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Background Screening Search Processing Guidelines

Additional information regarding PlusOne Solutions’ background screening searches and guidelines.

Processing Overview with Respect to Given, Alias, and Developed Names

When we receive screening requests, we are provided current name(s) for a subject, hereafter called “given” names, and may also be provided additional, alternate, or previous names, called “alias” name(s). During our screening process, we may also uncover additional names or alternate spellings of the given or alias name(s), hereafter called “developed” names. Developed names are most commonly identified from the results of other searches like the Person/Identity Search but may also come from a Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) or a NatCrim database searches.

When developed names are identified, it is important for PlusOne Solutions to ascertain if they are indeed legitimate and additional names to be searched. The name is the single most important identifier when ordering criminal records. Oftentimes we are provided with nicknames or short forms i.e. Timmy for Timothy Smith. Using reasonable procedures to ensure maximum possible accuracy, based on Customer requirements and contract, PlusOne Solutions may include alias and developed names, as well as the given name(s), when conducting county, state, or federal criminal and sex offender searches, in accordance with Customer requirements. The goal is to search using the complete legal names of the individual. The MVR search is driven primarily off the license number and state of issue so alias and developed names are not applicable in this search.

We constantly strive to provide the most comprehensive and thorough search results possible for our Customers and believe the decision to include these searches, as part of our standard process, improves the depth and accuracy of our screening. We constantly review how we handle records, what is best practice, and what changes we can make to our process to improve the quality of results. We further understand that no search is 100% guaranteed to uncover every possible record but by taking a thoughtful and diligent approach to include all names and applicable information we have access to, we can assist Customers in mitigating their risk.

Criminal Record Reporting Guidelines

The next area which deserves clarification are the guidelines around what we report when it comes to criminal record results. Typically, we are requesting a “7-year search for felony and misdemeanor convictions”, although Customer scope may vary. Although we only request 7 years of data, the court record researchers may return data older than that, provided it is readily available. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, we can report conviction information older than 7 years and will do so if it is received and reportable. Additionally, we may have state or jurisdictional reporting restrictions that create a shorter timeframe on what can be released. More recently, Ban the Box Legislation and Fair Chance Ordinances, as well as the legalization of marijuana, have also created reporting limitations on records, specifically with respect to misdemeanor offenses. Since the decriminalization of marijuana, in marijuana offenses, (sale, manufacture, distribution) some jurisdictions have restricted the use of this information. So, although it may have been illegal at the time the offense was committed, it is no longer to be used in making decisions or included in background reports.

These reporting restrictions are based on legislation and are not PlusOne Solutions’ decision or within our control to amend. Our adherence to these guidelines is what provides Customers assurance that we are delivering services in a compliant manner. Specifically, we will not report something that you cannot use or is considered a violation of legislation.

The reporting of criminal record information can become quite complex as each state, county, or federal jurisdiction may have different classifications for the same crime, different reporting mechanisms or record-keeping systems, or even limitations on what is available and can be reported. For this reason, PlusOne Solutions is constantly reviewing our practices with legal counsel to ensure our processes align with the most conservative and comprehensive approach when reporting records. Our desire is always to balance the best interests of the consumer (contractor), our Customers, as well as our business. This is a constantly evolving area driven by county, state, and federal requirements, legal interpretations, and outcomes of court cases i.e. case law. For this reason, these guidelines are subject to change at any time.

Criminal Record Reporting Guidelines

Nature of Record Reporting Guideline Comment/Example
Convictions Report all, with exception of jurisdiction limitations* counted from date of disposition / sentence / parole (adverse event)
Non-Convictions – includes nolo pros, sealed / expunged / invalidated / inoperative records, juvenile records and pretrial / deferral / first offender programs Only report for 7 years from date of charge (adverse event) These are charges that do not result in a conviction
Dismissed Charges/Cases Will not report
Pending Court Date Noted Will report for 7 years from date of charge
Open / Active Records Will report for 7 years from date of charge No conviction or dismissal listed on record; this includes active arrest warrants (unless known to be active)
Deferred Adjudication / Adjudication Withheld

 

If nolo contendre, conviction or guilty plea entered, we report per conviction rules; If no indication of conviction or disposition, follow rule for active records These depend on whether they are considered “convictions” or “non-convictions”
Probation If conviction and probation occurred within the last 7 years, we will report;

If conviction is older than 7 years but probation extends into 7 years, we will not report

