National criminal record searches all use similar databases, but they don't cover the whole nation!
So what are these reports really?
Many companies market national criminal databases under different names like "Nationwide Criminal Search," or "National Criminal Records Reports". All these reports are the same thing but share the same basic rules:
- They are compilations of criminal records from multiple, but far from all, sources.
- They are not comprehensive because most counties do not report to these databases.
Are nationwide criminal background checks comprehensive?
These reports are far from comprehensive by themselves!
There is no such thing as a comprehensive national criminal report! Although many companies market them as being comprehensive, it would not be possible.
- The United States has over 3,600 counties,
- Each county has multiple courthouses that manage county criminal records.
- There are also 94 federal judicial districts
- Each district can have multiple federal courthouses that manage federal criminal records
With all that data, a true national database is not possible (at least not at a reasonable price!)
Keeping a database that large, and forcing those counties and districts to report to it would be very costly. It is simply too expensive so the companies that hold this data, have to cut corners. This means that if an employer wanted to use an accurate nationwide criminal history search for a background check, it would be cost prohibitive.
What about the NCIC? Can't we search the FBI Criminal Database?
Contrary to what you may have heard or read or been told, there is no national criminal reporting system available to the public.
The National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) is maintained and run by the FBI. It is authorized for use only by law enforcement in the pursuit of an investigation. The NCIC is NOT available for use by the general public under any circumstances, and unauthorized use is a felony.
What sort of criminal record information is out there?
Many companies tout a "National criminal record search." However, this is misleading because it does not include all states; all counties and the federal court system. It is done by searching databases and not the local courts. These databases rely on courts to submit their records to them, and many of the courts do not participate. The courts that do participate, submit records that are frequently outdated. There is no central repository of criminal records available to the private sector.
Instead the information available are only partial compilations of county criminal records nationwide.
What is the best way to use these databases?
With over 20 years in the screening industry, our reports use a combination of sources to build a comprehensive screening:
- Use the nationwide database as a low level search
- Also complete in depth searches at the county, or district level
- Confirm any information from the nationwide report at the county or district level
HireSafe does provide a Multi-State Criminal Record Database Search, while not a 100% comprehensive record search, it serves as "back-up" to the known jurisdictions where the applicant has lived or worked. The HireSafe Multi-State Criminal Database Search is only available in conjunction with additional county and state-wide searches.
This search locates potential criminal records with its nationwide scope. The HireSafe Multi-State Criminal Database Search draws from over 550 million records from thousands of jurisdictions, including counties, department of corrections (DOC), administrative office of courts (AOC), and offender registries from all 50 states, plus Washington DC, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
When a record is returned from the Multi-State Criminal Database Report, we automatically confirm its accuracy with the originating source at the county or state courthouse.