Understanding the U.S. Criminal Court structure and how it affects employment background screening is essential for employers.
Criminal background checks have become a vital part of the background screening process for employers striving to achieve due diligence for the purposes of increasing workplace safety and reducing the potential of negligent hiring litigation. There are thousands of criminal courts across the United States, each with its own court structure.
For employers, it is critical to understand:
- The availability and limitations of criminal history data and knowing where the data can be found;
- The difficulties in obtaining accurate information;
- How to develop appropriate search strategies for being thorough and cost-effective.
In many states, local courts serve the purpose of resolving local, village or city issues dealing with minor misdemeanors, ordinance violations and licensing infractions. Often these types of courts do not offer a jury trial, just interpretation of local and state laws.
Most criminal or non-criminal convictions at this level will require restitution, a fine or probation, and typically don’t include incarceration. Although some offenses can involve criminal activity, most can be resolved by a local Magistrate or law enforcement official that is an appointed or elected representative with specific training and legal or law enforcement experience. If a decision cannot be rendered by this appointed judge or magistrate, the case would then be sent to a higher court for further action, or even a jury trial, if warranted.
Records within these courts must be searched at the local level and are not maintained by the county court. Most employers don’t request a court search of this type due to time, expense and actionable information as it pertains to adjudication within screening policies. This could be a reason that certain convictions disclosed by a candidate are not discovered through the typical scope of a records search program.
Navigating the courts is easy with Employment Background Investigations, Inc. (EBI). EBI, along with the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), continues to focus on developing “best practices” for conducting effective criminal search programs. The ideal background check should be accurate, comprehensive, consistent, timely and compliant.
At EBI, we're court experts and we utilize highly qualified court researchers that are fully vetted with specific jurisdictional knowledge required to deliver the highest quality information in the most efficient and timely manner. We monitor thousands of courts daily, track changes, delays and closures and keep you informed throughout the entire process.