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What’s Up With Criminal Database Searches?

The Nationwide Criminal Database Search, also called a “National Sweep” or “Nationwide Review” or “NationScreen,” or “Criminal SuperSearch” is a multi-jurisdictional compilation of criminal records from participating states and counties across the US.? Though “National” in scope, the data is compiled from multiple public record data sources and is NOT an entire compilation of all criminal records from all states.

Some state and county courts upload criminal records to databases infrequently and some never upload criminal records to databases. There are no laws requiring courts to upload criminal records to any databases and no laws regulating what information gets uploaded.

The Nationwide Criminal Database product DOES NOT substitute for a courthouse search of criminal records (also known as a County Criminal Search).

Additionally, when records are being entered into criminal databases by people at the courthouse, sometimes the information is entered incorrectly, which can produce a “false positive” based on an incorrect name or incorrect date of birth match.

Also, criminal record information on database searches is often abbreviated or incomplete, making it impossible to fully decipher. If this is the case, the only way to decipher the information is to order the county criminal search for that county, which will reveal complete information on the crime and the disposition.

BEFORE contacting the applicant or taking adverse action against them – we urge the end-user to verify the accuracy of the criminal record information by manually ordering the criminal record on file from the originating court. The original court record will be the most current, accurate source of criminal history information.

Other criminal database search products that require independent verification before contacting an applicant or taking adverse action include:

– Statewide Criminal Database Search
– Nationwide Federal Criminal Search
– 50-State Sex Offender Registries Search

The most current, accurate source of criminal history information is the county criminal search. This would be a search of criminal records at the courthouse level. Most law-abiding citizens who step out of line and commit a crime do so close to home so having a county criminal search in your package can give you immediate access to a person’s criminal history in these counties.

However, the processing time on these searches can range anywhere from one to two days on clean searches and/or at courthouses that are fully automated up to 5 to 7 days when we must verify a criminal record or when the courthouse is rural/remote and/or is still paper-based.

So to summarize:

> The nationwide or statewide criminal database is very fast, but may be incomplete or provide inaccurate information due to imperfections in how the data is aggregated.

> The county criminal search is the most accurate but can take a little bit longer to process.

Having both searches in your package is the best way to get the most complete picture of a person’s criminal history.

The industry Best Practice for obtaining a person’s criminal history follows:

1) Find out which counties the applicant has lived in using the SSN Trace & Address History Search.

2) Conduct an in-person courthouse search (performed by an experienced court researcher) for criminal records in the applicant’s existing and past counties of residence.

3) Conduct criminal database searches (i.e., Nationwide Criminal Database Search, Statewide Criminal Database Search, 50-State Sex Offender Registries Search, Federal Crimes Search) to detect possible criminal activity in counties other than where the applicant has lived.

4) Independently verify any criminal record “hits” returned from a database search by manually ordering the criminal record on file from the reporting jurisdiction.


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