Non-criminal Justice Background Checks

"There is widespread interest in obtaining access to reliable criminal history record information to screen an individual's suitability for employment, licensing, or placement in positions of trust.

The interest comes from private and public employers, as well as non-profit organizations, when employees and volunteers work with vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and disabled persons.

It is based on a desire or perceived need to evaluate the risk of hiring or placing someone with a criminal record in a particular position, and is intended to protect employees, customers, vulnerable persons, and business assets.

Employers and organizations are subject to potential liability under negligent hiring doctrines if they fail to exercise due diligence by determining whether an applicant has a criminal history relevant to the responsibilities of a job, and also by determining whether placement of the individual in the position would create an unreasonable risk to other employees or the public.

In addition to litigation risk, employers want to assess the risks to their assets and reputations posed by placing persons with criminal histories in certain positions. To meet these business needs, employers can - and frequently do - ask applicants whether they have criminal histories.

Such employers and organizations want access to criminal history records to determine whether applicants are answering questions about their criminal histories truthfully and completely.

They believe that accessing good criminal history information is the only way to perform due diligence to protect employees, assets, and the public. Public employers' need for the information often goes beyond considering job suitability and includes security clearance determinations."

Above excerpt from The Attorney General's Report on Criminal History Background Checks, Office of the Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice

Employers and volunteer organizations interested in backgrounding potential employees or volunteers have several available options. Many private companies now provide criminal record check services for fees ranging from a few dollars to more expensive and extensive background checks.

However, these checks are primarily named-based, although they may include other identifiers such as Social Security number or date of birth, and can be circumvented by an individual using an alias or a counterfeit identification document.

Criminal record repositories in 15 of the 34 states that responded to a 2006 SEARCH survey maintained websites where members of the public could conduct name-based criminal record background checks. All but one of the 15 states charged a fee for the service.

Public Law 92-544, passed by Congress in 1972, allows noncriminal governmental agencies and private entities within states to obtain criminal record information from the FBI if the state's legislature, or in some states a city council, board of supervisors or other local legislative body, has passed a statute authorizing access, and if the statute is approved by the U.S. Attorney General