The Truth About a Nationwide Criminal Record Search

The Truth About a Nationwide Criminal Record Search
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When the need arrives to conduct a criminal record check for be weary of online search engines and third party information brokers that claim to provide a “nationwide” criminal record search.

Even in the age of the Internet and computerized database records, there is no such thing “nationwide” criminal record search and service providers who advertise that they have access to these records are inaccurate.

National Criminal Information Center (N.C.I.C.)

There is only one “true” nationwide criminal record search in the U.S. today.  The N.C.I.C (National Criminal Information Center), which is a central repository for criminal record information that is available only to law enforcement agencies and related criminal justice organizations.

Access to this database is strictly prohibited to the general public, including private investigators and information brokers. While there has been unfortunately a history of abuse to this privileged system, the government has recently cracked down on determining who is accessing the NCIC database, including system audits and federal prosecution against those who inappropriately access the system.

In fact, there have been questions about the reliability and accuracy of the NCIC databaseso even if you did have access to it, it may not be the most comprehensive way to find criminal records.

Be Wary of Online Databases

Despite public restrictions, it has not prevented online information brokers and “sleuthing” websites from attempting to market “nationwide” searches.

A typical google search for the term “nationwide criminal check” produces thousands of databases and third party sources that claim to provide “national criminal checks,” “instant criminal records,” or “free criminal records.”

However, if you check the fine print, these third party sources typically include prison records and sex offender registries, and even this information is not inclusive of all states and jurisdictions. While this may be useful in identifying records for more serious or violent convicted criminals, most arrests do not typically result in convictions and jail time.

Even more outrageous about these websites is that many claim to include a “free” National Sex Offender database, which us also available for “free” on the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Sex Offender Public website.

Other websites advertise to hold “300 million records” which is of no value if the website does not hold any records from the state or local jurisdiction in which the subject of the investigation is/was located.

A “True” Nationwide Criminal Record Search

To conduct a “true” nationwide criminal record search on an individual for due diligence investigation, executive background check, investigative due diligence or a comprehensive background investigation, you must first establish the jurisdictions that an individual has resided and/or worked.

Searches must be conducted through respective state repositories and in local jurisdictions, (often by hand) and in many cases a date of birth is also required to conduct the search.

Each state has different rules about who may access their records and how the records will be provided. Some states have record repositories which are public record (i.e. Florida records can be accessed through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement).Even with access to these statewide repository systems, there is no substitute for “hands-on” research of court records, which are much more reliable and accurate.Also keep in mind that in certain jurisdictions, arrest records do not typically cover less serious offenses such as misdemeanors and traffic infractions. In addition, federal arrest records (such as wire fraud or crimes against the U.S. government) are both kept and prosecuted separately in their respective federal courthouses.

Final Thought

The bottom line is that when the need arrives to conduct a criminal record check be weary of online search engines and third party information brokers.

Only a professional investigator with knowledge of the entire process can get you the “accurate” information needed.

It may be a bit more costly to do it right now, but it can save you the embarrassment and potential liability if something is missed down the road.

Guide to Background Investigations

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