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County Criminal Records Check

County Criminal Records Check
A County Criminal Records Check is a search of a specific county's court records. It is by far the most common type of search in an Employment Background Check. It provides felony information, and it may also contain misdemeanor or infraction information.

County Criminal Records are searched by name. The results are then reviewed using other identifiers, such as date of birth, social security number, or driver’s license number. Reports usually include the jurisdiction searched, the individual’s personal identifiers as they appear in the case file, the file date, charges, disposition, disposition dates, and sentencing information.

A County Criminal Records Check is sometimes inaccurately referred to as a Criminal Record Check, a Criminal Background Check, or a County Criminal Background Check.
Why Do County Criminal Record Checks
When properly conducted, County Criminal Record Checks are the heart of a thorough background check. Employers have a moral and legal obligation to provide a safe work environment. Knowing whether a potential employee has been involved in criminal activity (such as drug or other substance abuse, reckless behavior, dishonesty, theft, or dangerous and violent behaviors) allows the employer to determine if an applicant is appropriate for the job and work environment. A County Criminal Records Check provides an important element for the defense against negligent hiring claims.

What are the Sources of a County Criminal Records Check?
A county court's records are the primary source for County Criminal Records Checks. County courts oversee criminal cases that fall under the jurisdiction of the State Court System. County courts maintain records in a variety of ways. While many counties are computerized, others still use microfiche, microfilm, and paper to store files and indexes. Counties that have converted to computers do not necessarily place complete case files on their systems. They are more apt to include only an index or summary data. A quality Background Check at the county level should involve a researcher who is familiar with the record policies of the individual court system being searched.

Courts do not usually share records with other jurisdictions. Only criminal cases prosecuted in a county under the state penal code will be found in a specific County Criminal Records Check. Therefore, each county must be searched to determine if a criminal history exists in that county.

What are the Weaknesses of County Criminal Records Checks?
The greatest weakness of County Criminal Records Checks is the limited scope of any particular county search. There are more than 7,000 significant courts in the United States that maintain criminal records. There is no national source of criminal records. Few employers have the resources and time to search every criminal court in the country. Wise choices must be made to determine which courts to search.

Each county has its own rules and regulations as to how records are kept and released. Each county has its own system for maintaining records. A county record researcher needs to be familiar with the record systems and policies of each court to be searched.

The researcher has the challenge of identifying if the applicant has been involved in a case. Most courts only provide researchers with a name index to identify potential cases. Each name variation (for example, Bill and William) may be located in a different part of the index and so must be individually searched. The researcher must then verify whether a name found in the index is the applicant in question by searching the actual case file. If an applicant has a common name, the researcher may find many cases that need to be reviewed. Once a case has been identified, the case information must be properly compiled into a report for the prospective employer.

Various (and differing) state and federal laws determine what information can be reported to an employer. Also, research is sometimes required to interpret the local "legalese" (court language) used. In short, patience and understanding is a must when conducting quality County Criminal Records Checks.

How Far Back Does A County Criminal Record Check Go?
A typical employment background check includes criminal record searches in the counties of residence, work, and school for the last 7 years (sometimes longer periods are searched). The period of time actually covered in a county criminal record report varies based on how state and federal law apply to that specific background check, how the county maintains its records, and how the records are researched. For a more complete discussion about how far back a background check goes, see How Far Back Does A Background Check Go.

How Long Does a County Criminal Records Check Take?
Most County Criminal Records Checks are completed in two to three business days. However, individual county policies may affect this. Some counties require the court clerks to do the research, adding time to the process (as we must leave names to be searched with the court clerks and then wait for the clerks to do the search on "their time"). If a case file must be pulled to search for personal identifying information, we are again at the mercy of the court clerk to pull the file in a timely manner. Again, patience is the key when doing proper County Criminal Records Checks.

Can I See a Sample County Criminal Records Check Report?
Yes, click Sample County Criminal Records Check.

What is Our Recommendation for County Criminal Records Checks?
County Criminal Records Checks are essential to a quality Comprehensive Background Check. We strongly recommend County Criminal Records Checks for any position. We recommend that, at a minimum, all counties of residence, work, and school be searched for a period of at least seven years. Additional county criminal court records may also be searched as requested by a prospective employer or as determined by the details of a specific background check.

Note: Federal, state and local laws and regulations are rapidly evolving regarding employer inquiries into and use of applicant/employee criminal records. See Background Check Laws and Regulations and Employment Background Check Blog. It is the employer's responsibility to stay current with changing legal requirements. A Matter of Fact is not a law firm and cannot provide legal advice. It is important that employers work with counsel to develop an employment screening program specific to their needs. Employers should obtain legal advice concerning their legal responsibilities, and to ensure that background check documents, policies and procedures are in compliance with applicable local, state and federal laws and regulations. For more see Legal Disclaimer.

Are There Other Criminal History Searches Available?
Yes, County Criminal History Searches are just one of the criminal history searches available. Additional criminal record searches available to help meet employer and job requirements include:
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