How Basic is Too Basic? Sex Offender Registries and Criminal Databases
Do you feel as if you are informed as to what your company should be searching for when it comes to background checks? Do you ever worry that you are missing criminal records on a background check report? The word “Basic” has been thrown around in the background screening industry for a while now; but what does “basic” actually mean? And, how basic is too basic? In this blog, we will be breaking down 2 components of a background check that can be missing important information that you would never know without searching the correct areas. As an organization, you should be aware that sex offender registries and criminal databases are not always the most accurate.
Sex Offender Registries
Written by: Kylee Palfy
Did you know that there were over 900,000 registered sex offenders in 2020 in the United States? Unfortunately, this number only takes into consideration the people who have followed their registration guidelines. Depending on a “basic” background check that only searches the sex offender registry search means that you are solely relying on the integrity of the offender to register. Failure to register as a sex offender is only classified as a misdemeanor in most states.
Also, a person can be charged with failure to register multiple times and still not be on the registry. This is due to the registry being solely reliant on the offender’s willingness to register. A person’s information will only be on the registry if they are actively registered. This does not include individuals who have previously been registered or have failed to. Relying on the national sex offender registry is relying strictly on the integrity of the offenders. That is why all companies should utilize a criminal check in conjunction with a sex offender search.
Pitfalls of Registries
Written by: Kylee Palfy
Another pitfall is many sex crimes only require individuals to be registered for 2 years, even if their probation is set for longer. An example we have witnessed first-hand at True Hire is an individual who was sentenced to register as a sex offender for 2 years in 2018. Their probation was set for 5 years, and in their probation, it stated the defendant could not have any contact with minors unless they were family members. They were no longer registered but by being hired for this position, it would have been violating his probation and could have become a liability to the company. Without using a criminal search on top of the sex offender search, the employer would have never been informed of the probation restrictions.
To avoid these pitfalls, companies should utilize a country criminal search to ensure that pertinent information does not fall through the cracks. This searches for reportable felony and misdemeanor records within the volunteer’s current or previous counties of residence is vital to the safety of your company. A county criminal search can help you avert violence issues and reduce your liability with hiring problems. If there is a criminal record that is outside of the volunteer’s current or previous addresses, True Hire will verify this information at the source. In doing so, you will never miss criminal records and you can continue to trust in your volunteers.
One of the greatest myths about background checks is that criminal databases are sufficient background checks. The fact of the matter is that criminal databases are not always accurate or comprehensive. That is because these databases rely on the counties and states to report criminal records to the database. One major problem with that is that some states do not allow for criminal records to be reported to these databases. New York, California, and Louisiana are some states that prohibit any records from being shared with a database. Another problem that organizations need to be aware of is that searching criminal databases alone is not FCRA compliant.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) restricts the individual use of criminal databases and requires CRAs (background screening agencies) and employers to utilize a criminal source search in conjunction with the database. True Hire offers county criminal searches for the applicant’s current and former addresses. Additionally, if there is a criminal record that shows on a database search that is not in a former county, True Hire will verify it at the source. Just remember that County records are immediate. Databases could take weeks or months to update.
6 Steps to Avoid a Too-Basic Background Check
- Avoid shopping for the cheapest background check and focus more on what would make the most sense for your company.
- Ask yourself “What criminal records will disqualify an applicant from working at my company?”
- Are your employees/volunteers working with children? If so, a comprehensive background check must be in play.
- Educate yourself on the FCRA regulations for background checks. Here is some information: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/background-checks-what-employers-need-know
- Ensure that your background check provider verifies criminal records at the source of conviction.
- Ask your background check provider what they do if they find a possible criminal record outside of your scope of search.