BackgroundFerret.com Criminal Records Homepage

Criminal Records and Criminal Background Checks at the state, county, and multi-state levels. Quick, reliable and secure access to criminal history records for employment screening, tenant screening, and personnel screening.

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BackgroundFerret.com

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Woburn, MA 01888

 

 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Please Note: No information on BackgroundFerret.com is intended as legal advice.  If  using these reports for employee or tenant screening, BackgroundFerret.com strongly recommends that you consult with a legal professional.  A legal professional can help insure that you are  in complete compliance with all federal, state, county, and local fair housing laws as well as all other applicable laws governing the use of public records.  For links to the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Housing Act, please refer to our Free Resources page.

 
  1. What information is needed to request a criminal background check and how quickly will I receive the results?

  2. How far back does the data from your criminal records go?

  3. What is the difference between a felony, a misdemeanor, and an infraction?

  4. Should I request a statewide or a county-level criminal search?

  5. Why is there no statewide criminal background search in some states?

  6. Do I need a person's permission to run a criminal background check?

  7. Is is legal to reject a potential employee or rental applicant for having a criminal past?

  8. How consistent do I need to be when running checks on potential employees and rental applicants?

  9. Are driving records included in the results of a criminal background check?

  10. Are any criminal background checks 100% foolproof?


Please feel free to contact us with any other questions you may have:

email: support@backgroundferret.com

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1. What information is needed to request a criminal background check and how quickly will I receive the results?

The applicant's first name, last name, name and date-of-birth are the minimum requirements to run a criminal background check in most cases. If the social security number is needed for a particular search, the word (REQUIRED) will appear next to the social security number field on the request form for that search.  Please refer to the detailed descriptions of each search to see which additional information is usually returned with each type of search. 

When requesting a criminal background report, always use the person's legal name because that's how the courthouses will most likely have it listed.  Do not provide nicknames. Don't use Bob instead of Robert or Bill instead of William, unless that is their legal name.  It does not matter what everyone calls someone; what does matter is their legal name. Some court records may not contain the defendant's date-of-birth and/or social security number, so be sure to enter the name exactly as you want us to search it.  There is a separate charge for each name searched - including alias, previous, and maiden names.

The turnaround times vary by which search you order, so please read the full detailed search description of the report that you are ordering to determine how quickly you will get the results back. For detailed information on a search, including how long your report will take to process, click on the name of the search or the "more..." link to read the full search description before ordering. 

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2. How far back does the data from your criminal records go?

When you order a county-level search, you have the option of ordering either a seven or ten year search. For statewide searches, please refer to the detailed search description provided with each search for the depth of information, turnaround times, and to see how far back the search goes. For detailed information on a search, including detailed information on what type of records are searched for each type of report, simply click on the name of the search or the "more..." link to read the full search description before ordering. If you still have questions, please contact us at support@backgroundferret.com or call us at toll-free at during normal business hours before ordering.

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3. What is the difference between a felony, a misdemeanor, and an infraction?

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Infractions are typically the least "serious" of the three types of offenses listed and usually are offenses for which the punishment is a fine.

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Misdemeanors are more serious because they can be punishable by a fine and/or jail time - but usually less than a year in jail. State-level, high-level, and gross misdemeanors are some of the names that usually indicate more serious offenses than simple or low-level misdemeanors.

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Felonies are the most serious crimes. Although there are exceptions, the general rule of thumb used by many is that felonies are offenses which more often carry a possible sentence of a year or more in jail. This does not mean that everyone who is found guilty of a felony is sentenced to a year or more in jail. It also does not mean that everyone who spends a year or more in jail has ever committed a felony.

Two common misconceptions about misdemeanors and felonies:

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There is a common misconception that all drug offenses are automatically felonies. This is far from true. Very often, the amount of a drug that someone has helps determine if the offense is a felony or a misdemeanor. Other factors may include the type of drug and whether or not there was an intent to sell, manufacture, or distribute it.

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If a person is convicted (found guilty) of a misdemeanor or even a felony, it does not always mean that he/she is sentenced to a prison term. Many people, especially first time offenders, may be given other options such as treatment programs, probation, fines, and/or community service.

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4. Should I request a statewide or a county-level criminal search?

Statewide criminal records are collected electronically, either directly form the state or from different counties with a state (any exceptions are noted in the detailed search descriptions). Thousands of employers, apartment communities, and landlords across the country use electronic statewide criminal checks every day because of the scope of their search and because they can almost always be returned much quicker than manual record checking. The limitation of this type of search is that because the legal justice system is large and so complicated, it is sometimes possible that a record may not be properly communicated to the state by a county. There is also the possibility of data entry errors within the legal system itself when recording someone's personal information. Even given these worst case possible scenarios, statewide searches remain an excellent way to check an area much larger than a county level search - and at a lower cost.

Statewide criminal searches are usually best for checking:

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The history of applicants whom you have no reason to believe have a criminal history in a particular area. If you know that an applicant has or probably has a criminal history in a particular county, you may want to consider following up a statewide search with a manual county-level search.

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To see how you may be evaluated by a company or landlord that uses the same type of statewide electronic criminal background checks.

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Records that are included in the search description. Because the type and depth of information included in the statewide searches can vary greatly from state to state, it is important to read the full search description to see if it covers the areas and type of records that you need searched.

