In general, criminal histories are maintained by law enforcement offices in all levels of government. In the US, one can request for a copy of criminal records kept by Federal agencies as stipulated in the Freedom of Information Act. Generally, you may only obtain records concerning yourself, deceased individuals, and people who were given an authorization to do so.
Individuals who typically make a request for a copy of their own criminal record, or proof that none exists, do so for the purpose of personal review or to challenge the information on the record. These records have other various applications, and one of them is criminal background check performed as part of pre-employment screening especially for positions with special security concerns like ports of entry, and careers involving the elderly, disabled, or children. They may also be used for security clearance, licensing, as well as in adoption and immigration procedures.
These days, there are plenty of “third party” criminal background check services online available to employers. These websites allow you to perform a criminal background check on people by name. You can make your searches more specific by also including the city and state where the person in question is residing in, and some other identifying factors like age. The search results show various pieces of information including the birth date of the person you are doing a background check on, his address, and the types of criminal offenses they have committed.
There is no way of guaranteeing the accuracy of the information provided by these services. Aside from inaccuracies, a lot of the reports generated by third party background check websites are not updated or complete. Source record searches, like looking up records in county courthouses, would still be the best option to get records with higher accuracy and completeness. More often than not, source record searches are more cost-effective than commercial database searches.
Keep in mind also that in general, recruiters must not take adverse action, such as not hiring an applicant or firing a worker, based exclusively on these reports generated by criminal background checks. Failing to adhere to this federal statute can lead to big penalties on the side of the recruiter.
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