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background checks questions and answers - county and state criminal record check

By Michael Klazema on 4/7/2011

County and state criminal history searches: which is important and which is indispensable?

Let’s start with county criminal history searches. Knowing what we now do about criminal history databases, many of you are probably unsure why a county criminal history is necessary. There is a reason why we recommend that US OneSEARCH be run with a county criminal history search rather than as a standalone search. As stated previously, county criminal history searches are perfect for digging deep and getting every available detail in targeted areas. Most importantly, county criminal history searches are most likely to yield felony or misdemeanor charge results.

In addition, to ensure FCRA compliance, you should always run a jurisdictional search on any item discovered in a national criminal database. (To do this automatically, select US OneVERIFY instead of US OneSEARCH when ordering searches on backgroundchecks.com.)

Next, we have state criminal history searches. Ideally, a state criminal history search will search each county within a given state to ensure that no records are found, however not every statewide Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) offers a comprehensive county reporting. The benefits are similar to county criminal history searches while sometimes offering the benefit of breadth in addition to depth, but these searches can also be affected by politics in two ways: First, when demand for searches is high, the state agencies get theirs done first and private employers have to wait – sometimes for a week or more. Second, it takes effort for information to move from the county court’s records (which are usually updated daily) to the state’s repository. The county has to extract the data and send it to the state, which has to load it and test it. When demand is high or politicians cut budgets, the state records can lag behind the county records. And, while we don’t know the reason, we sometimes find records at the county level that simply don’t exist at the state level.

Based on this, which would you say is indispensible and which would you say is just important? From our perspective, county criminal history searches are indispensible. They give the necessary depth of information in the place where convictions are most likely to appear. State criminal history searches, on the other hand, tend to be more costly and can be affected by politics, but they can offer a greater breadth to cover those people who don’t stay in the counties of a state in which they live or work. For these reasons, we categorize state criminal history searches as “merely” important.

The final type of criminal history search is a federal criminal history search. Many think this is either just another way of saying national criminal database or a search of all counties in the U.S. It is in fact something completely different. We’ll examine this last type of criminal history search next time in our question and answer blog posts.


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