Manual county-level criminal background checks are generally considered to be the most accurate and current because they are performed by a trained researcher collecting information directly from the courthouse(s). This personal onsite attention by a professional researcher increases the chances that if a record exists that it will be found. The limitation to this type of search is its scope: Texas alone has over 250 counties, and it would be too expensive to send a researcher out to every single courthouse. Plus, the records for a criminal offense are generally kept at the courthouse in the county where the offense was committed and prosecuted - which is not always the same county that the applicant lives or works in. For certain types of crimes, an offender is more likely to drive away from their hometown to decrease their odds of being caught or recognized. Because many people travel so freely through different counties on a daily basis, it may be difficult to determine which county to search for general screening purposes.

Manual county-level criminal searches are best for checking:

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Criminal history records in a state with no statewide search alternative

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Misdemeanor records in states which have felony-only statewide searches

Finally, it should be stressed again to read the search descriptions carefully. BackgroundFerret.com offers a variety of searches that vary in the types of records that are returned. If you have any questions about the coverage of a search or which search may best suit your needs, please contact us at support@backgroundferret.com or call us at toll-free at during normal business hours before ordering.

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5. Why is there no statewide criminal background search in some states?

The difference is the way in which each state stores its information and how publicly accessible they make that information. Until fairly recently, many states either did not have an electronic statewide search available to the public, or each county with the state had their information in varying formats. Under such restrictions, performing a statewide search just was not realistic. Some states also do not allow publicly available databases.

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6. Do I need a person's permission to run a criminal background check?

Although criminal records are in most cases considered to be public records, you sometimes do need a person's permission before running a criminal report.

If you intend to use the information provided through our services to make a decision that could negatively affect another person's ability to secure employment, insurance, credit, or housing, then you must first inform the subject that you are obtaining a Consumer Report, and obtain their written authorization.

Many employers and apartment communities have found that letting the applicants know that a signed release is needed has extra benefits: good applicants are encouraged that you are concerned about keeping your workplace or property crime-free, while bad applicants will sometimes withdraw themselves from the application process, saving you valuable time and money.

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7. Is is legal to reject a potential employee or rental applicant for having a criminal past?

First, check with a legal professional (preferably one that specializes in your type of business) to make sure that denying an applicant based on a criminal record is legal in your locality. Criminal History is not one of the classes of protected categories under federal law. Thousands of employers and apartment communities across the country currently use a prior criminal record history as the basis for rejecting an applicant. There are many ways that these communities incorporate criminal background checks into their screening process.

If you intend to use the information provided through our services to make a decision that could negatively affect another person's ability to secure employment, insurance, credit, or housing, then you must first inform them that you are obtaining a Consumer Report and obtain their written authorization. If used for these purposes, most interpretations of the the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) suggest that you can only consider the past seven years of the applicant's history, except for convictions - which can be considered no matter how long ago they occurred.

Some communities only reject applicants for putting false information on the application; if an applicant checked off that they have had no felony convictions and it turns out that they did, then the applicant is rejected. Other communities deny any applicant if they have a prior conviction of a nature that may put their other tenants at risk. For example, such a community may decide to reject an applicant for arson or assault, but not for tax evasion.

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8. How consistent do I need to be when running checks on potential employees and rental applicants?

EXTREMELY consistent. This can not be emphasized enough. To avoid discrimination lawsuits, you must set up a consistent screening process that you follow for ALL applicants. Many people want to run a criminal background check only on applicants that they "have a bad feeling about". Unfortunately, this can open you up to a Fair Housing or Discrimination lawsuit! In many cases, you should run criminal background checks on all of your employees, potential employees, or rental applicants, or none at all.

Consistency can not be stressed enough in this regard. You should have a written policy that you keep on file that is as detailed as possible that explains any reasons that you would reject an applicant - such as bad employment references, a previous negative rental history reference, income requirements, criminal history, etc. Again, if possible, it is good advice to have a legal expert that is familiar with discrimination, employment, and/or housing laws to review your policy.

If you do plan on using criminal background checks for employee or tenant screening, make sure you are as specific as possible when detailing exactly which type of offenses you would reject an applicant for.

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9. Are driving records included in the results of a criminal background check?

Unless otherwise noted in the search description for a particular report, a driving offense will only show up on a criminal report if it is serious enough to be considered a criminal by the state or county where it occurred. For example, speeding tickets usually would not show up on a criminal history reports, but vehicular homicide and many driving-under-the-influence and driving-while-intoxicated offenses would. As with other criminal records, it also depends on if these offenses are considered infractions, misdemeanors, or felonies and whether or not those type are records are included in the type of search that you have ordered.

If you are looking specifically for driving records, you may want to directly contact the Department of Motor vehicles in the appropriate state as most states store driving history records separate from the criminal justice system records.

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10. Are any criminal background checks 100% foolproof?

No, absolutely not. There are several reasons that a criminal offense may not show up even using the best search methods. These include: data entry errors or omissions within the legal system itself, a county's failure to report all of their data properly to the appropriate state agency, or cases in which the criminal has successfully used a false identity when processed through the legal system.

While no system is foolproof, BackgroundFerret.com is committed to providing the most accurate and up-to-date information possible. Every report is checked against the original request multiple times during the screening process to avoid data entry discrepancies on our end. And BackgroundFerret.com has the reach, scope, and experience of a dedicated team of researchers who have a long history of criminal background check screening - long before such reports were even available on the Internet.

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