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What Shows Up on a Criminal Background Check?
Mariah Barr
8 mins read

What is a criminal background check and how far back can a criminal background check go?

Let's say an organization like yours is interested in hiring an applicant, pending the outcome of a criminal history check.

What happens next?

Below, we answer some of the most common questions associated with this process.

Do you need to get permission to conduct criminal background checks?

Bottom line: Yes. You must present and obtain acknowledgment of receipt from the candidate for all required disclosures and summaries of rights, and you must present and obtain written authorization from the candidate to conduct a background check. In some jurisdictions, this step cannot be performed unless a conditional offer of employment has been made to the candidate.

What information is collected and processed during criminal background checks? 

Below is a helpful list of the info we collect and process during the criminal background check:

  • Collect subject-level information from the candidate: name, social security number (SSN), date of birth (DOB), current address, alias names.
  • Process SSN trace using subject-level information:
    • SSN trace returns address history for the last 7 years (or lookback requested by client)
    • Automatically identify alias names associated with address history for the last 7 years
  • Programmatically add county criminal searches to the background check for all "in scope" names (primary and aliases), and counties gleaned from the subject profile and SSN trace.
  • Process CrimScan+ (nationwide criminal database search), searching primary name and aliases.
  • Add county criminal searches to the background check for all convictions found for "in scope" names and counties that are considered high-probability matches to the candidate.

How are county searches conducted for criminal background checks?

Each county search is dispatched to the most accurate and efficient fulfillment method for that particular jurisdiction.

Those fulfillment methods include the following:

  • The county's data repository via an electronic/integrated solution
  • A researcher who contacts the court directly via fax, postal mail, or web-based methods
  • A "court runner" who visits the courthouse to conduct research via a public access terminal or by making a request through the court clerk

How are criminal history search results delivered?

Delivery of criminal history search results will vary by jurisdiction: searches processed via electronic/integrated methods will typically be returned more quickly than those searches conducted by researchers and court runners.

Clear results will often be returned more quickly than results containing records. Why? With results containing records, there's an additional quality control step applied to the data to ensure that convictions and reportable non-convictions comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), state/local-level laws and regulations, and client-specific reporting guidelines.

What happens if you need to use the information from a criminal history check to reject the job applicant?

If you plan to reject a job applicant due to information obtained on a criminal background check, you are required by law to inform the job applicant via a pre-adverse action notice, followed by an adverse action notice.

Per compliance with EEOC guidance, an individualized assessment must be conducted before an applicant can be disqualified based on criminal history. Depending on the city/state where the applicant lives or applied for employment, an individualized assessment may also need to include the completion of jurisdiction-specific forms and additional information beyond the EEOC guidance. We've written an article on adverse action in the workplace, including what you need to keep in mind.

How does Foley handle conducting criminal background checks on international applicants and/or someone who has spent part of the last seven years working in another country? 

The process of recruiting and hiring employees has undergone a sea change in the last few years. Thanks to technology, employers can recruit and engage talented employees based on their ability to satisfy the qualifications and capabilities to perform the job, regardless of where those individuals live. Time zones and geographical barriers are very much becoming a thing of the past.

The advent of an increasingly global—and mobile—workforce can add a layer of complexity to the background screening process. Your employee screening partner should be able to effectively, and compliantly, fulfill international services to supplement your U.S.-based screening program, when needed.

Foley is partnered with a leading global screening provider to ensure timely, accurate, and compliant fulfillment of international background check services for candidates who reside in the U.S. but have lived and worked, or attended school, in other countries. Supported international services, which can be conducted in over 230 countries, include (but are not limited to) criminal history, credit and bankruptcy check, motor vehicle report/driver abstract, education verification, and employment verification.

Do criminal traffic offenses show up on criminal background checks?

Criminal traffic offenses can, and do, appear on some county criminal searches. And there are jurisdictions where those offenses may only appear on a motor vehicle report (MVR). Foley's guidance to prospects and clients is that unless an individual will be driving as part of their job, a motor vehicle report should not be part of the background check and should not be included in the hiring decision.

Why shouldn't companies use "instant" national criminal background checks?

Spend any time online researching criminal background checks, and you'll see enticing offers for "instant" criminal background checks. The problem: anything too good to be true usually is.

While a nationwide criminal database does exist, it's important to know what this database includes. The nationwide database is a compilation of information from various sources, including county and state criminal history repositories, department of correction records, and state sex offender registries.

The problem? No one really knows how often this database is updated. Also, because the database is a compilation of data, it is not considered a primary source.

So the caveat remains true when it comes to "instant" national criminal background checks: buyer beware.

At Foley, we do not display the results from the national criminal database to the client. Instead, we use the information we've obtained from the database as a "pointer." Any reportable criminal history information found that closely matches the candidate's name and personally identifiable information (PII) is validated at the primary source, i.e., by processing a county criminal search, to determine if the information is reportable to the client.

Do you have more questions? Ask Foley!
While we hope the above provided a solid overview of criminal background check basics, we know you might have more questions. We're here to help. Fill out the form below to learn more about our background check software.

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