Criminal History Background Check - an important step in the hiring process

As part of the pre-employment background check , potential employees may be asked to submit a "certificate of good conduct" i.e. information to address their criminal history record check. In addition to employment screening, a criminal history record can be used for security clearance, adoption, immigration issues, etc.

How are criminal checks conducted?

A criminal history check cannot exist without criminal histories. Criminal histories are maintained by law enforcement agencies at all government levels. This means that internal databases can be kept by local police departments as well as federal agencies. At the state level, separate databases are kept by state police, highway patrol and troopers. Generally, this type of information is shared between different law enforcement agencies, and it should be visible to the public.

Some states have what is called a "statewide repository"; it can contain information obtained from various sources. In turn, the federal government holds criminal histories necessary for conducting a criminal history search and serves as a central repository for all agencies that are below in rank.

Information contained in a criminal background check

Depending on the work position for which a person applies, the criminal check may contain:

  • arrest history and jail time
  • traffic violations
  • litigation records
  • sex offences

This type of information will usually come from sources such as court and police records; however, thorough criminal checks may also include information on international arrests.

Types of criminal background checks

The type of criminal check that will be conducted cannot be separated from the work position or employers' preferences. These are the most common types of criminal checks:

  • Local police check
  • FBI records check

All major criminal checks will probably go through the National Crime Information Center. However, in most cases, employers will go to county courts as their primary source of information. The checks that go through county courts are sometimes most effective, because county courts have the best turnaround times and the data they possess is always up-to-date. They also give out the most detailed information.

If an employer wants a cross-section of criminal records within a state, they should go to statewide criminal court records. This has its good sides, but there is no guarantee that an employer will be offered full information on an applicant- it all depends upon how rigidly this type of information is processed in a given state.

The Federal system, on the other hand, is separate from the state and county system, and the information obtained through it will not include anything from the state level. Usually, the cases that are part of the federal court system include more serious charges and violations, such as drug trafficking, bank robberies and crimes against the government.

How are criminal background checks useful?

These checks are probably the most effective ways for an employer to review an applicant's history and make sure he/she is the right match for the company. HR departments inside any company are bent on obtaining thorough past records; they usually want to be meticulous and sift through the great number of applications. It has been said that past workplace conduct is an excellent predictor of future conduct.

Through the use of criminal background checks, employers are able to see whether a certain felony could be a threat to the company's work ethics, and act accordingly. In the past decade, many employers have been sued for injuries from workplace violence, and a lot of money has been spent on court settlements and verdicts. When companies understand that investing a small amount of money will save them millions of dollars, there will be less workplace violence and the overall employment costs will drop significantly.

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