Virginia Criminal Records Database Used for Background Checks Missing More than 750,000 Cases

Criminal Records Searches from ESR

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

Virginia State Crime Commission staff members “made a stunning discovery” while reviewing the state’s Central Criminal Records Exchange (CCRE), finding that 750,000 records used for background checks were not in the system maintained by the Virginia State Police, according to a report by The Washington Post.

The Washington Post reports that while the state court system recorded around 11 million convictions dating to 2000, the criminal records database showed only about 10.2 million convictions. The 750,000 missing records included 300 murder convictions, 1,300 rape convictions, and 4,600 felony assault convictions.

The Washington Post reports the database is what courts and police use to check prior criminal records, what state police use to determine if someone is eligible to buy a gun, and what state agencies and employers check to see if job applicants have a conviction that might disqualify them from a job.

Approximately 675,000 of the 751,154 missing records lacked fingerprints while 76,000 were missing due to other errors. The crime commission found the problem was caused by “failures to enter a defendant’s fingerprints into the system when he or she was charged,” The Washington Post reports.

The Washington Post reports that 35 percent of the cases with missing fingerprints were felonies while 65 percent were misdemeanors which “can involve drug charges, assaults, drunken driving, and family abuse, all of which could be disqualifying convictions for anyone seeking a gun or a professional license.”

In April 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) – which is responsible for enforcement of law and administration of justice in the United States – released a Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems that included “some disturbing facts on the currency and accuracy of records.”

A Fact Sheet prepared about the survey 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, and inability to match dispositions with existing arrest records.

The DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released an extensive Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems compiled from March 2017 through June 2017 by the National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics: SEARCH and the Fact Sheet detailed some “eye-catching facts.”

The survey – which was released in February 2018 – revealed 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 and that 13 states not know how many dispositions they have that cannot be linked.

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