I’m just a National Instant Criminal Search,
Yes, I’m only an Instant Search,
And I’m sitting here in a Database.
Well, it’s a long, long journey
To the Consumer Reporting Agency.
It’s a long, long wait,
While I’m sitting in cyber limbo,
But I know I’ll be a Consumer Report someday,
At least I hope and pray that I will
But today I am still just an Instant Search.
You are the director of a local Parks and Recreation Board. Or you are an executive officer of a nonprofit athletic foundation. Or perhaps you are a coach employed by a school system. What is one common factor among these three positions? The recruiting and reliance upon volunteer labor to assist in supervising, teaching, and coaching children. Indeed, as with any community-based organization, volunteers are the lifeblood of the effort. Without them, Little League games would not be played, community events would not be hosted, and field trips would fail to go forward. For the safety of the children alone, to say nothing of legal liability, you will want to conduct a meaningful background check of these volunteers. For you owe the children a duty to recruit volunteers responsibly, to minimize the likelihood of inappropriate activity. And the critical word here is “meaningful.” Not all background reports are the same. One must look beyond the name given to a particular product to assess its true nature. This is perhaps nowhere more critical than when it comes to the national instant criminal search.
To put it plainly, the national criminal instant search is not a consumer report. It is, in reality, an electronic search of a database that aggregates – or gathers – criminal history information from a wide variety of sources. This aggregated database is incomplete, however, and often does not contain all the information about a particular criminal history record. The database builds its files by capturing vast amounts of electronic data without discrimination and without analysis. You might consider it a bulk data dump. It should therefore be used as a starting point. It casts a wide net, capturing information that is both relevant and irrelevant. Indeed, information which appears to be relevant at first, may prove to become irrelevant once the final disposition of the criminal record is discovered.
This is why a national instant criminal search is a good place to start, but it is never an appropriate place to finish. Once criminal records are discovered in the instant search that may relate to a potential volunteer, a reputable consumer reporting agency will drill down into the local county (or other government) agency which actually maintains the record at issue. It is there that the consumer reporting agency (“CRA”) can assess whether the criminal charges were dismissed, or whether there was an ruling in the volunteer’s favor (such as an acquittal at trial), or whether and to what extent a conviction and sentence were imposed.
The Bare Bones: Don’t be misled into thinking you are purchasing a background report when the only thing being sold to you is the national instant criminal search. Do your due diligence and get a background check that has matured from an instant search into a full-blown consumer report.
This whitepaper is provided only for educational purposes; it should not be relied upon as legal advice, and it should not be used, in whole or in part, as a basis for establishing employment practices or policies, nor should it be used for resolving disputes or managing risk. Every reader’s circumstances are unique and legal advice should be obtained only from a lawyer with whom the reader has established an attorney-client relationship. Copyright 2014 ©Employment Screening Services, Inc. All material contained within this publication is protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced without the express written consent of ESS.