Based on the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a consumer credit reporting agency cannot release information about an applicant's pending criminal charges on a preemployment background check. Only convictions can appear. However, other companies that conduct background checks may, based on state regulations, report pending charges. Detailed information about the circumstances surrounding pending charges are available through police reports.
County Criminal Records
A preemployment background check includes record searches at courthouses within counties where the job applicant worked, lived or attended school. Most criminal background checks go back seven years. Depending on the job position and the thoroughness of the search, the background report includes file dates, charges, dispositions and sentences. The search is based on the person's full name and is tied to identifiers such as Social Security Number (SSN), date of birth and driver's license number.
State Criminal Records
Because states have varying regulations requiring if and when counties must report their criminal records, it's safe to say that statewide repositories of criminal records are incomplete sources for criminal records. In addition, because different states have varying timetables for updating records, information culled from a state criminal record check may be inaccurate. Therefore, if a pending criminal charge appears in a statewide criminal records check, it's important to verify the information at the county court level.
Federal Criminal Records
Federal courts maintain records of federal crimes committed in federal jurisdictions. Federal crimes are those that violate federal laws, cross state boundaries, or are committed on federal property, and such offenses include mail fraud, computer crimes, Internet fraud and drug trafficking. As with county court records, a search for federal criminal records involves searching court records at federal courthouses where the job applicant lived, worked or attended school. Federal criminal records show the file dates, charges, dispositions and sentences.
Most preemployment background checks do not uncover findings at the police department level, but it's not inconceivable that an experienced investigator or background check researcher would obtain police reports on an individual for a fee. Police reports are records of regularly conducted public activity, and are therefore available to anyone. They often reveal details of circumstances surrounding pending charges. Police departments release reports on any individual, except for juveniles and cases involving sexual assault. Many police departments offer online order forms.
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