|STATE LEVEL CRIMINAL RECORDS|
When you are conducting a prescreen background investigation, it is of utmost importance to obtain a criminal history. These searches typically fall in two main categories: arrest records and court records. The use of each category has its strengths and weaknesses, so it's important for you to evaluate what you are trying to achieve to determine which is best for your application.
Arrest records usually are housed at the state level in a databank maintained by the governing judicial body within each state. Many of these systems are fingerprint driven, meaning when an individual is arrested and fingerprinted those fingerprints are submitted to the state databank for tracking purposes. The records that subsequently are pulled indicate an individual's arrest record based on those fingerprint submissions.
If an illegible fingerprint card is submitted, the state will return it to be redone. By then, the subject already may have been released from custody and is not available to be re-fingerprinted. Subsequently, there will not be a record of this arrest in the system.
The primary disadvantage to most arrest record systems is they do not contain disposition information on the charges. This means you will not know if the person was convicted of the crime for which he was arrested. However, using arrest records also can be an advantage. The arrest record in itself may show a pattern that could pose a potential concern, depending on the position for which your applicant is applying. This pattern could be critically important, regardless of whether a conviction was entered, depending on the position you're trying to fill.
Finally, statewide records are not available in all states, and some states have lengthy turnaround times that may cause their use to be ineffective for your purposes. Therefore, it is imperative that you determine if arrest records will best suit your needs. All criminal searches are on a per-name, per-jurisdiction-searched basis.
Important Note: The validity of statewide systems also can be dependent upon their ability to get data from individual county jurisdictions. If a county does not update its data to the statewide system on a regular basis, or at all for that matter, the statewide system may have holes in its coverage area. Therefore, statewide records should be used only as a cursory review of an applicant's record. TruDiligence does not recommend the use of statewide records as a means of promoting due diligence in hiring practices or maintaining compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. County-level courthouse records are recommended for this purpose.
Statewide records are not available in all states, because some states restrict access to their statewide databases to law enforcement personnel only. The states currently available are listed with their respective prices and are priced on a per-name basis. The turnaround times quoted are averages and may vary depending on state backlog; therefore, they cannot be guaranteed.