Criminal background checks, also called consumer reports are conducted for a variety of reasons, the most common being employment. Several types of databases are searched to determine your identity, locate where possible criminal records may exist based on former addresses, all of which is done by doing a soft pull of information contained in the three credit bureaus Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.

Depending on the employer and the type of position a candidate is pursuing (entry, mid-management, or executive level), plus guidance provided by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, FCRA, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC, of what is legally reportable which varies by jurisdiction, will drive the types of databases actually searched. EEOC, for example, does not allow the reporting of any arrest that does not lead to a conviction.

Some states do not allow the reporting of convictions more than seven years old in general, however, the level of security required for the position, the amount of money to be made annually can override the “lookback period” of specific state laws. Furthermore, reporting of convictions where the record was expunged is prohibited but court decisions do not always result in automatic updates to all appropriate databases in a timely manner.

This is important to every person with a criminal history because inaccuracies in reporting is a common occurrence to the detriment of those justice-involved.

The creation of a criminal background check meeting consumer regulatory requirements begins with your consent and submission of a social security number, birth date, names or aliases, and an address. There are two databases that are nationally controlled. The NCIC is a federal database that holds federal and state information; the Federal database contains information for federal crimes.

Each state has its own repository, with counties and local courts maintaining records as well. The ability to conduct a search is normally 1-3 days and is impacted by the extent to which criminal records are digitized. All states are not equal when it comes to their use of technology and reporting of information to the national database in a timely manner.

When information is collected and a criminal background report is generated by a recognized consumer reporting agency decision-makers are required to have policies and procedures in place to ensure a fair and consistent review. If an adverse action, denial of employment occurs, the record holder is entitled to proper notification and provided an opportunity to respond with additional information.

The EEOC recommends when making an unfavorable decision based on a criminal record, that the nature and gravity of the offense, the time elapsed since the offense and the nature of the opportunity being sought to be considered when rendering such decisions. Criminal history discrimination is problematic and affects not just employment, but housing and educational opportunities as well. A listing of the most commonly searched databases is provided below.

Commonly Searched Databases for Criminal Background Reporting

SSN Trace & Resident Counties: Verifies names, aliases, and previous countries of residence based on the candidate’s Social Security number. This step validates that the candidate’s SSN matches the legal name given and directs county-level criminal records searches.

Federal Criminal Databases: Search across the 94 US federal courts for 4000 citations bucketed by violations of federal criminal law, such as tax evasion, fraud, embezzlement, identity theft, interstate trafficking, and kidnapping.

National Criminal Databases Search: Searches databases from all 50 states, including digitized records from Department of Corrections, Administrative Office of the Courts and county courts. NICS and NCIC can only be accessed by private companies and law enforcement.

State/County Criminal Court Search: Professional court runners search at the county level for the most current and accurate records, particularly for Counties where records have not been digitized

Sex Offender List Search Searches: A multi-state sex offender registry that includes hundreds of thousands of offender records nationwide. International Searches Can include criminal records searches, education verification, or employment verification.

Domestic and Global Terrorist Watch List Searches: US government lists, including the FBI’s Most Wanted and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Expand the search to include international terrorist watch lists, like the INTERPOL Most Wanted and the EU terrorist lists.

Motor Vehicle Records Search: Confirms that a candidate’s driver’s license is valid and checks for suspension or any driving-related violations.

Financial Credit: Check Reviews candidate’s financial history for notifications of civil judgments, tax liens, bankruptcies, unpaid bills from collection agencies, credit and payment history records, and other credit inquiries made

Education And Employment Verification: Verifies attendance dates, majors, and degrees earned from US high schools, colleges, or universities and confirms employment dates, title, and salary, if available.

Professional License Verification: Verifies domestic professional licenses, including issue date, expiration date, credential title, and current status.


R3 Score is a woman and minority-owned for-profit company started by returning citizens. The company’s mission is to ensure that returning citizens are humanized and giving opportunities to unlock inclusion.

Advocating for high-tech and high touch solutions that eradicate the discriminatory practices of marginalized and stigmatized populations fosters our commitment to change the language and treatment of returning citizens from “hard-to-employ” to “harness-to-employ,” by making use of the natural resources and skills that persons with criminal records have in lieu of excluding them as a viable labor force in the global marketplace, negatively impacting our Gross National Product (GNP) annually.

Dr. Pamela Keye

Sr. Learning Officer
R3 Score Technologies

About the Author:
Dr. Pamela Keye
Dr. Pamela Keye

Sr. Learning Specialist

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