Criminal Records – Investigating the Process of Running a Criminal Check

How often do you flip the news on, hoping to catch the weather report, only to hear about another story on “real life criminal records ?” It seems that everywhere we look nowadays, from the television to the newspaper to the radio; we are subjected to these tales of horror. Except, unlike an engrossing book we can’t put down, these stories are happening all around us. From world headlines on down to our very own community, we are being victimized by criminals in every way imaginable.

We’ve all been made very aware that we’re living in dangerous times. To suspect the worst out of people until we know better is the norm in our world. Unfortunately, even the most cautious of sorts can be led to being swindled by a scam artist, trusting an unfit nanny to take care of their kids, or even to hiring a dishonest employee. One of the measures that are used to help protect against these types of crimes is a seemingly simple background search focusing on the criminal history of an individual.

There are many reasons why someone would want to run a criminal history on another person; however, they all center around one universal theme – safety. Protecting ourselves, our families, our businesses, and our finances, are our utmost concerns. Whether your company has regularly performed a criminal records search or is just starting this process – whether you’ve personally ever performed such a search before or not; there is specific information you need to know.

So, what is a criminal records and what, exactly, does it contain? In general, a criminal records contains identifying information, history of arrest, history of conviction, incarceration information, and any other possible criminal facts about the individual in question. Anything from minor misdemeanors on up could be found; however, there are a few things to clarify in the explanation of crime records. The breakdown is as follows:

Arrest Records include various law enforcement records of arrests. Even this has a wide meaning – some will only report arrests that led to convictions while others will report any and all arrests.

Criminal Court Records include criminal records from local, state, and federal courts.

Corrections Records include prison records that detail periods of incarceration.

State Criminal Repository Records include statewide records that are a compilation of arrest records, criminal court records, and correction records.

The largest misconception, and many people hold on to this belief, is that the United States has one national database that is a compilation of all criminal records everywhere – from the local level up to the federal level. This, simply, is not true.

The closest thing the U.S. has to a nationwide criminal database is the Interstate Identification Index, or the “Triple-I.”

This compilation is managed through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (the FBI). The Triple-I will include criminal events such as: open arrest warrants, arrests, stolen property, missing persons, and dispositions regarding felonies and serious misdemeanors (which are defined as any crime that could result in one year or more of jail time). There are two things to understand about this database, however.

Only law enforcement personnel and agencies can access the Triple-I database. There is no nationwide criminal database available for the normal layperson.

If a county, city, or state does not report a crime to be entered into this database, it will not be found there. This means that many crimes that did not result in an incarceration in a federal prison will not be found in the Triple-I.

Law enforcement uses the Triple-I for a variety of reasons – from collecting a list of suspects for an unsolved crime to the prosecution of a charged individual. That’s great for them, but where does this leave the average American who needs to conduct a criminal history search? There are a few options – none of them are perfect on their own, but combined can, and will, give a fairly accurate picture of the person you’re investigating – if done properly. So how, or rather where, do you start?

Compile identifying information on the person you’re investigating. You’ll need, at a minimum, their full name, any prior surnames they may have had, and their date of birth. Be 100% positive you have their name spelled correctly. If you only have their name, you’ll have to do a little investigative work to get at least their birth date. Otherwise, you could end up with inaccurate criminal records that may not actually belong to the individual in question.