Article: Background Checks and Criminal Records

The terms background checks and criminal records are often misunderstood. The obscurity between the two can easily mislead anyone looking to conduct either. There can be more than just subtle differences, not only in what they each mean, but, the coverage from one background check to another. The words "background checks" and "criminal records" do not hold a specific, official or standard meaning. The clear guidelines found are mostly in what the law considers to be of public record and what it does not. The issue of what falls under public record rights and the necessity of privacy safeguards are debated by legislatures, heard in courts, challenged by groups or concerned residents and revised from time to time. One of many examples where private and public information can cross is when a bankruptcy record is requested which is a public record, however, some of the data appearing within documents such as the Social Security Number and other personal data can be revealed. On a larger scale, there are debates and challenges to the availability, responsibility and duty of the government and its agencies to have their records opened. This issue directly pertains to background checks and criminal records and what they can include in their reports.

An individual's background information can contain much more than their criminal history. A criminal history search can be a part of a background check which can include a multitude of other records. One of the most important details to look over when considering a background check is the coverage of what will be "specifically" searched. Not all background checks and even criminal records are equal and cover the same areas. The time span that is covered or how far back they the search goes and the records that are included in the search will tell the scope and blue print of the investigation you're going to receive. Some of the information may be proprietary to the searching companies such as where the information is coming from, but, the entity conducting the search should be able to elaborate on the time span and which records/types are searched. If an individual or business is looking to hire additional personnel and feels a criminal history search will suffice, the full background check may not be necessary. For example where the employers will need to hire a driver, a criminal record check may not be sufficient as driving records can be omitted from the reports and may need to be requested separately. Criminal record searches can also differ from one to another. Private companies and government entities such as law enforcement agencies provide the public with criminal records checks. Some criminal checks have felonies and misdemeanors, some only felonies, some more detailed information. The differences are upon which agency is giving you the report.

Even more complex than what is included in a criminal record search is what's included with a background check. The term "background check" or "background search" is vaguely used throughout the industry and most of its marketing emphasis has been centered around why a person or company needs to perform the search as opposed to what they actually cover. This is a crucial step when considering which search to order, as mentioned earlier, they are not equal in what they do. It is essential when ordering a background check or criminal history check to carefully go through and view what is within the coverage of the company/agency/entity you're looking to order a search from. When asking about what people are looking for in a background check, the answer in many occasions is "everything you can find on the person". The bad news is that much of the data you may think you will be getting is either not public, not easily obtainable or just simply not looked for. Once again, the importance of looking over the coverage of the company you're requesting the searches from. There's still plenty that can be learned about the basics of a background check and what it encompasses.

One of the most basic facts of a public record search is that financial information such as bank accounts, CDs, stocks and other personal data is generally not included in a background check. These and other similar data can be ordered by a court, subpoenaed and other permitted uses not falling under a your average background check and public records. This problem is mostly apparent when individuals and businesses are looking for a person's assets. These are called asset searches and are conducted by many attorneys when considering the value of a case, attaching assets to liens, divorces and other purposes where a court order can be obtained. Asset searches are frequently sought for obvious reasons also, but, have limitations and strict requirements. The good news is that most records we look for are public. You can see a limitless number of documents and newly recorded information that is added to search databases, recorders and so forth regularly. One of the largest assets owned by the public is their home or dwelling. This is public information as deeds are recorded and provided upon request from the city/county clerks, registrar offices, county recorders or any other administrators. This information can easily be viewed online depending on the county and the department. Some departments have a low number of requests, budget restraints or other issues surrounding the method of providing the data. The property record can not only reveal the owners names, but a named spouse, maiden name, value, location, description and more. Businesses and corporations can also be searched through many official secretary of state websites with enough detailed results, depending on the county where it is recorded. Vehicle registration is generally not within the scope of a background search, it is also not as important as many vehicles are leased or balances due on payment. In other words, they are not always owned in their entirety. Other than searching for assets, court records are essential to many background checks.

Court record searches can reveal important information that is commonly looked for. Lawsuits involving divorces, disputes between two persons or businesses/partners, judgments, liens, jury awards, criminal cases and other files kept at the courthouse can be searched and are open to the public. The first advantage is that you know where the records are kept as opposed to when looking for assets which can come from many different sources. The ease of obtaining the information is based on which court, state, jurisdiction, venue you are looking to search. Some states, not many, put their cases readily available online, whether criminal, traffic or civil suits where they are easily accessed without any fees by anyone. This is another area where knowing the coverage of a search prior to ordering is important. If the background check company you've decided to hire is not covering some of the records you're expecting, you may very well have to use another source or conduct a search of the courts yourself. Addresses and residence history are part of many background checks and even may be in criminal searches to help properly identify the subject of your search. Simply put, the name and addresses match the information you already know about the person, so it must be the right one. Companies that provide background checks are in essence making it easier to conduct them, but, it can also not include records you are specifically looking for.