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How Do You Obtain a Criminal Record?



How Do You Obtain a Criminal Record?


A person performing a criminal background check can search federal, national, county, or state criminal court databases to find information about someone’s criminal record, such as misdemeanor and felony charges as well as pending criminal cases.

Depending on the record searched, different kinds of checks may show different categories of offenses. For instance, searching Tennessee’s database will only report criminal activity in Tennessee’s criminal court system. A federal search can reveal activity in more than one state.

Recruiters and employers can search multiple counties and states where an applicant has lived.

What do Employers Look for?

Depending on the type of work and position they’re looking to fill, employers have different screening goals. A lot of companies check criminal records to prevent the risk of hiring someone with a felony or a misdemeanor that may have committed theft, assault, burglary, etc.

Types of Checks

Pre-employment screening can include checks of the national, federal, county, or state criminal database. A national database screening combs through thousands of jurisdictions for local and state crimes. A federal search looks through US district and appellate court databases for federal crimes. A county-level search looks for crimes on this level, including the charges and disposition. Finally, a state search will look at state court databases and police records.

What Can You Find?

The information revealed in the wake of a criminal records check can include a history of incarceration as an adult, infractions, and active warrants. The system will only show infractions committed within the last seven years. Likewise, an arrest that did not result in a conviction can show up in some background check results if it happened in the last seven years.

Criminal Background Check Timeline

Searches of the national database take the least time. Typically, you get results the same day. Other searches can take up to three days. County checks take the most time, as some counties still don’t have digitized records, and a court employee must assist.

Proving Lack of a Record

US citizens may have to prove they don’t have a criminal record for a variety of reasons apart from employment. For example, you might be asked for a “certificate of good conduct” to use abroad, if you want to adopt, for school, etc. This is not commonly requested, but it’s no problem to comply.

Local Police Department

The easiest thing to do is ask the police at the department where you live or last lived to carry out a state or district criminal records search and issue a document indicating the absence of a criminal record. You might have to appear in person for the local police department to carry out the check. 

Check FBI Records

The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division keeps a central record of data related to individuals’ criminal history. It provides services and information to international, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, academic institutions, the private sector, and more.

You can ask for proof of lack of a record from the FBI through a written request to the CJIS Division. You must provide proof of identity, which includes a name, birth date, place of birth, and fingerprint impressions.

You can also submit a request through a channeler approved by the FBI. This is a private company under contract with the FBI, authorized to receive relevant data like fingerprint submissions, collect the fee, transmit the requests with the details needed to the FBI CJIS Division, obtain the check results, and send them to the individual.

Getting Your Fingerprints Taken

US citizens can get fingerprint cards from the FBI’s website or local police departments. US consulates and embassies typically don’t offer this service.



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