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Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ's

About background checks

What is a criminal database search?

A criminal search relies on databases that, depending on the source, are compiled from county and state agencies. For example, Texas has several counties that offer their criminal information for database compiling. Likewise, the State of Texas collects information from all the counties and offers a statewide database.

It is important to note, however, the data by nature is not current, there is always a lag between when a suspect is charged or a ruling on a case has been concluded and when the data is actually reported for data collection. Due to delays in data received from the courts and state repositories, we recommend performing a hand search at the county level to ensure a thorough and complete search is being performed.

Are criminal database searches accurate?

A criminal database search is only as accurate as the state or local agency reporting the data and how often it is updated by the reporting agency.

As a reference point, our nationwide criminal database simultaneously searches close to 1000 different state and county level datasources -- Some may be updated as frequent as weekly while others quarterly.

Why do employers check your background?

Here's a valid number of reasons:

  • Integrity & Honesty - are you telling the truth? -- It has been estimated that 42% of job applications may include exaggerated or false information. Companies want to confirm they are employing an employee based on their stated qualifications.
  • A background check is deemed necessary to verify whether you attended and in fact, graduated from the college stated in your application. Will you be bringing those skills learned?
  • Employers also want to verify with previous employers you claimed to have worked for, that you indeed were employed and validate dates of employment. Any gap in employment dates will lead employers to believe information may have been intentionally omitted or perhaps there was an employer you would rather not be contacted.
  • Criminal history - Are you a violent person who may create a hostile working environment if hired? -- a criminal records search will reveal just that and will also serve as a test of your honesty. White collar crimes (embezzlement, petty theft, etc.) also play into the equation as it leads employers to believe you cannot be trusted in their company or client's property.
  • If you are applying for a job with a company contracted for local, state or federal government work, one of the requirements on their contract is that all employees and their sub-contractors successfully pass a due diligence background for respective security clearance of the work they will be performing.

What can past employers legally reveal about you?

It differs on a state by state basis. However at the federal level there are no restrictions to what former employers can say about you. Having said that, most employers will not disclose any other information than job title and dates of employment for fear of slander, libel or defamation lawsuits. Unless, at their own discretion -- they feel clear and present danger if the potential employee will be working with children or elderly persons.

As an added insulation layer of litigation protection, many large companies outsource their human resources records to third-party repositories that will disclose limited past employment records for a fee.

FYI: Not being truthful in your employment application could be used as grounds for immediate termination anytime after you commence employment, even years after you were employed. Reason being: By today's standard, the majority of job applications contain a clause whereby you signed and attest that information you provided is accurate.

I know my search subject has a criminal record, yet your search shows none?

There may be several reasons why:

  • Did you spell name correctly? Could the record be under an alias?
  • Are you sure about exact DOB?
  • Was it an arrest without any charges filed in criminal court?
  • Could the record have been sealed or expunged?
  • Was it very recent or way back too old?
  • While a criminal database search offers nationwide coverage, by no means does it include "anything and everything". Criminal database repositories consist of bulk records bought from government agencies by a handful of wholesale companies in the background check industry. Mind you, while we make every effort to procure "premium" results (Unlike others, who only purchase Department of Corrections) from the state level agencies, we also supplement with county sources. There are some states that just don't sell all types of lower level criminal offenses. You may want to read more about how criminal databases works in other questions from this page.
  • To obtain accurate results, we always recommend doing an on-site county criminal court search or ordering any of our next-day "real-time" statewide criminal searches that feed directly into state records agency (i.e. Admin Office Courts, Dept Public Safety, State Police, etc.)

USA criminal database vs. county courthouse search?

The nationwide criminal product searches a multi-database consisting of several sources to quickly check for any criminal related records. Aside from the obvious advantage of being instant it also offers a wider scope. The disadvantage is that as a database search, the records retrieved are often less detailed and not as current as an on-site county search.

In contrast, the on-site county search because it is updated as suspects are booked and court cases are filed, has the the most current information logged. It also offers more detailed case information. However, please be aware results can take up to 72 hours to return and costs are greater with a single county search.

In conclusion, think of the instant database as "mile-wide, one inch deep" while the county search is "one-inch wide, mile-deep".

When should I use a database criminal vs. an on-site county search?

If you know a subject committed an offense in a particular county, choose an on-site county search. This is where the actual records filed in that county are checked by a qualified court records researcher.

If you know someone committed an offense in a particular state but not sure where, or if the subject has moved around a state several times, try an instant criminal search (This search covers a wider area) or our identity verification search to obtain names of counties subject has resided

We recommend that any results returned by the instant criminal searches, be followed up with an on-site county search for the specific county where the offenses were committed. This will ensure the most accurate results. In addition, it is required by the Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA) when used for determining an employment or rental decision.

