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February 18, 2011 Return to News & Events

National Criminal Background Check verse Federal Court Search

There has been a lot of confusion amongst people using background screening sites like in regards to the difference between a National Criminal Background Check and a National Federal Search

This article explains the differences of a National Background Check and a Federal Search

A national background check is a national criminal background check that pulls criminal records from State and County Courts in almost every US State.  The national background check is an instant background check that currently searches criminal records from 46 US States.  The national background check also includes correctional facility records on current and historical inmates (this includes convicts that served time in prison).  The states omitted in the instant national background check are Wyoming, South Dakota, Massachusetts and Delaware.  A statewide criminal background check is  available in Wyoming and South Dakota, but they are not instant and could take 1 to 2 weeks to complete.  Massachusetts and Delaware currently only offer county level criminal searches which can take days to complete.

The federal search is actually a United States Federal Court Search which checks for felony conviction records from all federal civil, criminal and bankruptcy courts.  Most federal courts provide records from at least the past 7 years.  However there are currently 4 federal courts that do not provide records as far back as 7 years.  This inconsistency within the United States Federal Court System exists because each federal court maintains their own case information and is currently not legally required to maintain any kind of national standard for storing and retrieval of their case information and court records.

Essentially any record or case that is prosecuted at the Federal level is going to return in a Federal search. The Federal Law covers and regulates certain types of criminal offenses. Some examples of federal offenses can include but are not limited to: racketeering, counterfeiting of money, drug trafficking, tax fraud and other offenses that cross interstate lines or involve national security, air travel, taxes, or the postal/mail service.

For example loitering would be prosecuted at a county or state level court, but if the person was loitering in front of a Post Office or other government building it would then be prosecuted at the Federal level. More often than not if a person is charged at the Federal level the charge will not show up in the state data. This is because the state usually closes out the case so the Federal Government can charge the person at the Federal level. 

Differences between a National Criminal Background Check and a Federal Court Search

  • A national background check is an instant criminal background check and a federal search is non-instant
  • National background checks include criminal records from state and county court conviction records
    • Some states included in the national background check return felony and misdemeanor records
  • Federal court searches retrieve felony convictions of people who broke federal laws
  • National background checks include records from correctional facilities like state prisons
  • Federal search results are based on name matching and previous residency only
  • National background check search results are based on name, date of birth and occasionally SSN
  • The federal search pulls cases from district courts, bankruptcy courts and circuit courts of appeals

With both national background checks and federal searches come with a free 50-state sex offender registry check and free America’s Most Wanted List search. national sex offender check includes all the following:

  • National Sex Offender Registry provided by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ)
  • High-Risk Sex Offenders - All 50 US States
  • Sexual Predators – Sexually violent offenders and persons obtaining or seeking non-consensual sexual contact with another person and/or has committed sex crimes, such as rape or child sexual abuse.
  • Dept of Corrections - Convicted Sex Offenders who were under the supervision of the DOC
  • Crimes Against Children - Kidnapping, felonious restraint and/or child abuse.  People convicted of, found guilty of or plead guilty to committing or attempting to commit sexual offenses and other crimes against children.

It is recommended that government employment screening policies include both a federal search and a national criminal background check.  For most US businesses, running a national criminal background check as part of their employment screening is sufficient, but depending on the position being sought to fill, it may be wise to also perform a federal court search in addition to the national criminal background check.

This has been a News Publication - All rights reserved is “An Information Enterprises Solution”

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