A Guide to Understanding Criminal Record Check Court Access Fees

criminal record checkHave you ever had sticker shock from a criminal background check?  If you have ever hired an employee or volunteer who has lived in our around New York City and conducted a quality background check then you know what I am talking about. The State of New York OCA Search is the most expensive search in the U.S. with a $65 price tag (additional fee).  And the kicker is the majority of courts in and around NY City can only be searched through the NY OCA.  So your county criminal record check just had $65 tagged on to it.

How can you get around the NY criminal record check court access fee?  You can’t unless you skimp on your background screening program.  It is a cost of doing business.

Several years ago, we had a school district pass on the NY OCA Search even though their applicant had lived in NY City for many years.  The savings of $65 was short lived when a parent and local probation officer showed up at a sporting event and asked an administrator how the coach passed a background check since he had him on probation out of NY for selling controlled substances.

Quickly made that $65 seem like a reasonable price.

Our policy is to notify our clients every time we need to search the NY OCA.  We have a professional obligation to let you know about the fee and we also have a moral obligation to inform you of the potential consequences for not adding the search.  Ultimately though, it is your decision.

Sadly, most organizations refuse to do the search because of the cost.  I get it.  The cost is high.  I have said many, many times the NY search is a racket.  But, racket or not, it is the only way to do a quality background check on someone who has lived in and around NY City.

New York is not the only state that has criminal record check court access fees.  Of the more than 3,000 counties in the U.S., about 300 charge a court access fee.  Fortunately, most of these fees are more palatable and range from $2-$10.

Why do courts charge access fees for criminal records checks?  In NY, the counties in and around NY City do not allow for searching at the court level.

Around the U.S., most court access fees are charged because the clerk does the check. The researchers hand them a search request and they in turn charge a fee to do the check.

The good news is the majority of courts provide public access terminals for researchers to conduct the search themselves.   So court access fees should be an isolated issue unless you are located in a county with an access fee.

Would you decline searching a county because of a court access fee?