The criminal database already shows positive criminal records for my potential employee. Why should I continue with a county criminal court search?

Your employee may have had record expunged, sealed or pleaded down after the initial prosecutor charge featured in the database criminal search. Or it could have been a case of mistaken identity. You need to verify where it stands at the county level as of today.

That's why the FCRA exists -- to give everyone a fair opportunity at disputing their case.

How can I dispute incorrect information on my background check report?

View our page "Resolution of Disputed Information in Public Records" and follow instructions.

Do you offer a guide to help me better understand criminal codes and abbreviations of criminal offenses?

Yes, we provide a guide to help you understand criminal codes. Bear in mind that there is no standarized offense code entry across all 50 states. The same offense may be labeled differently in two states.

I can't really find an answer to my question here, where else can I look?

Our FAQ's get updated frequently based on user input, however -- you may want to try searching our blog as it contains real-world questions and answers, case references, news articles and much more pertaining to background checks.

My identity has been stolen. What can I do?

View our page about what to do when your identity has been stolen. Furthermore, it provides many online safety tips to better protect yourself online.

How can I obtain my own FBI background check?

Only you can request a copy of your own FBI background check.

Individuals typically make this request for personal review, to challenge the information on record, to satisfy a requirement for adopting a child in the U.S. or internationally, or to satisfy a requirement to live, work, or travel in a foreign country (i.e., police certificate, letter of good conduct, criminal history background, etc.).

Request must be done directly through the FBI. You must provide them with a set of fingerprints using standard fingerprint form FD-258 (processed at a local police station) and send in a check or money order for $18. Processing times may take approximately five to six weeks depending on the volume of requests received.

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Where can I get a background check authorization form for my potential employees?

We offer a generic background check authorization form you can modify to your own needs. As an added bonus, our system offers a free online filing cabinet from within your own account -- you can upload signed releases, resumes, driver's license copy and so forth.

Why should you conduct a criminal check for employment purposes?

As an employer, you want to protect your business from theft and provide a safe workplace for your employees.

We recommend a criminal records search for all your applicants. Use this information to identify applicants with violent tendencies or a history of theft.

BCS Background Screening, LLC provides access to criminal court records in all United States counties, state repositories where available, and federal district courts.

County Criminal Court Records - Once you decide which counties to search, your county report, either felony or misdemeanor, will provide information on any crimes your applicant may have committed. Crimes range anywhere from habitual offenses, theft, or possession of a controlled substance.

If county criminal checks are considered the best approach to conducting a criminal check, how do I know which counties to search?

First, look at the person's application to determine which city or cities the applicant has lived. Then you can use our County Locator located on our ordering page to type in the city or zip code to locate the county which needs to be searched. Many times applicants DO NOT put on their application a location where they have had problems.

So how would you know where to search if an applicant does not fully disclose all their previous addresses?

Background Checks Systems strongly encourages the use of our Identity Verification Search. Enter the applicant's name, DOB and social security number to produce a report showing most all the locations in which he/she has lived over the past 7 years. This way you can add additional counties to your search if needed.

Business users can benefit from our auto-populate option that will display and pre-fill all counties associated with applicant's social security number

I'm an HR administrator and I'm looking to update our employment background check policy. Where can I find updated legal articles?
But how do you find the time to both interview and screen potential employees when being short-handed?

Background Checks assists employers by providing INSTANT identity, driving and criminal records. Our professional researchers take on the often time-consuming process of checking the references of potential employees.

We'll perform comprehensive background checks of the potential employees that you have interviewed and found interesting. These checks include education: the schools attended, degree or major; criminal: workplace violence, white-collar crime, employee theft or anything affecting eligibility to be bonded; previous employment: where, when, how long, work performance and what previous supervisors, coworkers and clients can reveal as well as personal references, any of which may reflect on the individual's ability to perform to the level your business requires.

Do you offer on-line ordering?

We offer a fully-functional on-line order and retrieval system that enables our clients to place orders and retrieve results through a secure web browser. The system is designed to help even the most inexperienced user to quickly order background reports.


This article is based in opinion and collected information. While every effort has been made to provide correct and updated information, BCS Background Screening, LLC cannot guarantee it is precise to every employer-employee, landlord-tenant case scenario. You should consult an attorney to ensure that legal interpretation and decisions are lawfully correct. This FAQ article is not legal advice and its intent is for reference purposes only.