4 Criminal Background Check Databases & Why None Are Comprehensive

An employment background check is often an essential part of the hiring process. In some industries and positions, it’s mandated before a hire can be finalized. The types of background information that get checked depend on several factors, like the job position, and can include a person’s work history, education, credit history, driving record, medical history, and, in some cases, social media usage.

Most employers, either by choice or by mandate, check their applicants’ criminal records. In some cases, a criminal record can exclude a person from being hired for a certain type of job position or even an entire industry.

Despite popular belief, there is no single government database that contains complete and updated records regarding a person’s criminal history. Many state records, whether from law enforcement agencies or courts, are not even included or regularly updated.

Depending on the type of background check, different criminal databases are used for collecting information about the person in question. Although not a comprehensive list, below are the four most commonly used criminal databases for collecting information on a person:


1. National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)

The FBI’s NICS is used when performing a one-time instant check for firearm purchases. It prohibits people from buying guns based on criminal history, legal alien status, mental health, dishonorable military discharges, and domestic abuse claims.

The NICS is rife with human errors. These errors are due to significant gaps with some agencies not knowing what to report and state funds lacking the resources to ensure someone handles the data. The NICS generally does not play a role in employment, tenant, or volunteer recruitment background screenings.


2. The FBI Identification Record

Often referred to as a criminal history record, the FBI Identification Record is compiled from fingerprints retained by the FBI in connection with arrests and, in some instances, federal employment, naturalization, or military service.

According to a report from the U.S. Attorney General, “The FBI’s system is not a complete national database of all criminal history records in the United States” and that it was not intended to be used for pre-employment background checks. Furthermore, “Users may not want to rely exclusively on an FBI and state repository checks and may also want to check other record sources, such as commercial databases and local courthouses. “


3. Interstate Identification Index System, or “III” System

The III System contains automated criminal record information accessible through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). A federal-state compact created in 1999 allows criminal history records to be shared through the III System. These records are shared for non-criminal justice purposes, such as governmental licensing and employment background checks.

While shared records would seem to make the III System more comprehensive, it is by no means a complete national database of all criminal history records in the United States. Many state records, whether from law enforcement agencies or courts, are not included or have not been updated.


4. State and local courts

In the context of background checks, court records can be broken down into two groups: a) civil court records, and b) criminal court records. Civil court records provide information about claims, suits, and judgments filed by or against the subject. Criminal court records provide information about an individual’s criminal history.

Of course, inversely relating to federal records, relying solely on state and local sources does not give you a complete picture of a person’s record either. Many Americans are constantly on the go, moving from state to state, and therefore state and local records are just a reflection of a very narrow, localized area.



Background check expertise that you can trust.

Obtaining a complete and thorough background check is not as simple as collecting information from one source, regardless of how “high up” or “official” the catalog may seem.

Background check databases, like any other cataloging system, are prone to human oversight and error. Relying on a one-stop background check increases the chance of misinformation. The person in question’s true history can slip through the cracks.

Collecting accurate and comprehensive information from various criminal databases requires expertise. To save time and reduce the possibility of errors, allow a specialized screening firm to take the lead on background checks for your business.

To ensure that your background checks reflect true and complete information, get in touch with Mind Your Business today.

You May Also Like

Check out these additional posts from Mind Your Business.

FYI FRIDAYS: What is Live Scan Fingerprinting?

We were able to announce earlier this month that we would offer live scan digital fingerprinting to our clients. MYB has been conducting name-based background checks for over 24 years. This natural progression will allow us to service more industries and provide an all-inclusive background screening service.  It is important to dive further into the…
Read More

Mind Your Business, Inc. Announces Convenient Fingerprinting Program Solutions

Extensive nationwide live scan fingerprinting services provides streamlined solution for MYB customers  March 1, 2021 Hendersonville, N.C. — Mind Your Business, Inc. (MYB), a worldwide leader in background screening, drug testing, EEO investigations, and administrative services is excited to announce the introduction of extensive fingerprinting services to its repertoire of core capabilities. This new service offering will…
Read More


Karen Caruso, Founder/CEO answered a question that many of us have been asked in the last few weeks: What are you looking forward to most in 2021?  I am most looking forward to getting back to some sense of normalcy. I look forward to rebuilding MYB stronger than before. Like many small businesses across the…
Read More

Quality and Precise Results, On Time!

Let us know about your screening needs to get a custom quote. We work with businesses big and small as well as the government. Which means we have a package of solutions for your organization as well.