How FBI Criminal Records Work

When you’re interviewing an applicant for a position at your company, one of the first things you should do is arrange an FBI background check. This step is essential in determining if the applicant should work at your organization, and whether they have anything in their past that might cause an issue. Not all organizations require applicants to have perfectly clean criminal records, but crimes other than traffic violations may not be acceptable in the workplace. So how do FBI background checks work, and why are they important to your interviewing process? Read on to learn more.

The FBI Criminal Record Process

Criminal records are handled at the county level. When an individual is arrested, pulled over, or merely detained—that information is communicated to and processed by the appropriate county court. In some cases the individual is fingerprinted—but not in all cases.

Unfortunately, many states do not have appropriate software infrastructure that communicates information from all county courts within the state. Most do not have statewide repositories consisting of all criminal records handled within the state. Only 5.5% of US states report the outcome of an arrest at least 90% to 100% of the time.

With one-third of felony arrests not resulting in a conviction, many employers viewing arrest records with no final disposition are left in muddy compliance water. Even records that have been expunged or sealed can show up as an arrest only—with no additional information. An FBI search works differently. The FBI does not dig deeper or search other databases to help supplement incomplete information. They rely solely on the state.

What Does an FBI Background Check Consist Of?

The purpose of an FBI background check is primarily to disclose a job applicant’s criminal history. The results of an FBI background check will often include all public federal misdemeanor convictions and felony convictions. The background check will show basic information about the charge on an applicant’s record, as well as information about the conviction and any resulting prison or jail time.

What Does an FBI Background Check Show? 

Are you wondering what shows up on an FBI criminal background check? An FBI background check typically shows the following information

  • Criminal charges, convictions, and incarceration
  • Bankruptcies 
  • Outstanding warrants 
  • Arrests that did not result in convictions (these remain on record for seven years)
  • Addresses and phone numbers used on tax forms

Do Arrests Show Up On a Background Check?

The vast majority of arrests are public record, so they may in fact show up on a background check. Some states may restrict access to certain arrest information, and others may destroy or omit information if the subject in the case is found not guilty or if the claim is dismissed. Because of this, it’s important to understand that just because the charge is on an applicant’s record, it may not be the same as a conviction. In fact, some states even restrict interviewers from asking applicants about arrests. 

However, it’s safe to assume that the following arrests may show up on background checks:

  • Pending case: The individual has been arrested and criminally charged, and the case is currently developing. 
  • Arrest/non-conviction: The individual was arrested and charged, but found to be not guilty. In this case, charges may have also been dropped.
  • Arrest record/conviction: The individual was arrested, charged, and found guilty.

What Does an FBI Fingerprint Check Show?

Many organizations use FBI fingerprint background checks, as fingerprinting is often considered the best way to link someone to their criminal record. This can be especially important for jobs that would place the applicant in contact with the public. So how does it all work? When fingerprints are collected at the scene of a crime, they are entered into a national database, such as the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. When law enforcement officials find fingerprints at other crime scenes, they can run them against what’s already in the system and identify the person who committed a crime.

When someone is fingerprinted as part of applying for a job, the process is similar. Fingerprints are collected by someone in your organization’s human resources department, and are then mailed to the company performing the background check. They will run your applicant’s fingerprints against all others in a national database, ensuring your applicant is not connected to any crimes. 

Reasons Expungements Show Up On FBI Background Checks

When a charge is expunged from your record, it means it is modified, sealed, or destroyed completely by law enforcement. Once a charge is expunged, it should not be visible to anyone in the public who accesses the record. However, even when something is expunged, it could still be visible on a background check submitted by an employer. 

An expunged charge might still be visible on an applicant’s background check in the following cases:

  • The court did not inform the public that the charge was expunged
  • The expungement order was not received by background check agencies
  • The expungement order was only received by some background check agencies

An applicant may be frustrated if an expunged charge is still visible on their background check, as expungement usually means that the applicant does not need to disclose the charge to employers. In many cases, the candidate can dispute the results of a background check within 30 days. They can also provide your organization with information about the expunged charge.

Flaws Concerning FBI Search Results

The Justice Department admits that almost 50% of their background check records are incomplete and do not contain the final outcome of a case. The National Employment Law Project estimates that 1.8 million workers a year are subject to FBI background checks that include faulty or incomplete info, resulting in 600,000 workers being hurt by the misinformation that keeps them from employment.

Most of the time, the FBI search is relying on records of individuals who have been fingerprinted. Yet, many crimes in numerous states get processed without fingerprints. By relying on a fingerprint search, you miss out on all records not fingerprinted.

The Right Way to do a Background Check

Instead of relying on the FBI, more accurate searches can be done using personal identifiers (name, DOB, SSN) at the correct source. A good background check should also look into:

  • Local searches: These should be done at the county level and only at the state level if the state has a true statewide repository.
  • Driving Records: In some states DUI’s are a driving record, not a criminal record.
  • Nationwide criminal database: These searches are an inexpensive way of casting a net over the country to potentially find records in areas that the candidate has not lived in. Typically, this search also includes a nationwide sex offender registry search.

The background check organization should also do other additional searches, like past employment verification, education verification, drug tests, and more.

How to Get an FBI Criminal Background Check

To get an FBI criminal background check, it’s important to go through a background screening organization that has access to national databases. VICTIG is an employment screening solutions company that provides FBI background checks for employers in various industries across the country. 

If you need pre-employment FBI criminal background screening or tenant screenings, VIGTIG can do it all for you. Our checks easily provide accurate information quickly and for a lower cost than competitors. Contact VICTIG today to find out more about our background screening solutions and how they can help ensure the safety and security of your organization. Don’t miss out on the vital background you need to make a fully informed next hire.

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