There is no better source than county (a.k.a. local) criminal records for the most useful information about the criminal background of your job candidates and employees. The county court system is where most criminal proceedings begin and end. Therefore, when performed properly, a search of county records will give you the most complete, accurate, and up-to-date information on local-level crimes.
A local criminal records search seems straight-forward, until you consider there are more than 3,300 local jurisdictions and 7,000 significant courts in the United States. Add to that the varying structures of the court systems from state to state, and county criminal records become not only the most useful type of criminal background check but also the most variable in terms of cost.
What are the drivers that cause variability in the cost of a county criminal records check?
Variables That Drive Local/County Criminal Records Check Costs
The price you’ll pay for county criminal records search is driven by several key factors:
1. What the Courts Charge to Access their Records
Local jurisdictions charge a fee for researchers to retrieve data from their records. Access fees vary by court and commonly range from $2 to $10 per search to cover incidental administrative costs (staffing, paper copies, overhead) that the jurisdictions incur. These costs are passed along to you.
2. Number of Jurisdictions Searched
When you ask for a local criminal records search, your provider will obtain records straight from the jurisdictions in which your applicant has lived or worked, and possibly also in jurisdictions where a national or statewide search has shown possible findings, over the desired look-back period. The more jurisdictions they need to search, the higher the cost of the background check.
3. Look-Back Period
Depending on how far back the look-back period is for a particular background check (e.g., 3-year, 7-year, 10-year, etc.), the greater the potential cost. Since a longer timeframe might result in more jurisdictions, or the need to search multiple sources of data (online and stored records, for example), this can drive the price higher.
5. Verification of Hits
Some reports will come back with a “hit” on a record, meaning there is a potential finding that would need to be more closely researched. A hit can trigger the need for additional research which can result in additional costs.
As you can see, county criminal records are inherently complex and subject to variability. When you understand what drives the cost, you can better manage your hiring budgets and expectations.