Differences Between National, Federal, State, and County Checks

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Posted by: David Garcia

Topics: Human Resources, Compliance, Recruitment

Background checks for potential employees can benefit businesses in a variety of ways. They help organizations identify possible organizational risks and verify a candidate's employment and educational history.

Background screening may help your company succeed by reducing your risk and ensuring you hire staff with verified employment and education history. 

However, there are a plethora of background screening alternatives to choose from. Collecting candidate information on your own may be time-consuming and potentially a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Criminal searches also differ considerably depending on whether you check national, federal, state, or county records — and the candidate information you supply. 

Understanding the distinctions between the sorts of criminal record searches available may help your business develop comprehensive, accurate, and compliant background screening procedures.

In this guide, we'll go through the four sorts of criminal record searches employers perform for pre-employment background checks and the crucial distinctions you need to know about each.

What is a National Criminal Background Check?

A national criminal background check involves searching millions of digital records from thousands of jurisdictions in the United States. This includes terrorist and sex offender registries.

A national screening provides a checklist of infractions, misdemeanors, and felony convictions, as well as open cases.

If someone has a criminal record, it will be shown in the report. The type of crime, verdict, and date of the verdict will all be included, as well as the database where the record was discovered.

A national background check is the best place to start when screening candidates for employment.

Because the average person moves eleven times throughout their life, you'll almost certainly be employing people who have lived in many locations. Local searches may not always be enough. A national search will discover and flag potential concerns in every state and county.

Although national criminal background checks are thorough, they aren't perfect. They don't, for example, include non-digital records or federal-level convictions, which brings us to the next background check. 

You also need to make sure any findings are verified with the source of data, or you may be putting your company at liability risk.

What is a Federal Criminal Background Check?

A federal criminal background check searches through 94 federal United States district and appellate court databases. These are separate and distinct databases from those used for national checks.

A federal background check will reveal any convictions prosecuted at the federal level. 

Crimes that may be uncovered by a federal background check are very severe. They might include drug distribution, unlawful gun possession, arson, kidnapping, embezzlement, tax evasion, counterfeiting, bank robbery, and other major felonies.

A federal criminal background check is commonly utilized by businesses in the financial sector, executives, and CPAs to find instances of fraud and embezzlement, or identity theft.

It's critical to understand that while national and federal sound similar, they aren't the same thing. 

A national background check includes a variety of nationwide databases, but a federal search specifically looks for criminal records in federal jurisdictions.

What is a State Criminal Background Check?

State criminal background checks are comparable to national criminal background checks, but they are done at the state level. State-level checks, like national screenings, provide an overview but may be incomplete. Some county records might not be available in a state-level check.

State-level crimes — such as robbery, arson, murder, and theft — might be similar to federal offenses in terms of severity, but state crimes also tend to have less severe penalties.

Keep in mind that not all counties submit data to state databases, and each database has its own set of rules.f you are looking for the most up-to-date info, it is advisable to request a county-level background check on a job applicant. 

What is a County Criminal Background Check?

A county criminal background check reveals the most up-to-date and accurate information. County criminal record searches are among the most comprehensive sources for criminal records — felony and misdemeanor cases are generally handled in county courts. These records are housed in the 3,006 counties in the United States.

Of course, you don't want to investigate every county in the United States. As a result, your background check vendor will likely recommend searching for people's current home addresses, neighboring jurisdictions, and other locations where they've resided recently.

A county criminal background search will typically not return non-criminal records such as traffic citations, infractions, minor (by state statute) offenses, dismissed, and any expunged or erased records. The reporting of such records depends on federal and state reporting restrictions.

In Conclusion

There are crucial differences between national, federal, state, and county background screenings. But they all share a common goal: to ensure that employees hired by an organization do not have any convictions that may disqualify them from the job.

Employers must also adhere to federal and state laws governing background checks for employment purposes when conducting background screenings on their employees.

Employers should know that applicants with criminal records are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), prohibiting employment discrimination. Employers should be aware of their responsibilities under both pre-employment criminal background checks laws.

If you decide to reject a job applicant based on their criminal history check, you must follow the FCRA regulations.

Work With A Background Check Provider Like ScoutLogic

Working with a background check company is crucial for conducting pre-employment checks successfully and efficiently. We can help you determine which background check makes sense for your needs.

Not only is it difficult to get information from all of the necessary sources, but there are also numerous federal and state regulations that employers must follow.

If you perform a background check on your own, you run the danger of receiving incomplete data or creating legal risks. Hiring a third-party provider with extensive expertise in delivering accurate background checks is the best way to ensure you receive thorough reports and eliminate compliance risks.

That said, you should not choose just any screening service at random to do your background checks.

Get in touch with one of our experts at ScoutLogic today to simplify the background screening process. We'll assign you your very own Scout that will work as an extension of your team.

Contact one of our ScoutLogic employment background check experts today to get started!

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