The national criminal database search is a background screening tool commonly used by employers, landlords and property managers. One can think of it like a library of criminal records, compiled from various state and county bureaus by a private company. The information within these national databases typically comes from a number of state repositories, sexual offender registries, correctional, courts, and agencies that are willing to make their data public or sell to private brokers. This can give the impression that employers are gaining access to all of the nations’ criminal records in one search. However, while the database is a useful research tool to target potential records, it may contain inaccurate or incomplete information. It is important to realize, no single, all-inclusive criminal record repository (database) exists in the United States. Individual state laws, privacy laws and limited technology at the local level are just some of the reasons a national database does not exist. The most precise records can only be obtained by going straight to the source – the county courthouses.

To fill the growing need for “wide-spread” criminal/sexual offender records, private companies contracted with hundreds of jurisdictions at the city, county and state levels across the United States to regularly upload their criminal record data in electronic searchable formats to their databases. Businesses, which have a “permissible purpose” and agree to the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) guidelines, pay fees for use of these multi-jurisdiction databases.

National Criminal Record Databases as a Valuable Tool

Dependent on the depth of the criminal record search, a national criminal record database service can be a valuable resource. Databases provide:

fast results;
cover a very broad geographical area, which can reveal records not reported by an applicant who might be attempting to hide their criminal history;
cost much less than the traditional man-power driven county courthouse search.
While a national database service reaches far and wide, coverage gaps may exist based on the frequency of data updates, criminal record coverage, and actual data processing time at origination point. A county courthouse search offers more in-depth records but takes several days to get results. You also need to consider information is coming from just one of the estimated 3,300 counties in the United States and the choice of which county records are searched is applicant provided.

National Criminal Database Records Accuracy And The Need To Verify With County Criminal Records

The background screening industry has recently been headlined in the news for reporting inaccurate records. This criticism has stemmed from database results that were not properly verified with the source. In many instances, these database searches can result in “false negatives” or “false positives.” In these cases, the employer believes when an individual’s name does not appear in a search, that individual is not a criminal; and vice versa. However, this is not always the case. Relying too heavily on these search results can cause employers to develop a false sense of security. If an employer makes an adverse hiring decision based on incorrect information reported from a database, the applicant could sue the employer. Database searches are valuable because they cast a much wider net than traditional “hands-on” searches. However, background screening companies are obligated under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to verify the data is accurate.

Section 607(b) of the FCRA requires “reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information concerning the individual about whom the report relates.”

Section 613(a) of the FCRA requires “that a background screening company reporting any potentially adverse public record must “maintain strict procedures” to ensure that the information matches the current public record.” In other words, verify the record with the court.

We want all of our clients to understand the limitations of database searches, and employers who choose to use them solely should proceed with caution. We believe in legal compliance and ethics and MacData Background Screening confirms any database results with court records before reporting the information to our clients.

Sex Offender Records

More than 500,000 sex offenders in state and national registries have been convicted of sexual offenses and violent crimes. Performing a thorough background check on applicants should always include a sex offender registry check. This helps reduce the risk of workplace violence and potential litigation, especially for companies in the education, healthcare, retail and staffing industries.

MacData searches the Federal Department of Justice, which includes real time listings of registered sex offenders for all 50 states. By searching the DOJ Sex Offender Registry, you get the most complete and current reporting so businesses can quickly identify sex offenders and other violent criminals.