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Part 2: Understanding Federal Criminal Records

This article will follow up on last month’s article Understanding Criminal Records. I would like to focus strictly on the area of Federal Criminal searches. I will breakdown this search and how it can be used in your background screening program. Federal records include criminal, civil, and bankruptcy.

What is the difference? In short, federal criminal cases are usually inter-state/inter-national or crimes involving federal law, which can only be tried at a federal level. IE: Kidnapping across state lines. State/County cases are usually state or localized and involve violating state laws. IE: Endangering the welfare of a child. Federal cases are usually invested by the FBI, DEA, ATF, USSS, or DHS. Whereas, state cases are usually investigated by the state, county, or localized agencies. This is not to say the FBI would not assist in a state case or vice versa. In some cases, federal and state laws may have been violated, the parties involved may choose whether the state or federal courts would prosecute.

Search Scope: The search usually includes both a Felony and Misdemeanor search for 7+ years. Most federal records are searched by a legal first and last name. Providing as much data as possible and ordering alias or maiden names are important for a thorough search. Federal searches allow for jurisdictional or national searches.

Hopefully, this article can provide some additional education, so you can make a sound decision regarding federal searches. You may have industry or Federal/State specific requirements. Research your company policies and work with your background screening partner as a best practice.


Jolene Johnston

Vice President/Chief Operating Officer


Note: This article is intended to provide general information and should be not be interpreted as legal advice.

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