A criminal background report is like a sausage; everyone knows what one is, but no one actually knows what’s in it. Jokes aside, many users have false preconceptions about arrest records and criminal records. These kinds of documents are available to the public and can be delivered to your computer through dedicated search services such as TruthFinder and BeenVerified thanks to the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. Most of the information comes from multiple county, state and federal court records, but search engines also look up sex offender registries and the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles records.
The Two Types of Criminal Records
Differentiating between arrest reports is a bit tricky since background check sites don’t distinguish the results and instead just pour in everything they find. For this reason, the responsibility of segmenting the seriousness of a crime falls to you. There are two major categories in this regard: non-convictions and convictions. The former are small-scale crimes that may justify an arrest but aren’t big enough to send the subject to jail. Warrants, traffic tickets, and public indecency are just a few examples. It’s also possible that the charges were dismissed but the case is still displayed under the target’s name.
Convictions are more serious acts that include misdemeanor, felony, and abuse, just to name a few. Such cases are often held in a county or state court and unlike non-convictions – which remain on reports for a maximum of seven years – cannot be expunged from public reports. On a side note, sex offense registries fall under a different category and these records aren’t guaranteed to appear in your background check results.
The Structure of a Criminal History
When looking at the report, the following information can be expected: arrest/crime classification, age, case number, pending status, offense, and state. If the person was convicted, you’ll also see the sentence length, date of admittance, name, and location of the prison, and status within the prison. Keep in mind though that online background check sites don’t guarantee 100% accurate results, and sometimes the data is sealed, expunged, or simply unavailable in online format.
If the search engine is unable to find the information in a database – even if the person has committed the crime – it will return without results. On top of all that, the report only shows the criminal history related to the name you provided. If the subject was admitted under a different name, then you’ll need to conduct a separate search.
The Ethics of Criminal Background Searching
Whether or not someone’s criminal and arrest history should be publicly available is highly debated to this very day. On one hand, you have the right to know if your future roommate has committed something shady before moving in because doing so serves your safety. On the other hand, imagine yourself in the boots of others: having a few warrants or being arrested for minor charges isn’t the end of the world, yet anyone snooping into your files would only see you as a criminal.
The general rule is to respect people’s right to privacy and exercise fairness and impartiality while conducting a criminal history check. We advise against such a practice if it’s for malicious reasons, these tools aren’t meant to discredit your associates or ruin their reputation. It’s also worth mentioning that public data search engines have a margin of error – something they admit themselves – which makes these kinds of services ineligible for employee screening. As a summary, take all online reports with a grain of salt and don’t judge the subject solely by the results.