Should I Be Conducting a Federal Criminal Records Search?

federal criminal records searchAbsolutely. A very common mistake organizations make is assuming a national criminal record check and a federal criminal records search are synonymous.  They are not.

Federal vs. State Courts

There are 2 kinds of courts in the U.S.- state courts and federal courts.

State Courts are county, city and municipal courts.  The majority of criminal records in the U.S. are found in the state courts.  i.e. they are crimes against the state.  For example, if a person is convicted of drunk driving, murder or domestic violence, this is almost always a crime against the state (I say almost because there are exceptions to every rule).  So if the crime occurred in Los Angeles, this is a crime against the State of California and the court of record will be the L.A. County Courts.

Crimes against the state account for more than 90% of criminal records.  Some studies have shown this as high as 94-95%.

State courts are included in most “national background checks.”  I cannot provide a definitive without reviewing your screening program because there are a lot of screening firms that peddle cheap database searches which provide a very limited and incomplete search.

Federal Courts are comprised of 89 U.S. District Courts in the 50 states.  Criminal cases in the federal courts deal with violations of the constitution and are investigated by federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, ATF, etc.

Here are some examples of federal crimes:

  • Mail Fraud
  • Kidnapping
  • Tax Evasion
  • Cyber Crimes (online predators, internet fraud, identity theft)
  • Public Corruption
  • Civil Rights Cases (hate crimes, human trafficking)
  • White Collar (bankruptcy fraud, insurance fraud, money laundering, embezzlement)
  • Violent Crime & Major Theft (bank robbery, cargo theft, crimes against children, gangs, drug trafficking)

A federal criminal records search is not always included in a screening package.  In the past, financial institutions were the most interested in federal crimes because of the white collar nature of federal offenses.

However, today we are seeing an increase in the number of federal criminal cases related to the internet including identity theft, online predators and internet fraud.  And as our society has become more transient, the crimes committed across state lines has increased.

So a search that was relegated to certain industries in the past is now a search that should be part of your screening package.  The great news is the federal criminal records search is a very inexpensive addition to your package.

Click here to learn more about Federal Criminal Records Searches.