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Types of criminal background checks
Backed by our expert research team, Checkr’s advanced background check platform searches thousands of databases, law enforcement sources, and registries for a comprehensive report. Checkr provides holistic and in-depth employment criminal background checks so you can grow your business with safety and security in mind.
National criminal records check
Identify which county records should be reviewed with this powerful primary search that queries over 900 million public records.
County criminal records check
Search county records from any state for the most complete documentation of criminal history. Most criminal prosecutions happen in municipal or county courts.
Federal criminal records check
Search the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) for federal felony and misdemeanor convictions at the district level in federal courts.
State criminal records check
Search state criminal record databases. This screening is dispatched in tandem with the County Criminal Record Check to ensure full coverage and case information.
Global watchlist search
Search a comprehensive network of domestic and international government watchlists for industry bans, such as healthcare and finance, and criminal history.
Sex offender registry searches
Search registries from all 50 states, Washington DC, and US territories. Reports will include the offender’s date of registration and current status.
SSN trace and address history
An SSN trace searches public and proprietary records to identify potential address history and aliases. Used to determine which counties and other databases should be searched for additional public records.
If a candidate does not have or does not provide a SSN, it is still possible to run certain checks like motor vehicle records (MVR).
Fraud Abuse Control Information System (FACIS) screens for sanctions/adverse information in sensitive fields such as healthcare. Checkr offers two levels of checks for federal and state compliance.
- Select a topic to scroll directly to it:
- What is a criminal record?
- What is a criminal background check?
- What shows up on a criminal background check?
- Where to get a criminal background check
- Get a criminal background check with Checkr
- Criminal records and fair chance hiring: A survey of business leaders
Frequently asked questions
Learn more about criminal background checks
Criminal background checks are an important part of many pre-employment background screenings. Employers may use criminal background checks to help mitigate risk, protect themselves from liability, and make more informed hiring decisions. In certain industries or sensitive positions, pre-employment criminal background checks may be required by law for public safety.
What is a criminal record?
A criminal record (or criminal history) is a record of contact an individual has had with the criminal justice system. A criminal history is generally public record and can be found by searching the records of federal, state, and county courts or law enforcement agencies.
Having a criminal history doesn’t necessarily mean a person was convicted of a crime. Arrests that didn’t lead to prosecution; charges of which an individual was acquitted (found innocent); and charges that were dismissed may all appear on a criminal record.
What is a criminal background check?
Criminal background checks search a variety of court records to report a candidate’s criminal history. The specific records searched will vary based on the job for which you’re hiring, federal and local laws and industry regulations regarding criminal background checks, and your company’s background screening policies.
A criminal background check might include any or all of the following:
- A federal criminal records check searches the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) for criminal records in federal jurisdictions, which include specific federal crimes such as those committed on federal land or across state lines.
- A national criminal records check searches nationwide databases of criminal history records at the state and county levels, which is different from a federal criminal records check.
- A state criminal records check searches state data sources such as state court, law enforcement, or corrections department records.
- A county criminal records check searches county court records. This is often the most complete source of criminal histories because all records of felonies and misdemeanors, as well as cases filed in local jurisdictions, are kept at county courts.
- A sex offender registry search inspects sex offender registries from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and US territories.
- Global and domestic watchlist searches check a network of domestic and international government watchlists for criminal history and sanctions against an individual.
- International criminal records searches, used when a job candidate lives or works outside the US (or has previously), check criminal history records in countries where the applicant lived.
What shows up on a criminal background check?
The results of a criminal background check are based on the type of court being searched, applicable laws in the state or jurisdiction of the candidate, and whether the information is being reported by a consumer reporting agency (CRA) or sources are searched by the employer.
When using criminal background checks in hiring, employers and CRAs must comply with the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). There may also be state and local laws governing what information from a criminal history record can be reported to a CRA and legally considered for hiring decisions by an employer. For example, some states do not allow reporting of felonies more than seven years old. Other states do not allow reporting of misdemeanors or infractions after other time frames, like three or five years. There may also be laws regarding whether non-convictions can be reported in a background check.
In general, a criminal record will show information including:
- Felony criminal convictions: serious offenses such as murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, and aggravated assault
- Misdemeanor criminal convictions: less serious offenses such as vandalism, trespassing, public intoxication, and disorderly conduct
- Pending criminal cases
A federal criminal record may reveal violations of federal criminal law, such as federal tax evasion, mail fraud, embezzlement, and identity theft.
