Finding Criminal History
Background checks have become standard practice when leasing a property. In most cases, landlords have access to Credit Reports, Criminal History, Evictions, and much more. While some things are easier to find than others, criminal history still remains a mystery to most. Here are some common questions:
-How is it searched?
-Where is it stored?
How is it searched?
The most common way to search for criminal history is to lookup an individual’s Name and Date of Birth. Most people think that a Social Security Number, Drivers License Number, or I.D. Numbers are used to search criminal history. These can be used in matching up identifiers but will not be used in the initial criminal search. With the initial search being only name and date of birth it can cause false positives, or cause the criminal history to be missed. Searching criminal history is the biggest challenge for landlords due to this. Career criminals know that there is a chance their criminal history will be missed if they change portions of their name, or change their date of birth. This is the reason you want to always check the name and birthday on the application and match it to the name on the I.D. before running a criminal search.
How is it stored?
Arrest and Convictions can be stored in many different places. This creates a challenge in knowing where to look. Criminal history can be compiled from sources such as:
Department of Corrections, County Courts, State Repository’s, Federal Courts, Sex Offender Registry’s, and more.
Where it is stored will be determined by: Where did the crime occur? The type of crime committed? How long since the crime was committed? Was the sentence successfully completed? What jurisdiction did the crime occur in (State or Federal)?
Criminal history may be stored at the local level (city or municipality), State Level, or Federal Level. Depending on the type of crime will determine where the case is tried. For instance, if an individual steals from another person, that would most likely be handled in the state or local court. But, if a person robs a bank, that would be considered a Federal offense meaning they would stand trial in a federal court. These are separate databases. While federal crimes are less common, they are just as important when making a leasing or hiring decision.
Most think criminal history is stored in one location. That is not true. Law enforcement uses the N.C.I.C that allows them to perform a more thorough search than what is offered to landlords. This stands for the National Crime Information Center, and again, businesses and landlords do not have the luxury of searching this database. This leaves 3rd party databases as the best source for information. These types of companies pull from all the entities listed above and compile that information into a database that can be searched by landlords and employers. This can still leave holes due to some states or entities that will not make their information available to these databases. Companies like TenantReports.com offer solutions to landlords and help avoid common mistakes when searching criminal history and other reports.