National criminal background check…is it even possible?

Recently, I was asked to run a criminal records check on two Penn State athletes.  I used the Public Records Criminal History database on LexisNexis.  But even after I had completed the research, was it definitive?

Then, today I discovered an interesting article by Jackie Walters, a Washington, D.C. law librarian, entitled “National Background Checks: Myths, Realities, Resources”.

There is no central repository for federal, state or local criminal records, and the record gathering in each state varies.

But this article gives some sensible steps for beginning such a search and then lists some free public records sites to use.

The Criminal History Records search under Public Records on LexisNexis is a good source for us, but I want you to realize that because of the way each state reports criminal records, it’s not a complete search. 

When using the LexisNexis Criminal History search, look for the word ‘Source’ and click on the small i beside it.  This will give you detailed information about what is included under each state.  It might surprise you.



Filed under Crime, Journalism/Reporting, Penn State, Public Records, Searching

5 responses to “National criminal background check…is it even possible?

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