In the employee and volunteer screening world, there are two main ways Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) conduct criminal background searches. The first is by conducting real-time, original source record searches directly from the source. The other way is to utilize a database. So what’s the difference between real-time court records vs database records?

In 2012, the EEOC put out guidelines requiring employers to make their hiring decisions based on ‘original source records’. What does this mean? Well, it means retrieving records directly from where the record was filed. If ‘Jane Doe’ was tried and convicted in Dallas County, Texas in 2013, then her record is held at the Dallas County Courthouse. If that record was ever changed, expunged, dismissed or amended, the change would only be found at the Dallas County Courthouse. This information is all public record but as you can imagine, records are being updated and added continuously. With over 3,100 counties, boroughs and parishes across the US and 92 Federal Districts, there is no way for one central repository to collect all of this information and provide it to be searched in real time.

Organizations that utilize databases will purchase records directly from the courthouse. Unfortunately, not all courthouses will sell or provide this information. For those that do provide their records, the information is only as good as the last time it was updated and/or purchased. This creates gaps and holes in these database repositories. These gaps present employers with misleading information. Employers have been known to hire applicants with criminal records and not know. This has led the EEOC, FTC and FCRA to warn against utilizing these databases for employment purposes.

So the best background checks are those performed using real-time, original source record searches directly from the source. How do you tell which way your vendor conducts their searches? The first way is by turnaround time or time it takes to get the report back. Are they coming back instantly or within a few minutes? If this is the case, your vendor most likely utilizes a database. Real-time, original source record searches take longer since there is more information to filter. Is your package called ‘Super Search’, ‘National Criminal Search’, ‘Widescreen’ or ‘National Criminal File’? These indicate the search is database driven since vendors like to label the database to make it appear to be more comprehensive when it’s not. Ask your vendor if they conduct original source, real-time courthouse searches.

Here at One Source, we take great pride in providing our clients with a comprehensive yet affordable solution utilizing real-time searches. Organizations use One Source Total Check packages in a variety of industries. Customizable packages can fit any organization’s needs and budget. Our industry-leading Total Check packages combine non-database records (real-time, original source courthouse searches) from local county, state and federal government sources with a National Sex Offender Record Search, a powerful Multi-Court Jurisdictional search and a Global Terrorist Watch List reference. Depending on the searches ordered, our reports return within 48 hours!

Neal Josten

Neal brings over 12 years of experience in the sales and business development fields. His wealth of knowledge with employment policies, FCRA and EEOC compliance makes him a great resource for organizations just getting started with screening services.