The record may also show the disposition of the case, which can include:
- Case dismissal
- Case diversion or deferred adjudication, which usually involves the individual entering treatment, community service programs, or probation
A criminal record check may also report:
- Past incarceration
- Active warrants
- Infractions or violations (petty offenses typically resulting in fines rather than jail time)
Criminal record checks usually don’t report juvenile offenses. Juvenile records can be sealed or expunged when the individual turns 18 and in some jurisdictions, this happens automatically.
Where to get a criminal background check
Court records, which contain the bulk of criminal histories, are open to the public, so employers may be able to search the records themselves. However, different sources store records in different ways. Checking a candidate’s criminal history might mean simply searching a database, but could also involve a time-consuming trip to a distant courthouse. Searching for criminal history records can be especially complex when you’re hiring large groups of employees at once, or many employees from different locations. The method in which criminal records are stored and the laws governing their use vary by state and even from one local jurisdiction to another.
To save time, help ensure legal compliance, and gather the most accurate criminal history information, employers may prefer to have an FCRA-compliant CRA conduct their criminal background screenings. Experienced CRAs, like Checkr, comply with federal and local reporting laws and help employers follow EEOC guidance regarding criminal records checks. Checkr monitors the increasing number of state and local ban-the-box and fair hiring laws regulating how employers can use criminal records in hiring decisions. Plus, Checkr’s professional relationships with courts can speed criminal background checks even when court records aren’t digitized.
Get a criminal background check with Checkr
Using an FCRA-compliant background check service like Checkr can take the administrative burden of criminal background screening off your hands. Checkr’s advanced platform searches thousands of databases, law enforcement sources, and registries to deliver comprehensive criminal records reports. Our streamlined processes help you comply with relevant federal, state and local laws, including disclosure and authorization, and adverse action protocols.
Checkr’s easy-to-use tools let you filter results that aren’t relevant to your company’s hiring policies, while our user-friendly dashboard helps you review results and understand what they mean. Your job candidates will appreciate a seamless background check experience thanks to Checkr’s mobile-friendly portal where they can access status updates and live support. Enjoy peace of mind with a background check service that supports you–and your candidates–in delivering compliant criminal background checks.
Criminal Records and Fair Chance Hiring: A Survey of Business Leaders
At Checkr, our mission is to build a fairer future by designing technology that creates opportunities for all. Our products are built to empower customers to hire fairly and open their candidate pools to nontraditional or often overlooked talent, such as individuals with criminal records.
In today's rapidly evolving society, the pursuit of fairness and inclusivity has become a cornerstone of progress. Within this context, the concept of fair chance hiring has emerged as a powerful force for change in the current employment landscape. Fair chance hiring laws restrict some employers from asking job applicants about their criminal history and also regulate how that history — when properly obtained — can be used in the job application process.
As we strive to build a more just and equitable society, it's important to acknowledge that individuals with criminal records can make positive and impactful contributions to their communities and workplaces, and recognize that their past arrest and conviction histories should not be a permanent barrier to their future potential. Embracing fair chance hiring is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic decision that can lead to a multitude of benefits for businesses and society.
In this report, we will dive into the results of our survey and learn more about how business leaders across America feel about hiring individuals with an arrest or conviction history, along with a look at the positive outcomes fair chance hiring can yield for both employers and individuals as certain prospective employees seek an opportunity to build their lives and careers.
Checkr surveyed 2,000 American business leaders — CEOs, owners, presidents, directors, senior managers, and others — to uncover attitudes about hiring individuals with criminal records and the factors that come into play when companies make these types of hiring decisions.
Let’s take a look at the data.
Are organizations hiring candidates with criminal records?
To gain a better understanding of hiring practices, we set out to first obtain basic information with regard to business leaders and their organizations’ history of hiring individuals with criminal records. When asked if their organization has hired an individual with a criminal record in the past 12 months, only 24% said yes, while 58% said no, and another 18% were unsure.
While the majority of businesses say they have not hired an individual with a criminal record in the past year, each has its own reason for considering this type of hire. When asked about their organization’s reason for hiring someone with a criminal record, 70% of respondents said they hired a person with a criminal record to give a second chance to a worker (36%) or to simply try to hire the best candidate for the job regardless of criminal history (33%).
Finally, we asked how willing organizations are to hire individuals with criminal records. Employers were aligned here as 77% said their company was willing or neutral, while just 18% said unwilling and the final 5% did not respond.
Are business leaders hiring individuals with criminal records?
What are the primary concerns?
To learn more about potential concerns when hiring individuals with criminal records, we started by asking business leaders if the type of offense reported (felony vs. misdemeanor vs. infraction) would impact their decision to hire an individual. Respondents were aligned here as 73% said they strongly agree or agree that the type of crime on the record would impact hiring decisions.
