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Federal Criminal History
Records Check

Federal Criminal History Records Check
A Federal Criminal Records Check is a search of a specific federal district court’s records. Federal cases include crimes involving federal law, crimes that cross state boundaries, and crimes that are committed on federal property.

Federal Criminal Records are searched by name. The results are then reviewed using other identifiers such as date of birth, social security number, or driver’s license number. Reports usually include the jurisdiction searched, the individual’s personal identifiers as they appear in the case file, the file date, charges, disposition, disposition dates, and sentencing information.

A Federal Criminal Records Check may also be referred to as a Federal Criminal History or a Federal Criminal Record Search.
Why Do Federal Criminal Records Checks
Approximately 5 percent of criminal records in the U.S. are for federal offenses. A search of federal court records is needed to locate records of federal criminal prosecution. Federal Criminal Records Checks extend research for potential criminal activity from the state level to the federal level and provide an additional element in the defense against negligent hiring claims.

Employers have a moral and legal obligation to provide a safe work environment. Knowing whether a potential employee has been involved in criminal activity (such as drug or other substance abuse, reckless behavior, dishonesty, theft, or dangerous and violent behaviors) allows employers to determine if an applicant is appropriate for the job and work environment.

What are the Sources of a Federal Criminal Records Check?
Each state has at least one federal district. Larger states are separated into as many as four federal districts. A Federal Criminal Records Check is a search of a specific federal district court records.

Each federal district maintains its own records. Only criminal cases prosecuted in a specific federal district will be found in that court's Federal Criminal Records Check. Therefore, each federal district must be searched separately to determine if a criminal history exists in that district.

What are the Weaknesses of a Federal Criminal Records Check?
The greatest weakness of a Federal Criminal Records Check is the limited scope of any specific district search. There are more than 7,000 significant courts in the United States that maintain criminal records. There is no national source of criminal records. Few employers have the resources and time to search every criminal court in the country. Wise choices must be made to determine which courts to search.

Most federal court records only provide researchers with name information. The researcher must then verify whether a name found in the records is the applicant in question. If an applicant has a common name, the researcher may find many cases that need to be reviewed. Once a case has been identified, the case information must be properly compiled into a report for the prospective employer.

Various (and differing) state and federal laws determine what information can be reported to an employer. Also, research is sometimes required to interpret the "legalese" (court language) used.

Because most criminal cases are prosecuted at the county level, Federal Criminal Records Checks cannot be seen as thorough criminal record searches when run alone. They are most useful when run with County Criminal Records Checks.

How Far Back Does A Federal Criminal Record Check Go?
Typically criminal records are searched in the Federal District Courts of residence, work, and school for the last 7 years (sometimes longer periods are searched). The period of time actually covered in a federal criminal history report varies based on how state and federal law apply to that specific background check, how the federal court maintains its records, and how the records are researched. For a more complete discussion about how far back a background check goes, see How Far Back Does A Background Check Go.

How Long Does a Federal Criminal Records Check Take?
Federal Criminal Records Checks are usually returned in one to two business days from the order date. "Hits" on Federal Criminal Records Checks will extend the turnaround time since the researcher must then verify whether a name found in the records is indeed the applicant in question.

Can I See a Sample Federal Criminal Records Check Report?
Yes, click Sample Federal Criminal Records Check.

What is Our Recommendation for a Federal Criminal Records Check?
Federal Criminal Records Checks cover jurisdictions that County Criminal Records Checks do not. They are thus an essential element in the criminal portion of a Comprehensive Background Check. We recommend Federal Criminal Records Checks to any employer who wishes to extend research into potential criminal activity from the state level to the federal level.

Note: Federal, state and local laws and regulations are rapidly evolving regarding employer inquiries into and use of applicant/employee criminal records. See Background Check Laws and Regulations and Employment Background Check Blog. It is the employer's responsibility to stay current with changing legal requirements. A Matter of Fact is not a law firm and cannot provide legal advice. It is important that employers work with counsel to develop an employment screening program specific to their needs. Employers should obtain legal advice concerning their legal responsibilities, and to ensure that background check documents, policies and procedures are in compliance with applicable local, state and federal laws and regulations. For more see Legal Disclaimer.

Are There Other Criminal History Searches Available?
Yes, additional criminal record searches available to help meet employer and job requirements include:
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