If probation has not yet been satisfied, it is considered open and reportable
Mixed Verdict If charge resulted in a conviction, we will report per conviction rules; If charge did not result in a conviction, we will report per non-conviction rules This is when there are multiple charges, some of which result in convictions and some of which do not. We will not report those that did not result in a conviction
Salary Exemptions Assume all subjects make under the exemption Some states waive reporting restrictions based on salary exemptions.
Traffic Offences Reported if related to alcohol or drug, license suspension or reckless driving cases Not generally reported
Ordinance / Municipal Violations Not reported Not criminal in nature

*some jurisdictions such as counties or states have reporting restrictions based on consumer reporting and/or ban the box/fair chance legislation that limit the scope and type of records which can be reported. PlusOne Solutions will report only those records permissible by law.

 

Reporting Rules:

All reported records must have at least two identifiers – first and last name and DOB, address, SSN, DL info, or other personal identifiers. Common names, as defined by the US Census and our internal policies, must have at least 3 identifiers. If we are unable to ascertain that a record belongs to a subject, or we have information that indicates the record is not the subject, we will not report it.

 

Scope, Source and Service Definitions*

Glossary of Terms Used:

Central Court / County Seat – In counties with multiple courts that include smaller, local, lower level, outlying or remote municipal or justice-of-the-peace courts, the Central Court is considered that court in which felonies and most misdemeanors are adjudicated. The Central Court index may not include all cases that can be found in these smaller local courts, as such courts may not report all convictions to the Central Court—or “County Seat” Court – as it is sometimes referred to. Records may be searched through automated, researcher via public access terminals and/or clerk assisted methods.

Common Search – is the default search product from a vendor or researchers, which, when disclosed, provides their customer with an expectation of how that provider will perform their searches

Predominantly Used Index (PUI) – is the portion, or portions, of a county’s index at the Central Court which is commonly considered adequate to use exclusively in performing a Common Search. For example, in a county with three separate criminal index sections—such as: a section of the felony/misdemeanor index on a computer which extends 10 years back; a section of the felony/misdemeanor index on microfiche which extends from 10 to 20 years back; and a felony-only index that extends 60 years back—only that 10-year section of the felony/misdemeanor index on computer would constitute the Predominantly Used Index, if indeed it is the section of public index predominately and exclusively used by the local research community to perform a Common.

Readily Available – a record that is readily available through primary index (public access, computer database, automation) or clerk-based or clerk assisted records as compared to other records in the same court or public records agency; and is available without undue court access barriers such as court-imposed record access barriers—i.e. file-pull limitations (court only allows 5-10 file-pulls per provider per day), viewing time limitations (court only allows 1 hour of file-viewing per provider per day), et cetera. Available records are those which have not been lost, sealed, expunged, destroyed or otherwise rendered unavailable for public viewing

Search Scope – refers to the type of search (felony and misdemeanor) and the time period covered by a search (i.e. current jurisdiction, 7 years, 10 years, etc.), from starting date to through date. For most Customers, PlusOne conducts a 7-Year Search scope, which is the most common in the industry and means counties are searches based on 7 years of residential address history for the individual. Extended scopes are available upon request.

Starting Date – indicates how far in the past that subject was searched.

Source – location or provider from which information is furnished.

Subject – refers to the applicant, employee, or contractor on whom the information is being gathered.

Through Date – indicates how near to the present a subject will be searched. The through date is typically taken from the disposition/release date for convictions or the charge date for non-convictions.

*Definition summary from the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) Criminal Record Provider Guidelines

United States Background Screening Searches

Primary Source searches include data obtained directly from the source of record, for example, the court, or courts of conviction, or a central repository controlled by the county, state, or federal system. This data is considered to contain the most complete and up-to-date information on the subject and is considered FCRA compliant for reporting purposes in the United States.

County Criminal Search – This search uses the subject’s name, DOB, and address information to determine county jurisdiction(s) to be searched for a specific search scope. A typical search is for felony and misdemeanor criminal record information. Our search will be conducted of readily available information at the predominantly used index held at the central court in the requested jurisdiction. Additional jurisdictions can be ascertained from person/identity search results. The given, alias as well as developed names, may be included in the search. This search contains FCRA compliant information and is identified as “Primary Source” data.

