Free Criminal Background Checks

By checking the public and private records of all potential applicants, you can better ensure a safer working environment for fellow employees and guests. Some of the most frequently asked questions about criminal background checks are listed below.

1 – How much does a criminal background check cost?

The cost of criminal background checks can vary greatly and depends on a number of factors.  More comprehensive searches generally cost more than basic searches.  Some agencies offer free criminal background checks, while other agencies may charge for the exact same service.  Companies that request a high volume of reports each year often receive lower rates than those who request only an occasional background check.  Shop around for a low cost or even free criminal background check. 

2 – What industries require criminal background checks?

Federal law requires criminal background checks for all applicants who desire to work in law enforcement, hospitals, childcare, nursing homes, and disability centers.  This is a result of the growing incidence of sexual assault, molestation, child violence, and kidnappings. 

3 – Why do many employers conduct criminal background checks?

Although many industries are not legally required to conduct background checks on all job applicants, an increasing number of employers are choosing to conduct them in order to ensure a successful business.  Criminal background checks are a great tool for evaluating self-reported information provided by applicants.  They help to minimize violence in the workplace and they help to reduce the liability of the employer if an employee hurts someone or causes other havoc on the job.  

4 – Do old convictions, probations, or arrests show up on criminal background checks?

Federal law allows criminal convictions to be reported on criminal background checks indefinitely, although each state may offer a different level of privacy protection.  In order to find out about what can be reported on criminal background checks in your state, visit your state fair employment agency.  Criminal convictions may not show up on all criminal background checks, especially if it is only a very minor check.  Employers of high profile jobs that require background checks by law are more likely to see your fully disclosed criminal record, as opposed to a landlord who is simply looking for new tenants.  

5 – Is the information reported on criminal background checks always accurate?

Like almost anything in life, a criminal background check is not necessarily fault proof.  If an individual’s information is inaccurately recorded, the individual may file a dispute in writing to whichever company prepared the report.  Errors can be corrected by going to the source of the inaccuracy, such as a credit issuer or a court.  Fixing an inaccuracy with one agency does not prevent other agencies from reporting the same inaccuracies.  Although criminal background checks are generally accurate, employers should be careful when making hiring decisions solely based off of reported information without receiving validation.   

6 – Can a criminal record disqualify an individual from ever getting a job?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an individual cannot be denied employment solely based on a criminal record.  Employers must make hiring decisions based on a “business necessity”.  The employer should consider the nature of the job that is held or being sought after by the convicted individual, the type and severity of each offense, and the time that has passed since the criminal conviction and the completion of the sentence.  The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that these standards be followed whether the employer conducted the criminal background check on his own or with a third-party company. 

7 – Can criminal background checks be performed on independent contractors?

Employers who hire independent contractors to work with their company are still required to comply with all FCRA provisions.  They must provide full disclosure and receive authorization before conducting a criminal background check.  They must also make hiring decisions based on “business necessity”, although such a term can be broadly interpreted.  Volunteer agencies that conduct criminal background checks must abide by these same provisions. 

8 – Can employers conduct criminal background checks on existing employees?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act states that employers are authorized to conduct criminal background checks on both job applicants and existing employees.  The same FCRA regulations should be followed in both cases.  

9 – Can an individual legally be fired based on information that they employer discovered through a criminal background check?

It depends on a number of factors such as the type of job and state laws.  It is best to consult an attorney who can evaluate the overall situation and give you legal advise concerning this mater. 

10 – Where can I obtain a free criminal background check?

You can obtain an online criminal background check for free by visiting a variety of websites.  The best place to find out about sex offenders in your area is Family Watchdog® (  This website maintains a national sex offender registry of all fifty states and it is open to the public.  It can be an invaluable source for schools, hospitals, daycares, and other agencies that work with children.  A great resource for gathering court records and other public documents in all fifty states is the website© (  Public records for each individual state can be obtained through your home state’s district court website.  DUIs and other pending cases are often updated on a daily bases.  By conducting a little research, you may be able to find several agencies that offer free public and private criminal information. 

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