 only applies to certain public sector employers in the state. Employers affected by the law may only conduct a background check if the candidate is a finalist or has a conditional offer of employment. Before taking adverse action, employers must consider the nature, relevancy, and recency of a conviction. Employers may not withhold a job offer or withdraw an offer of employment because of an arrest or non-conviction.
What are the safest places in each US state?
To help businesses understand the importance of criminal background checks and to reveal the places where criminal background checks might be more useful to business owners, GoodHire analyzed crime data to uncover the safest place in each state in America as well as top US places with the least amount of property, violent, and society crime.
To do so, GoodHire reviewed FBI Crime Data – property, violent, and society crime – and ranked each place by its rate of offenses per 1,000 people for each of the three offense types. GoodHire then assigned a total rank that weighted crimes against persons and crimes against property at 40% and crimes against society at 20%. View the full report.
How to get a criminal background check
If you’re ready to conduct a criminal background check on one or more employees, GoodHire makes the process easy. Our user-friendly dashboard, intuitive workflows, and built-in compliance tools help simplify the background screening process.
Our pre-bundled online criminal background check packages include a Nationwide Criminal Databases and Sex Offender Registry search. If you need a more comprehensive screening, you can customize your background checks with add-ons, such as federal, state, or county criminal background checks, MVR checks, education verification, employment verification, and drug screenings.
Employers that work with a consumer reporting agency, such as GoodHire, to run pre-employment criminal background checks must abide by federal, state, and local fair hiring laws. Our built-in compliance tools make it easy to follow the rules established under the FCRA, plus any additional restrictions that apply to your local jurisdiction. When you choose GoodHire as your CRA partner, you’ll receive the support you need to conduct fast, accurate criminal background checks.
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.