Virginia to Repair Holes in State Criminal Records Database Used for Background Checks

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

In December of 2018, the Virginia State Crime Commission (VSCC) – a criminal justice agency established in the legislative branch of the state government – released recommendations for the fingerprinting of defendants after 750,000 conviction records were found to be missing from the Virginia state criminal records database used to run background checks for gun purchases, court sentencings, and employment.

Virginia Criminal Records Database

The VSCC revealed the missing records – which included more than 300 murder convictions and 1,300 rape convictions – dated back to 1999. The recommendations were meant to repair holes in the database and gaps in the law so people who are arrested for “jailable” crimes and other misdemeanors will have their fingerprints taken and their records entered into the state criminal records database in the future.

The VSCC discovered in its investigation that there are many crimes in Virginia that do not cause people to be fingerprinted. The state of Virginia only enters conviction records into its database when there are accompanied by fingerprints in order to confirm the identities of defendants. Fingerprints were not required in some cases or were not taken because of gaps in the arrest or court process.

In its report, the VSCC found that approximately 55,000 individual convicted felons – along with more than 2,500 robbery convictions and 1,500 weapons convictions – were missing from the criminal records database. The VSCC proposed solutions to retroactively apply missing offenses to existing criminal history records and ensure future offenses were applied to criminal history records with fingerprints.

In October 2018, ESR News reported the VSCC “made a stunning discovery” while reviewing the state’s Central Criminal Records Exchange (CCRE). While the state court system recorded 11 million convictions dating to 2000, the criminal records database showed only 10.2 million convictions. Along with 300 murder convictions and 1,300 rape convictions, the 750,000 missing records include 4,600 felony assault convictions.

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 found “disturbing facts on the currency and accuracy of records.” Employers using state criminal records for background checks may not realize they are not always accurate and complete.

In February 2018, the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released an extensive Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems that 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 records database and that 13 states did not know how many dispositions they had that could not be linked.

ESR White Papers about Criminal Records

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check firm – offers employers complimentary white papers about criminal records that include whether or not a “national” criminal search exists, the proper use of criminal records in hiring, and what to do if an employer finds a criminal record. To learn more about criminal records, visit www.esrcheck.com/Background-Checks/Criminal-Records-Search/.

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