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Criminal Background Checks: Everything You Need To Know

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Many employers run a background check or criminal background checks on potential hires and current employees. They help mitigate risk to your workplace and clients while helping employers avoid negligent hiring lawsuits.

What is a criminal background check?

A criminal background check provides information about an individual's criminal history. They typically include a search of a national criminal and sex-offender database, state and or county courts, and federal districts.

These checks will reveal all felony and misdemeanor records available, including deferred, pending, and failure to appear and warrant information per the Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA) and as allowed by state and federal law.

What are the different types of criminal background checks?

  • National Criminal Records: Searches information compiled from various sources , including Department of Corrections, Administration of the Court, and County Criminal history.

  • National Sex Offender Registry: Search of a national database of sexual offender records including records from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

  • County Criminal: Search of county courts for felony and misdemeanor records.

  • Statewide Criminal: Searches for criminal records from various sources depending on each state system (i.e. state repositories, state agencies, and unified all-county database).

  • Federal Criminal: Search of U.S. district and appellate courts for federal crimes

What types of records do criminal background checks provide?

In the U.S. crimes are divided into two (broad) categories; misdemeanors and felonies. The biggest difference between the two is the maximum punishment. Misdemeanors carry a maximum of one year in jail while felonies may result in prison sentences of 12 months or longer.

What is the difference between a Felony vs. Misdemeanor?

Felony: A serious offense carrying a penalty of incarceration from one year to life in a state prison, to the death penalty.

  • Examples: Murder, rape, burglary, kidnapping, and arson.

Misdemeanor: Crime punishable by a fine and/or county jail time for up to one year; not a felony.

  • Examples: Shoplifting, trespass, and simple assault.

How long do criminal background checks take?

The turnaround time for criminal background checks depends on the type of check and the method used to access the information. Some checks such as the national criminal records search and the national sex offender search are returned instantly, while others can take anywhere from 1-5 business days. Other factors driving turnaround time include the scope of the search and the location of your candidate.

How are Criminal Background Checks conducted?

Orange Tree performs the National Criminal Records Search (NCRS) and National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) using property database of national criminal and sex offender records. If a possible record is located, Orange Tree will confirm the record at the source and only report information that is confirmed.

Searches methods for the county and statewide criminal records search vary by jurisdiction. They be completed county by county, at the state level, or a blend of both.

  • For example
    • Certain counties allow only for a court clerk-assisted search, or an in-person, on-site search of records at the court. In those cases, the search should be completed by the court clerk, or the researchers on-site at the county courthouse, or by the same repositories utilized by the court clerk.

    • In other cases, the statewide criminal record repository provides information that is the same or more inclusive than a county search, ultimately translating to full statewide records for the effort and price of a single county search. In those cases, the statewide search should be performed instead of a county search.

How to get started with Criminal Background Checks

When it comes to building an organization of top talent, you need to ensure the protection of your business and the safety of your employees and clients. To mitigate the risk of hiring someone who poses a possible threat to your colleagues or clients, criminal backgrounds checks are are essential to include as part of your screening program.

To help you identify potential risk, Orange Tree offers a variety of criminal records searches that provide a comprehensive look at your potential employee's criminal history. We work with employers to create solutions designed specifically for them and in their best interest. We work with companies to build legally defensible solutions which are compliant, align with their business policy, and adhere to best practices.


Contact us today to learn how Orange Tree’s full suite of criminal background solutions can be of service to your organization.