For anyone other than a law enforcement official with access to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, getting the complete picture on a person’s criminal background can be time consuming and expensive. Here’s why.
The NCIC system maintained by the FBI collects and disseminates criminal history information nationwide. Unfortunately, only law enforcement personnel are permitted access. For anyone else that needs to search a criminal database, criminal history information is limited to what might be available on a statewide basis, and that is if the state will even furnish the information.
The fact is, most states do not allow access to their criminal records and those that do often restrict what they will make available. Some states will only furnish information for the past calendar year. Some only provide information on felonies, while others will only provide information on convictions.
Some require signed releases on special state forms and some require formal signed and notarized requests. Then there are those that will not furnish criminal record information under any circumstances. In such cases, the only alternative is to conduct the criminal record search in the county where the arrest took place.
Things have gotten easier in the last few years as databases are stored on faster servers and maintained much better. The information is accessed easier, making it easier for sites that disseminate this information to get it to the person inquiring. Also, even though security of records has always been important, securing this information has gotten better with encryption and monitoring.
But how do you know where to look? Even if you have accurate information on names the subject has used and know where he or she has resided, you could still miss finding criminal records if the person was arrested in another county.
That’s because a search of county criminal records will only reveal information maintained in that particular county. In some states, doing a statewide criminal record search county by county would require searching records in over 100 counties, one by one. This is not only time consuming, it can be expensive!
When you order a criminal record search or federal background check, it is important that you know not only what you are getting but especially what you’re not getting. Otherwise you could be placing a false reliance on a criminal check you assumed was comprehensive in nature.
Remember this. Other than NCIC, no criminal record system is anywhere close to being comprehensive. Each has limitations of one kind or another. If you don’t want nasty surprises, learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of different criminal record systems here on our site.