The Differences Between a Nationwide Criminal Database and a County Criminal Court Search

One of the most essential aspects of a pre-employment background check is identifying criminal offenses. Applicants may be reluctant to admit to warrants, misdemeanors, felonies or other charges on their personal record. A thorough screening uncovers everything prospective employers need to know before they commit to a hiring decision.

Both the Nationwide Criminal Database and County Criminal Court Searches are used to look for criminal offenses by a specific individual. The primary difference is that a Nationwide Criminal Database seeks out criminal records filed almost anywhere in the country, and a hand search focuses on records filed within a single district. They are best used together to help hiring managers expose and learn more about illegal activities committed by potential employees.

Nationwide Criminal Database
This service consists of an automated search for criminal records connected to any person. Multiple databases are accessed during a national search. These databases contain records filed by county and state sources. The end result is a report that can inform employers of whether or not an individual has a criminal record anywhere in the United States.

An Instant National Criminal Search may find information about traffic violations, incarcerations, misdemeanors, felonies and sexual offenses. This information is commonly used to help businesses determine whether or not a candidate is eligible for employment.

Of note, is that there is no legal authority which forces counties to report their criminal records histories to a database. Therefore, one might find counties that are slow in reporting, or counties that don’t report records at all. For this reason, it is imperative that the Nationwide Criminal Database be run in conjunction with a County Criminal Court Search. In addition, The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) dictates that any records found in the course of a database search must be verified at the court level, which is done by running the County Criminal Court Search.

County Criminal Court Search
This service is a detailed search for criminal records within a particular county. The search is conducted by court reporters who manually review court and county records throughout typically at the county seat. The researchers may be able to find information about an offense that was not discovered during a search of the Nationwide Criminal Database or obtain more details about an offense that was found. In some cases, county offices do not submit their records to national databases. A hand search will find records that may not be available elsewhere.

Hand searches may expose convictions, sexual offenses, misdemeanors, felonies and related activities connected to an individual. Hiring managers use this service to obtain detailed reports on job applicants, and to learn more about an offense committed in any county. A County Criminal Court Search is one of the most accurate screening tools available for a pre-employment background check.

How The Searches Are Used Together
The National Criminal Database and County Criminal Court searches are best used together to produce extensive documentation of an applicant’s criminal activity. The process usually begins with the Nationwide Criminal Database. While this service provides a thorough overview of an individual’s criminal activities, it is not as comprehensive as a hand search.

When a criminal record is found during a database search, or if there is concern that a candidate may have offenses in a county that does not submit information to national databases, the next step is a hand search. Researchers may be able to provide records that are not otherwise available, or a more detailed explanation of a criminal offense. Employers use both services to make informed decisions about potential employees.

At A Glance
Want a quick explanation of the distinction between Nationwide Criminal Database and a County Criminal Court Searches? Use this guide to determine the differences between the two services:


To electronically search through several databases and find criminal records from most states.

• Fast results
• Automated search
• Economical reports
• Finds offenses committed anywhere in the U.S.

Results May Include
• Traffic violations
• Misdemeanors
• Felonies
• Sexual offenses


To have court researches personally search for and examine relevant criminal records within a specified county.

• Comprehensive reports
• Search conducted by Court Researchers
• This service may find records that are not available from a national criminal search

Results May Include
• Misdemeanors
• Felonies
• Incarcerations
• Sexual Offenses

The National Criminal Database and County Criminal Court searches are valuable background screening tools. If you’re looking for criminal records connected to a job applicant, use both the National Criminal Database and County Criminal Court searches to get comprehensive, accurate criminal history on your applicants.

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