DOJ Survey of State Criminal Record Repositories Shows Records Not Always Accurate and Complete

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) – which is responsible for enforcement of law and administration of justice in the United States – has released its latest Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems that “includes some disturbing facts on the currency and accuracy of records,” according to a Fact Sheet about the survey on state criminal record repositories from BRB Publications, Inc.

The Fact Sheet prepared by BRB Publications founder and past CEO Michael Sankey found that while employers often depend on state criminal record repositories as primary resources for background checks, they may not realize that these records are not always accurate and complete. The reasons why the completeness, consistency, and accuracy of state criminal record repositories could be suspect are:

  • Timeliness of receiving arrest and disposition data.
  • Timeliness of entering arrest and disposition data into the repository.
  • Inability to match dispositions with existing arrest records.

The basis for these concerns is supported by facts provided by the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) that releases an extensive Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems every two years. The latest survey provides statistics compiled from March 2017 through June 2017 by the National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics: SEARCH and the Fact Sheet details these “eye-catching facts”:

  • 14 states reported 20 percent or more of all dispositions received could NOT be linked to the arrest/charge information in the state criminal record database. 13 states did NOT know how many dispositions they have that cannot be linked.
  • 8 states reported a delay when a felony case is decided and when the record is received by the repository of at least 31 days and as much as over one year.
  • 9 states reported an additional delay of at least 31 days and as much as over one year after the record has been received and before it is entered into the state’s criminal record database.
  • There were 2,294,309 unprocessed or partially processed court case dispositions left hanging for 23 states including 502,009 from Arizona, 331,200 from Connecticut, and 225,500 from Pennsylvania.
  • There were 23,297,400 name-based background checks performed by states nationwide. One wonders about the accuracy of these checks when compared to the same name searched at the courts.

Sankey is Director of the Public Record Retriever Network – one of the nation’s largest membership organizations of professionals in the public record industry – and has more than 30 years of experience in research and public record access. He noted that the information in the DOJ survey should not be confused with criminal record data obtained from courts or from centralized state judicial court systems.

BRB Publications, Inc. “is the nation’s premier publisher of reference sources and websites used for locating public records. BRB’s books and electronic products point the way to over 28,000 government agencies and accredited schools, and to 3,500 record vendors who maintain, search, or retrieve public records.” For more information, please visit www.brbpublications.com.

Criminal Record Whitepapers from ESR

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a leading global background check firm – offers employers a complimentary whitepaper library with information about whether or not a “national” criminal search exisits, the proper use of criminal records in hiring, and what to do if an employer finds a criminal record. The ESR whitepaper library is at www.esrcheck.com/Tools-Resources/Whitepaper-Library/.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

© 2018 Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – Making copies or using of any part of the ESR News Blog or ESR website for any purpose other than your own personal use is prohibited unless written authorization is first obtained from ESR.