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A full, complete and thorough criminal background check requires several keys steps to assure accuracy. Here is a model for a professional level criminal background check that could be expected from a qualified private investigator or background screening firm.

1. Identity verification.

A criminal background check that is run on a false name or a correct name and false DOB is worthless. The first step in a criminal background check is to verify the identity of the subject. If the subject is present and can present a valid photo I.D., verification is made. However, more commonly, this is not possible and the investigator must verify the subject’s identity through other sources. One common way is pull the subject’s driving record through the state DMV. This will allow the investigator to determine that the subject’s name and DOB are a match. Of course, this assumes that the drivers license pulled is for the subject of the investigation and he is not impersonating some unwitting third party.

2. Name/Address history.

Next, the investigator will secure the subject’s SSN through an online data service and then run the SSN. This will bring back past names and addresses used by the subject. It will also be a reliable source of information as to where the subject has lived over the past ten years or so. This gives the investigator specific cities/states to focus his investigation. It should also identify any other names the person has previously lived under. Of course, the background check will need to be made under these names as well.

3. State/Local Court Record Check.

The investigator will then check court records in each of the counties the subject has lived for the past ten years. These court checks should be directly from the source – either at the court’s website (if possible) or, by having an in-person “name index” at the actual courthouse. If local, the P.I. may do these himself; or he may hire an attorney service to do the check and report the results back to him.

4. Federal court check.

The investigator will then do likewise at the federal court level, typically through a service called PACER.

5. “Nationwide” Criminal Check.

As discussed above, there is no such thing as a “nationwide” criminal background check due to data blind spots in virtually every state. However, these “nationwide” criminal checks, such as at Crime Smasher, fill two important needs. First, they often offer redundancy to records already checked directly at source courts. Secondly, there’s always the possibility that the subject of the investigation was convicted of a crime some place other than where he lived. This “nationwide” search, although flawed, at least presents an opportunity to identify these “away from home” criminal cases.

6. Prison check.

To add further redundancy to the criminal background check, the investigator will check state prison system records to see if there is any record of the person previously being incarcerated. It’s possible that the subject was sent to prison, but because of a data blind spot or other deficiency, the case was not found. When it’s learned that the subject has a history of incarceration, then the investigator will know he needs to dig further to locate the court case that resulted in the prison term. The federal prison system, which has an online lookup, should also be checked.

7. Sex offender check.

Although it’s rare to find hits here, this should also be checked. Some states, such as California, place restrictions on use of the information. For example, it cannot be used to disqualify a job applicant. However, nothing in the law prevents the investigator from going directly to the court, confirming the information, and then presenting it to his client.

8. Arrest reports.

As described above, privately compiled arrest reports are a relatively new tool for private sector investigators. Checking these should be done although depending on the type of investigation, the investigator may not be allowed to legally report the results to his client. For example, the FCRA allows reporting of convictions ONLY when the background check is done for employment purposes. Therefore, arrests are not reportable. (Please note this data search is included with every criminal check done at Crime Smasher.)

9. Wants and Warrants.

As with arrest reports, this is another new, privately compiled version of the true Wants and Warrants search that was previously available to law enforcement only. Although it contains many data blind spots, this search is low priced and worth the fee involved. (This search is also included automatically with a criminal check done at Crime Smasher.)

Conclusion: The Role of Internet-based Criminal Record Searches

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