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Catching Criminals: How Criminal Background Checks are Necessary for Public Safety

When you apply for a job, a rental home or enlist in the military, you may be subject to a criminal background check. This check includes a review of your personal and professional record to ensure that you have not been convicted of any crimes that could compromise the safety of the organization or community. The information that is researched varies depending on the type of background check and the person or entity requesting it. In this article, we will take a closer look at what a criminal background check entails and the type of criminal records typically included in the process.

What is a Criminal Background Check?

A criminal background check primarily involves a review of your criminal record to determine whether you have been convicted of crimes or have a history of legal issues. The information included in a background check may vary depending on the country, state or even the city where you reside. In general, a background check typically includes a search for past criminal records, past drug use or convictions, driving records, credit history, and educational records.

The purpose of a criminal background check is to enable organizations to make sound decisions based on the information they discover about an individual. It helps companies, government entities, landlords, and other organizations screen potential employees or tenants to prevent those with criminal records from putting others at risk.

How is a Criminal Background Check Conducted?

A criminal background check typically involves accessing databases of criminal records maintained by various government and law enforcement agencies. The process may also include in-person court checks, drug tests, and interviews with past employers and references.

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The process of conducting a criminal background check will vary depending on the purpose and the extent of the check. Companies that conduct background checks for employment purposes often outsource the process to a background screening company.

In general, a background check begins with obtaining the individual's full name, social security number, and date of birth. These details are then used to search various official records, including criminal records and driving records.

Criminal Records Typically Included in a Criminal Background Check

The criminal records that are typically included in a background check depend on the type of check and the organization performing it. While every background check is different, here are some of the most common types of criminal records that are typically included:

Arrest Records: An arrest record shows an individual's history of arrest until the charges are dropped, dismissed, or expunged. It typically includes details such as the charges or offenses an individual is facing and associated court dates.

Court Records: Court records show an individual's history of court appearances and convictions for crimes they may have committed. Court records can even include a list of fines, fees, jail or prison time, and probation which an individual may have received for the crime they committed.

Sex Offender Registry: Sex offender registries are a public database that documents convicted offenders of sexual crimes or behaviors which have been deemed a felony offense or violent in nature. Typically, sex offender registries include name, address, and a photo of the offender along with other identifying information.

Driving Records: Driving records show an individual's history of driving infractions, such as speeding tickets, DUI convictions, and other driving offenses. This type of record may also include past accidents or incidents involving a motor vehicle.

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Credit History: Credit history shows an individual's history of credit requests and the payment history of those requests. This type of record is not a criminal record but is often included in a background check for employment as it can reveal if an individual has a history of financial irresponsibility.


A criminal background check is an essential part of any hiring or rental process as it helps ensure that individuals are qualified for the position or living accommodation. The type of criminal records that are checked will depend on the purpose of the check and the organization performing it. In general, a criminal background check involves a review of various databases and official records to determine whether an applicant has any past criminal convictions or history that would make them unsuitable for the position for which they are being considered. Whenever applied correctly, the criminal background check process serves as a valuable tool to protect people from potential harm.

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