Federal Criminal Search – Also considered “Primary Source” data, this search uses the subject’s name, DOB, and address information to determine federal jurisdiction(s) to be searched. Utilizing the federal judiciary’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER), an electronic access service, a search of felony and misdemeanors of ‘federal cases’ is conducted which may include securities and tax law violations, immigration, weapons, interstate drug crimes, civil rights violations, and civil cases filed at the federal level. This search identifies cases heard in the US District Courts, Bankruptcy Courts, and Courts of Appeals, as well as Supreme Court and three National Courts. Each of the eleven (11) federal courts oversee multiple states in their jurisdiction and cover 94 district courts.  For the most part, federal court jurisdictions only hear cases in which the United States is a party, cases involving violations of the Constitution or federal law, crimes on federal land, and bankruptcy cases or cases based on state law that involve parties from different states.

NOTE – Federal conviction records are often returned with limited identifiers and may be more difficult to match to the subject when date of birth, address, or SSN are not reported. If we are unable to make a positive confirmation of the subject to the record through case and docket information, we will not report results. See Reporting Rules for information on identification matching procedures.

Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) Search – This search uses the driver’s license number and state of issue to search the Department of Motor Vehicle (“DMV”) records for driving status and history. The individual’s name is also submitted but may not be required for the search. This search is used to determine the accuracy of the given information compared to the information maintained by the DMV including names and possibly reported date of birth, as available. The MVR report includes the class of the license, citation history, accident history, suspension information, license restrictions, and current status of the driver’s license. Search scope is limited by the individual state DMV and is at least 3 years, depending on the state.

NOTE: New Hampshire and Washington require specific forms and Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico have an alternative process.

 

Canada Background Screening Searches

Provincial/Territorial Criminal Search – This search uses the subject’s name, DOB and current address information to determine the province or territory to be searched. The search is of public record information available from the courts and will cover all pending and completed criminal matters pursuant to the Criminal Code of Canada (CCC) and/or Controlled Drugs & Substances Act (CDSA) and will extend as far as the court system allows. Summary, indictable and hybrid offenses are included. Searches results will not include criminal cases that cannot be released such as non-convictions such as dismissed or acquitted cases, Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) records, publication bans, mental health information, absolute or conditional discharges (if the 1 or 3 year reporting period has expired), warrants and/or pardons (record suspensions). This search is identified as “Primary Source” data.

NOTE: Searches conducted in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick require a specific disclosure form to be completed and is a slightly modified search from the above due to limited access issues. A standard consent form is needed for all searches.

 

Database Searches

NOTE – Database Searches are not a replacement for county-level criminal record searches as records are often incomplete, out of date or lacking complete identifiers. Not all courts make their information available for purchase so there are also large gaps and inconsistent quality in the data available. Searches are not considered to be “FCRA Compliant” unless information is verified against the primary source in accordance with Section 613 of the FCRA. The database searches are a cost-effective way to search a broad set of databases to identify potential convictions in court systems where the subject has not resided but is not a demonstration of due diligence on its own.

Person/Identity Search – This search goes beyond the traditional Social Security Number (SSN) Verification and uses the subject’s name, DOB, and SSN to verify their identity by searching hundreds of sources. Sources may include credit bureau header information, USPS address forwarding, utility bill records, voter registration data, licensing and registration data, and various aggregate databases. Search results may return additional names, residential address history, and other reported dates of births associated with the subject. This will also confirm when and where the SSN was issued, that the SSN does not belong to a deceased person, or was not issued prior to the date of birth of the subject. Developed names, alternate DOBs, and addresses may be identified and used to identify other court systems to search.

NOTE: Data for this search is obtained from a wide variety of information sources that are subject to human error and we are unable to assist a consumer in finding the original source any information that proves to be incorrect. Person / Identity Search information is not considered a reportable search in the consumer report and is primarily used as a locator tool to establish likely jurisdictions to search for public records.

 

State Criminal Search – This search uses the subject’s name, DOB and address information to determine the state jurisdiction(s) to be searched. This search accesses state managed databases where the state repository of the records is considered to be a reliable, updated, and a comprehensive compilation of county court records. We will only pull data from the agency designated to maintain those records and this search is not available in all jurisdictions due to incomplete information.

NOTE – We always encourage county searches to be ordered in addition to the statewide. This search may be considered primary source in some jurisdictions.

NatCrim Search – A broad search for criminal records using the subject’s provided name and DOB performed against a large database of available county and state criminal information, state reported sex offender records as well as fugitive, Department of Corrections, US and international government databases covering numerous watches and sanctions listings. Records may be updated weekly, monthly or on another timing schedule but vary from search to search.

