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The Difference Between County and Statewide Criminal Record Searches

Most background checks include some type of criminal records search, but the term “criminal records” can be unclear. One common area that can be confusing is the difference between county criminal record searches and statewide criminal record searches.

To put it simply, county criminal record searches tend to have more detailed records. However, let's take a closer look at these types of criminal record searches to decipher their benefits and why they are important.

county criminal background check

What is a county search on background check?

A county criminal background check is a thorough search of criminal records available at the county level, where most records occur.

All felony and misdemeanor crimes are tried at local jurisdictions and filed in county courthouses. A county criminal records search specifically looks into the criminal records maintained at the county level. County criminal records are housed in more than 3,100 U.S. counties and contain the most accurate and up-to-date information.

These searches focus on records housed within county courts and often include convictions, adjudications, and active warrants relevant to the county where the applicant has lived or worked.

What is the purpose of a county criminal background search?

A county criminal records check screens the candidate's home county and potentially past counties of residence, depending on the scope of the background check provider to find the most thorough information on potential criminal history records.

County criminal records searches can reveal:

  • Pending case(s) information.

  • Convictions, adjudications withheld (during hold period).

  • Active warrants.

If a criminal record is located, a county records search may include:

  • The level of offense.

  • Identifiers are used to match the record to the applicant.

  • Sentencing received such as fines, community service or jail time.

  • Final disposition of the offense.

county records criminal history

Why conduct a county criminal background search?

Conducting a county criminal records search can help employers and organizations make informed decisions when considering individuals for employment, volunteer work, or other positions that involve handling sensitive information or working with vulnerable populations.

What is a statewide criminal record search?

This is a thorough search of criminal records available at the state level. It can provide a broader view of an individual's criminal history that may not be revealed in a county-level search.

What is the purpose of a state criminal background check?

To find additional criminal records in the candidate's state, outside of their county of residence. A statewide criminal background search utilizes state-level databases to discover criminal records. Not all counties report into state criminal records databases, and each state database functions differently. This search can reveal convictions, pending cases, and other criminal history information from multiple counties within a specific state.

What if the person being screened has various aliases?

Criminal records are typically filed under the individual's name when they committed the crime. KRESS implements a Social Security Number Trace as an identifier to reveal any alias names so that records are not missed if filed under a different name.

What if the person being screened has different addresses?

Most background checks screen seven years, however if a person's current address is only screened and they have lived there for less than seven years records may be overlooked. This is why KRESS utilizes a Social Security Number Trace as an identifier to reveal past and present addresses so that records are not missed.

What is the difference between national and county criminal searches?

National criminal background checks offer a broad overview by searching digital records across multiple jurisdictions, including national databases, but may lack the most current details. County-level checks focus on local court records for specific counties, providing more accurate and detailed information.

They are often slower and more costly but offer the latest data. Best practices involve using both types of checks, starting with a national check to identify potential issues, followed by county-level checks for verification and up-to-date information.

How are criminal background checks conducted at the federal level?

Federal criminal background checks involve searching records from the federal court system, specifically the 94 U.S. district and appellate courts, using the PACER system. These checks cover federal criminal cases like tax evasion and identity theft, spanning all 50 states and U.S. territories. Employers access the PACER system to find records associated with an individual's name, revealing arrests, charges, and convictions.

Compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act is required, and checks typically take one business day. However, these checks only reveal federal crimes, so many employers also conduct state and county-level searches for a comprehensive view, especially for high-responsibility roles in finance, healthcare, and government.

How does the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) impact background screening?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) sets the guidelines and requirements that consumer reporting agencies must follow when conducting background checks. This includes ensuring the accuracy of the information provided and obtaining the individual’s consent before conducting a county criminal background check.

How does KRESS perform pre-employment background checks?

The reason why so many organizations—including international corporations such as ExxonMobil—trust KRESS with their criminal record searches is because all of our clients receive professional, discreet service every time. We combine cutting-edge technology with committed customer service, returning reliable, legally compliant reports on every job candidate considered for businesses both large and small quickly and efficiently.

Are you ready to confirm that your preferred job candidate or employee are who they say they are? Contact KRESS today to get started. You can request a FREE sample report to ensure that all your questions will be answered by our screening experts.

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