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Criminal background checks

Criminal background checks are the backbone of candidate screenings. Understand your candidate’s criminal history with fast and reliable data.

Woman playing with children at a childcare center after criminal background check

Why criminal background checks are important

Criminal background checks for employment search national and local records to identify any reportable criminal records associated with your candidates.

Confirm candidate eligibility and fit

A criminal background check gives you a more complete picture of your candidate before you hire.

Understand organizational risk

Protect your brand’s reputation and reassure customers and employees of workplace safety.

Stay compliant

Depending on your industry, certain criminal offenses may make a candidate ineligible for a role.

Illustration of Checkr's online dashboard for criminal background check results

Results you can trust

Checkr’s intuitive dashboard makes it easy to order checks and review results. Depending on the searches you order, a criminal background check may reveal:

Felony criminal convictions

Generally, felonies are more serious crimes and carry more severe penalties and long-term consequences.

Misdemeanor criminal convictions

Typically lower level offenses punishable by shorter jail time, fines, probation or community service.

Infractions or violations

Depending on the jurisdiction, petty offenses may or may not show up on a criminal history check.

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Types of criminal background checks

Backed by our expert research team, Checkr’s advanced background check platform searches thousands of databases, law enforcement sources, and registries for a comprehensive report. Checkr provides holistic and in-depth employment criminal background checks so you can grow your business with safety and security in mind.

National criminal records check

Identify which county records should be reviewed with this powerful primary search that queries over 900 million public records.

County criminal records check

Search county records from any state for the most complete documentation of criminal history.  Most criminal prosecutions happen in municipal or county courts.

Federal criminal records check

Search the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) for federal felony and misdemeanor convictions at the district level in federal courts.

State criminal records check

Search state criminal record databases. This screening is dispatched in tandem with the County Criminal Record Check to ensure full coverage and case information.

Global watchlist search

Search a comprehensive network of domestic and international government watchlists for criminal history and industry bans.

Sex offender registry searches

Search registries from all 50 states, Washington DC, and US territories. Reports will include the offender’s date of registration and current status.

SSN trace and address history

An SSN trace searches public and proprietary records to identify potential address history and aliases. Used to determine which counties and other databases should be searched for additional public records.

SSN-less reports

If a candidate does not have or does not provide a SSN, it is still possible to run certain checks like motor vehicle records (MVR).

FACIS searches

Fraud Abuse Control Information System (FACIS) screens for sanctions/adverse information in sensitive fields such as healthcare. Checkr offers two levels of checks for federal and state compliance.

Continuous crim

Remove knowledge gaps by running ongoing criminal record checks in the background and get notified of reportable changes within your active workforce.

Start running criminal record checks with Checkr.

Frequently asked questions

Learn more about criminal background checks

Criminal background checks are an important part of many pre-employment background screenings. Employers may use criminal background checks to help mitigate risk, protect themselves from liability, and make more informed hiring decisions. In certain industries or sensitive positions, pre-employment criminal background checks may be required by law for public safety.

What is a criminal record?

A criminal record (or criminal history) is a record of contact an individual has had with the criminal justice system. A criminal history is generally public record and can be found by searching the records of federal, state, and county courts or law enforcement agencies.

Having a criminal history doesn’t necessarily mean a person was convicted of a crime. Arrests that didn’t lead to prosecution; charges of which an individual was acquitted (found innocent); and charges that were dismissed may all appear on a criminal record.   

What is a criminal background check?

Criminal background checks search a variety of court records to report a candidate’s criminal history. The specific records searched will vary based on the job for which you’re hiring, federal and local laws and industry regulations regarding criminal background checks, and your company’s background screening policies.

