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Applicant Information

Criminal records

When first engaging with many new customers, we are asked to perform a FBI search, a NCIC search or a Live Scan. To help explain what these requests mean, we have listed key terms below:

  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – the FBI is charged with managing the NCIC system described below, along with other repositories.
  • National Crime Information Center (NCIC) – The NCIC is a centralized clearinghouse for crime information in the United States. It hosts some of the information available, but often provides the infrastructure to share local, state and federal records through one system. The NCIC deals with documenting stolen vehicles, boats, firearms, and financial instruments such as stocks, bonds, and other serialized property. In addition, it serves as a central location for looking up records on criminal arrest, outstanding warrant information, reported missing persons and other categories of people.
  • Interstate Identification Index (III) – the III is the fingerprint data repository managed by the FBI. It is one of the repositories in the NCIC.
  • Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) – commonly referred to as “Live Scan,” Live Scan is a network of electronic fingerprint collection and transmission machines. It is used to securely submit fingerprints to state and/or federal agencies for investigation.
  • NCIC / FBI check – a colloquial expression for a fingerprint based background check. The level of scrutiny attached to the background check is usually based on the proposed occupation. Examples of different occupations that require state and/or federal based fingerprint screening:
    • Bank employees
    • Law enforcement employees
    • Military personal obtaining security clearance
    • Childcare providers
    • Commercial truck drivers that haul hazardous materials

NOTE: Requesting a fingerprint based search for employment purposes is unusual outside occupations specifically outlined by statue or regulation. In fact, in some states it is against the law to request this information. Notably, California makes it a misdemeanor for an employer to ask for this to be provided if not mandated by law. Similarly, a California job applicant to providing their fingerprint generated criminal record to an unauthorized third party is also a misdemeanor.

Fingerprint based background searches are generally not Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) compliant

In 2006, the Federal government produced a report on criminal background checks. Notably, the report cites that approximately 50% of the arrest records contained in the FBI administered Interstate Identification Index do not have information detailing the outcome of the arrest. The arrest outcome information is typically stored at a county level court system, where the vast majority of criminal proceedings take place.

The FCRA has time limits for an employer using arrest records that do not have a resulting conviction. In addition, many states prohibit employers from using criminal records that do not result in a conviction.

Fingerprint based background searches take time

The California records process take 2 – 14 days. A Federal search can range from same day to over 120 days depending on the type of investigation being requested.

So what can an employer do?

The Applicant Information companies provide a systematic interface to the 10,000 court systems in the United States. In addition, we have investigative resources that can reach around the world.

In the United States, criminal court records are generally viewed as public records, available for inspection by anyone that asks. We have a network of court researchers that comb through local courts’ record system for information pertaining to an applicant. Generally, we will check a county level court system, as this level of courts handles the vast majority of criminal proceedings. Because the county courts handle the cases, their records are generally viewed as the most accurate and most recent versions of the proceedings available. This is an important standard under the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The court researchers require personally identifying information to match against the court records. This means supplying the applicant’s full legal name, date of birth, and social security number. With this information, a court researcher will check the court index. If a possible record is found using the supplied personally identifying information, the court researcher will need to will request a copy of the court file, usually stored as an actual paper file in an offsite archive. Once the requested record is delivered, the court researcher will read the court record for any information that will help identify the person in the court system.

The court researcher’s resulting information is recorded into Applicant Information's secure, web based information system. The results are available to you after the court researcher’s work is quality checked.

The entire process typically takes 2 – 4 business days. It can sometimes take longer when we encounter court imposed delays.


There are some exceptions, such as juvenille court records, some sexual assualt cases and national security proceedings.

California Attorney General - Frequently Asked Questions - Criminal Records - Request Your Own (click on the show all answer link)

The Attorney General’s Report on Criminal History Background Checks - Section III, page 17 (page 21 of the PDF file)

Section 623(a) of the FCRA


It even more complex

For the sake of brevity. we havefingerprint deliberately left out many of the exceptions that affect very specific situations in the explanation.

If you have a question regarding a specific situation, please contact us directly.

daita NAPBS founder Concerned CRAs