What are the differences between state, federal and county searches?
December 2, 2019
County searches are very detailed and specific felony and misdemeanor searches in a courthouse of the county where the applicant currently, or previously, resided. While a national criminal database can be “an inch deep and a mile wide”, a county courthouse search is “a mile deep and an inch wide.”
A federal criminal search covers federal crimes that are federally prosecuted and typically not included in either county or statewide criminal checks. This search identifies possible convictions heard in the US District Courts, Bankruptcy Courts and Courts of Appeals, as well as Supreme Court and three National Courts. Federal conviction records are often returned with limited identifiers such as “Name Match Only” so it may be more difficult to match to the applicant when date of birth, address, or SSN are not reported.
State repository databases are meant to serve as an aggregation of county-level records within a given state. Unfortunately, these are normally less complete and not all states offer a comprehensive search. By comprehensive, we are looking for all felony and misdemeanor information for at least a seven-year period. The state repositories rely on the various agencies to report information and may not include as much detail as the county level searches as not all courts participate and not all information from participating counties is reported in real-time.