A criminal background check might include any or all of the following: 

  • A federal criminal records check searches the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) for criminal records in federal jurisdictions, which include specific federal crimes such as those committed on federal land or across state lines.
  • A national criminal records check searches nationwide databases of criminal history records at the state and county levels, which is different from a federal criminal records check.
  • A state criminal records check searches state data sources such as state court, law enforcement, or corrections department records.
  • A county criminal records check searches county court records. This is often the most complete source of criminal histories because all records of felonies and misdemeanors, as well as cases filed in local jurisdictions, are kept at county courts.
  • A sex offender registry search inspects sex offender registries from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and US territories.
  • Global and domestic watchlist searches check a network of domestic and international government watchlists for criminal history and sanctions against an individual.
  • International criminal records searches, used when a job candidate lives or works outside the US (or has previously), check criminal history records in countries where the applicant lived.

What shows up on a criminal background check?

The results of a criminal background check are based on the type of court being searched, applicable laws in the state or jurisdiction of the candidate, and whether the information is being reported by a consumer reporting agency (CRA) or sources are searched by the employer. 

When using criminal background checks in hiring, employers and CRAs must comply with the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). There may also be state and local laws governing what information from a criminal history record can be reported to a CRA and legally considered for hiring decisions by an employer. For example, some states do not allow reporting of felonies more than seven years old. Other states do not allow reporting of misdemeanors or infractions after other time frames, like three or five years. There may also be laws regarding whether non-convictions can be reported in a background check.

In general, a criminal record will show information including:

  • Felony criminal convictions: serious offenses such as murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, and aggravated assault
  • Misdemeanor criminal convictions: less serious offenses such as vandalism, trespassing, public intoxication, and disorderly conduct 
  • Pending criminal cases

A federal criminal record may reveal violations of federal criminal law, such as federal tax evasion, mail fraud, embezzlement, and identity theft. 

The record may also show the disposition of the case, which can include:

  • Conviction
  • Acquittal
  • Case dismissal
  • Case diversion or deferred adjudication, which usually involves the individual entering treatment, community service programs, or probation

A criminal record check may also report:

  • Past incarceration
  • Active warrants
  • Infractions or violations (petty offenses typically resulting in fines rather than jail time)

Criminal record checks usually don’t report juvenile offenses. Juvenile records can be sealed or expunged when the individual turns 18 and in some jurisdictions, this happens automatically.

Where to get a criminal background check

Court records, which contain the bulk of criminal histories, are open to the public, so employers may be able to search the records themselves. However, different sources store records in different ways. Checking a candidate’s criminal history might mean simply searching a database, but could also involve a time-consuming trip to a distant courthouse. Searching for criminal history records can be especially complex when you’re hiring large groups of employees at once, or many employees from different locations. The method in which criminal records are stored and the laws governing their use vary by state and even from one local jurisdiction to another.

To save time, help ensure legal compliance, and gather the most accurate criminal history information, employers may prefer to have an FCRA-compliant CRA conduct their criminal background screenings. Experienced CRAs, like Checkr, comply with federal and local reporting laws and help employers follow EEOC guidance regarding criminal records checks. Checkr monitors the increasing number of state and local ban-the-box and fair hiring laws regulating how employers can use criminal records in hiring decisions. Plus, Checkr’s professional relationships with courts can speed criminal background checks even when court records aren’t digitized.

Get a criminal background check with Checkr

Using an FCRA-compliant background check service like Checkr can take the administrative burden of criminal background screening off your hands. Checkr’s advanced platform searches thousands of databases, law enforcement sources, and registries to deliver comprehensive criminal records reports. Our streamlined processes help you comply with relevant federal, state and local laws, including disclosure and authorization, and adverse action protocols.

Checkr’s easy-to-use tools let you filter results that aren’t relevant to your company’s hiring policies, while our user-friendly dashboard helps you review results and understand what they mean. Your job candidates will appreciate a seamless background check experience thanks to Checkr’s mobile-friendly portal where they can access status updates and live support. Enjoy peace of mind with a background check service that supports you–and your candidates–in delivering compliant criminal background checks.


The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

Keep reading

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Complete Guide To Federal Background Checks

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Complete Guide To National Background Checks

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