In the US, Section 613 of the FCRA requires that all records identified as having the potential of being “pre-adverse” to the subject’s hiring, contracting, promotion, or volunteering, will automatically include the ordering of the identified criminal court criminal record(s) to obtain the most updated and current details directly from the source or provide notification to the subject that public record information is being provided about them. We will only report information from the NatCrim which has been verified against the source data to ensure the accuracy of the information before any possible records are reported and complies with the Section 613 of the FCRA now making the NatCrim that we offer an FCRA compliant search.

NatCrim + Alias Search – The most complete NatCrim search which includes an alias search to locate additional names the subject may be known by and then also includes these names, with the given name(s), in the NatCrim search. NOTE – these alias names identified are not included in other county, state or federal criminal or sex offender searches.

NOTE – The NatCrim search is suitable for international subjects as it does include various databases, watches and sanctions listings, not just US sources. Data is obtained from a wide variety of information sources that are subject to human error and we are unable to assist a consumer in finding the original source any information that proves to be incorrect. NatCrim Search information is not considered a reportable search in the consumer report and is primarily used as a locator tool to establish likely jurisdictions to search for public records.

DOJ Sex Offender Search – A Sex Offender Search is available using the subject’s name to search against the US Department of Justice, National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW). The initial search is a match/no match on the name. Additional identifiers such as the DOB, address, demographics, and other identifying information are then used to ascertain if a record belongs to a subject. If a record is located, cross references are made against criminal record and other database searches we have completed. All Sex Offender Registry records are manually reviewed in detail then reviewed again by a senior executive to reduce possible errors or inaccurate reporting.

NOTE: Sex Offender Registry searches only report the subject’s registration as a Registered Sex Offender and may not contain the actual criminal conviction(s) which resulted in their inclusion on the registry. Actual conviction data may not be available from the source court due to the age of the conviction or restrictions on reporting certain convictions. The existence of a registration on a sex offender registry is a defensible pre-adverse condition, if job relevant.

 

Administrative Agent Services

In the US, the use of consumer reports, specifically criminal records, in the hiring or contracting process is heavily regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (“BCFP”) under the enforcement of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) and guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).

We understand Customers may be inexperienced in the use of criminal background screens, motor vehicle driving records, and drug test results as they relate to hiring or contracting decisions. This inexperience may result in technical violations of the FCRA, as well as violations of the EEOC Guidelines, leading to EEOC investigations, hefty settlements, and fines. 

To address these needs, we offer administrative agent services to better manage the risks associated with the use of background screens and drug tests in the hiring process.  In so doing, PlusOne Solutions is acting ONLY as the administrative agent of our Customers. We are not making any decision and are not considered the end-user of the consumer report, as defined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). When engaged as an administrative agent, PlusOne Solutions is carrying out the directions and requirements for our Customers who still maintain all end-user responsibilities as outlined by the FCRA.

Initial Scoring and Pre-Adjudication – This service includes a review of all search results against a risk relevancy matrix, established by the Customer, to create an initial filter. This process then reviews the position a subject is being considered for and ensures the EEOC guidelines and “Green Factors” are respected. Since a decision is not being made at this stage as to the eligibility of the subject, this is a preventative step in the adjudication process. It is designed for better FCRA compliance and is meant to flag records for a more in-depth review. At the suggestion of the FTC and EEOC, this step can also remove records that are not deemed applicable to the Customer’s risk matrix.

FCRA Management and Administration – This service is designed to support Customers to administer adjudication, individual assessments, pre-adverse, and adverse action procedures as required under the FCRA, and the EEOC Guidelines. We will perform such administrative duties by acting as a limited administrative agent of the Customer, based on procedures adopted after consultation and approved solely by the Customer. Additionally, this service also includes compliance with municipal, county, and state Ban the Box and Fair Chance laws, as appropriate, only as it applies to the pre-adverse / adverse, individualized assessment and appeal requirements. Customers, and their network companies, are advised that additional obligations may exist for them in their role as an employer and the PlusOne Solutions process does not cover all these requirements.

Once a consumer report is completed for the Customer, PlusOne Solutions will conduct the “Green Factor Review” which contemplates the nature and gravity of the offense, the length of time since the occurrence, and the relevance to the role the individual is being considered for. The individualized assessment, if applicable, will be completed and PlusOne Solutions will apply the risk relevancy matrix, as provided by the Customer, to ensure the administrative handling of the consumer report. We will also assume responsibility for the FCRA process for pre-adverse determination and notification, and for sending the final adverse notifications, if applicable. All final contracting / employment decisions are the responsibility of the Customer or its providers.

 

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