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An Overview of Criminal Background Checks – What You Can Expect and How to Prepare.

What is a Criminal Background Check and How is it Conducted?

A criminal background check, also known as a criminal history check, is a process of examining an individual's past criminal records. Employers, landlords, and institutions that require a certain level of security clearance utilize this information to make informed decisions. It aims to uncover any criminal history that may raise red flags about an individual's credibility, trustworthiness, and suitability for a particular job or position.

Background checks are conducted by various levels of local, state, and national law enforcement agencies. These agencies can access criminal records of convicted felons through various databases such as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and state criminal history repositories.

How Can You Prepare for a Criminal Background Check?

When an individual is anticipating a criminal background check, several factors should be considered to ensure the process runs smoothly. One of the things required to prepare for a criminal background check is to provide legal identification documents. Acceptable forms of ID include a passport, a state-issued driver's license, and a social security card. In some states, individuals may be required to provide fingerprints.

Additionally, it is essential to familiarize oneself with state laws regarding criminal background checks. Laws regulating the use of criminal records for employment or housing vary from state-to-state. Some states limit the offenses that can be considered while others have specific requirements for an individual's criminal history.

What Criminal Records Are Typically Included in a Criminal Background Check?

Criminal background checks can include the following types of records:

1. Arrest Records

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An arrest record is a document created by law enforcement once someone is detained for criminal activity. It shows the date of the arrest, the offenses committed, and demographic information about the individual.

2. Conviction Records

Conviction records provide information about an individual's criminal history. It includes charges, plea-bargained, and adjudicated sentences.

3. Traffic Violations

Traffic violations are misdemeanors or felonies committed while operating a vehicle and could result in criminal charges.

4. Credit Reports

Credit reports are compiled by credit bureaus and provide information about an individual's credit history, including loans, bankruptcies, and unpaid debts. Employers may order credit reports to evaluate an individual's creditworthiness when applying for jobs.

5. Sex Offender Registries

Sex offender registries are databases maintained by state or federal governments to track convicted sex offenders. Employers and landlords may request records from these registries to ensure public safety.

6. Professional Licenses

Professional license records provide information on individuals who hold licenses in certain professions such as nursing, teaching, and law enforcement. Employers may request records to verify the legitimacy of an individual's professional history.

7. Military Records

Military records contain information about individuals who have served or are currently serving in the military. They provide information on military training, deployments, and commendations.

8. Social Media and Online Background Checks

Social media and online background checks provide information about an individual's social media presence and online activities. Information gathered can impact employment opportunities, as some companies review social media profiles as part of their hiring processes.

In conclusion, a criminal background check is a useful tool to ensure safety and security in our society. The process involves examining an individual's criminal records from various databases maintained by different law enforcement agencies. Employers, landlords, government agencies, and other institutions may require a criminal background check as part of their application process. Preparing for a criminal background check involves legal identification, knowledge of state laws, and knowing what records could be included in the check. Overall, an individual who has a clean criminal record will have better chances of success on applications that require a criminal background check.

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