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Why are there different criminal background reports?

Despite what we see in movies and on television, there isn’t a single database of criminal activity that companies like iiX can use. It’s no surprise, then, that picking which criminal background check to run on a candidate can be a challenge for organizations that are new to this.

Why are there so many types? The short answer: because there are so many different jurisdictions, and their reports vary widely in format and content.

Broadly, there are two sets of court jurisdictions and laws: federal and state. Federal courts handle all immigration, bankruptcy, copyright, patent, and criminal cases that involve violations of federal laws.1< The U.S. Department of Justice website sets out the types of crimes prosecuted in federal court, many of which involve interstate and/or white-collar crime.

State crime laws, on the other hand, are particular to each state—though there are broad similarities on offenses such as murder and robbery, and federal laws may overrule some state laws.2

Many customers confuse the terms “national” and “federal.” They’re not the same, and there are 94 federal district courts across the country and in U.S. territories.

If you’re not an experienced attorney or human resources professional, it’s hard to know the right criminal background report to run on your job candidates. Here’s help:

  1. First, consider your “risk continuum”—for each type of role, what risk (low, medium, or high) does an employee pose? For example:
    1. Access to all financial records
    2. Interaction with at-risk populations such as children, the disabled, or the elderly
    3. Reputational risk to your business

    The higher the risk, the more thorough the background check you should consider, possibly including multiple reports.

  2. Second, consider your annual budget for background checks in light of your organization’s annual revenue or value.

  3. Third, and perhaps most important, set a consistent background check policy by job level and responsibility. To prevent accusations of discrimination, all employees in a function (for example, drivers, clerks, or accountants) or at a level (such as managers, directors, or executives) should undergo the same check.

To help you decide which reports your job candidates need, our compliance supervisor, Sarah Foster, wrote a great primer on the options iiX offers.


Corey Koslin

Cory Koslin is strategic sales manager of the Verisk Analytics iiX unit, a premier provider of motor vehicle reports (MVRs) and preemployment screening services. He is a 1993 graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, making him one of the few people at iiX who isn’t a diehard fan of Texas A&M. His roots in trucking and transportation go back to the mid-1990s, and for the past six years he has helped companies navigate tailored background screening and driver management solutions.


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