October 6, 2016
Estimated Read Time: 3 Minutes
A state repository is a state-managed criminal record database that contains court records compiled from a variety of sources within that state – mainly county court records. Most states within the US maintain a state repository in some form, though not all are accessible to employers for use in employment screening.
The standard research process for background checks involves selectively searching each county where an applicant or employee has lived. As you can imagine, this process can be slow since it requires the person conducting the research to investigate each county court system individually. This is especially true in counties where court records haven’t been digitized.
The objective of state repositories is to provide a single source for criminal records so that state agencies or employers can conduct background checks on individuals quickly and easily. While state repositories sound great in theory, there can be some downsides to using them in your employment screening process. The thing to remember is that state repositories are databases. Like any other database, state repositories are only as good as their sources.
If a county without a digital filing process decides that they don’t want to digitize their process in order to contribute to the state repository, then the repository will naturally not include court records from that county. This may not be a problem when it is a rural county with few records. However, if several counties choose not to participate, there will end up being a serious gap in the amount of records available through that state’s repository. Unfortunately, most states fit within this scenario.
Even if a county contributes to the state repository, there is still the issue of how frequently each county contributes their records. If a county doesn’t contribute new records or changes to existing records in a timely manner, it may lead to newer criminal records not being reported. Equally as serious, expunged or otherwise unreportable criminal records may also end up in a background check if the repository hasn’t been updated since the change was made.
In 2012 , the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics compiled data on each of the state repositories – trying to establish the full picture of the current status of each repository. Their findings were not positive: read the report.
Compliant Background Screening Practices
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Of the so many state repositories available to employers, very few of them are actually reliable enough to be used for employment screening purposes. In fact, there are only 5 states that we’ve deemed reliable enough for use in employment screening:
If your business is fortunate enough to operate within one of these states, it’s still important to know that using the state repository isn’t always enough on its own. Remember, state repositories only hold criminal records for crimes that were committed in that state. If your applicant recently moved or commutes from another state, you may be missing information by only using your state’s repository.
It is best to cast a wide net. Don’t rely on state repositories alone to provide the information you need on a background check. Make sure to supplement the information with the standard criminal county search in areas that are not covered by the reliable state repositories.
The same applies in situations where employers are required to use their state’s repository. If you are required to use a state repository and do not live in one of the previously listed states, it would be wise to supplement your background check with additional search options to make sure that you are not missing criminal records if they exist.