To follow up, we asked which organizational issues are most concerning when thinking about hiring an individual with a criminal record. Is legal liability most concerning? What about customer opinions? Or maybe the feelings of current employees?
Here we learned that many different areas of concern are juggled by organizations, as not much separation is shown among the top three:
- Future behavior by employees with criminal records: 21%
- Legal liability: 17%
- Reliability of employees with criminal records: 16%
Next, let’s see how business leaders think their employees feel about working with a new hire with a criminal record.
Is the workforce supportive of fair chance hiring?
We asked business leaders if they thought current employees would be comfortable working alongside individuals with criminal records, and nearly half, 46% said they thought coworkers would be comfortable, 32% were on the fence, and another 22% did not think they would be comfortable.
How do employees feel about coworkers with criminal records?
Additionally, we asked if business leaders felt their current employees supported the idea of hiring individuals with criminal records. The data shows that 46% believe employees are supportive of the idea, another 35% are on the fence, and just 20% believe employees are not supportive of hiring individuals with criminal records.
Next up, we’ll learn more about performance and retention as it relates to fair chance hiring.
What about performance and retention?
Employee performance evaluations are based on many factors, such as quality of work, overall job performance, and dependability, among others.
To better understand whether business leaders feel the overall quality of hire of an individual with a criminal record would be the same (or similar) as any employee without a criminal record, we asked business leaders a series of questions in terms of the aforementioned evaluation factors, and here’s what they had to say:
- 57% said that the job performance of an individual with a criminal record would be the same as any employee.
- 45% said that the quality of hire of an individual with a criminal record would be the same as any employee without a criminal record.
- 42% said that the dependability of an individual with a criminal record would be the same as any employee without a criminal record.
- 56% said that the retention rate of an individual with a criminal record would be the same as any employee without a criminal record
And for those who have hired individuals with criminal records, 59% of those business leaders said that employees with criminal records perform as good or better than employees without criminal records.
Next, let’s take a look at the financial implications of hiring an individual with a criminal record, as revealed by our survey of business leaders across America.
Are there financial implications?
What are the financial implications of fair chance hiring? Considerations may include compliance with local Ban the Box and fair hiring laws, training and support of the employees, public perception and brand reputation, and tax incentives, among others.
To uncover more data, we started by asking if business leaders believe that the cost-per-hire of an individual with a criminal record would be the same as any employee without a criminal record. We learned that 55% do believe that the cost-per-hire would be the same, while 22% were on the fence and another 23% thought the cost-per-hire would increase.
Moving onto compensation, when asked if they thought employees with criminal records should be paid the same as employees without criminal records — if work/job is equal — and 80% agreed, 11% were on the fence, and just 9% disagreed.
To wrap up, we asked if respondents thought that hiring individuals with criminal records was a positive for the bottom line of their business and just 35% agreed, while 43% were on the fence. An additional 22% disagree with the statement.
The data gathered from 2,000 American business leaders sheds light on a crucial and evolving aspect of the modern workforce landscape — fair chance hiring. The findings underscore the multifaceted nature of this issue, revealing both challenges and opportunities for employers, job seekers, and society at large. As we navigate the complex intersection of fair chances and economic factors, several key takeaways emerge.
First, our report underscores the significance of fair chance hiring as a means to create a more inclusive and equitable society. It highlights the potential for positive social impact by offering individuals with criminal records a renewed sense of purpose and facilitating the community reintegration process.
Economically, the untapped talent pool that this group represents can lead to enhanced innovation, productivity, and overall business success. That said, the majority of business leaders still struggle to see hiring individuals with criminal records as a positive for their bottom line.
As employers grapple with the decision to hire individuals with criminal records, a well-rounded approach is important. This involves a balanced consideration of the nature of the criminal record, the specific job requirements, and the candidate's potential for growth and contribution. By doing so, employers can harness the power of diversity and provide opportunities that lead to personal transformation and professional success.
In the end, by embracing fair chance hiring practices, organizations not only uphold their social responsibility but also promote inclusive hiring practices that impact positive growth for their company and current employees.
Learn more about fair chance hiring and get resources for your business at Checkr’s Fair Chance Hiring Hub.
All data found within this report is derived from a survey by Checkr conducted online via the survey platform Pollfish. In total, 2,000 adult American business leaders were surveyed. The respondents were found via Pollfish’s age, employment, and organizational role filtering features. This survey was conducted over a three-day span, and all respondents were asked to answer all questions as truthfully as possible and to the best of their knowledge and abilities.
The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.