What Is a “National” Criminal Records Search?
Unfortunately, in our industry, there is widespread incomplete, inaccurate and downright misleading information about what a “national” criminal records search actually is. First and foremost, with 7000+ courts and 3000+ counties in the U.S., there is no such thing as fully accurate and complete “national” or “nationwide” criminal records search. The closest thing to a true “national” criminal records database is maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice. With very few exceptions, this database is available only to law enforcement agencies, and is not available for public access, including GladiKnow and our competitors.
The “national” criminal records searches which are available to the public are, in fact, compilations of millions records nationwide by private companies. These companies have aggregated the records into private, proprietary databases. They have compiled their databases from millions of county court records, incarceration records, prison/inmate records, probation/parole/release information, arrest data, and other sources. These companies then sell access to their databases to third parties, like GladiKnow, for resale to the public for specific, permissible purposes. Like any product, there are higher quality (generally more expensive), and lower quality (generally less expensive) solutions.
Fortunately, the Executive Team at GladiKnow has been in the data/information industry for over 20 years, and we know the data aggregators throughout our industry very well – the good and the bad. For your benefit, GladiKnow has partnered with data providers that we believe represent some of the very best in the industry, in order to provide to you some of the highest quality criminal records searches available.
It’s unfortunate that some of the other companies may give the impression that a national criminal records search is the end all, be all criminal search product – a one stop shop. It is not. The truth is, a "hit" (record found) on a national criminal records search does not always mean that the subject, in fact, has a criminal history. Even more so, a "clear" (no record found) does not always mean that the subject does not have a criminal record. This is due to several reasons including the sheer volume of the data collected (millions of individual records gathered from thousands of sources), as well as the fact that many counties do not provide access to bulk data at all.
As a result, there are significant gaps in coverage and accuracy in ALL publicly available national criminal searches, including the very best ones. This is true for all levels of criminal history, from infractions to very serious violent felonies.
Our Best Practice Recommendation
For all its drawbacks and limitations, at GladiKnow, we strongly believe that the national criminal records search has good value, and that its best use is as an investigative starting point. Since most crimes are tried (and the records kept) in the county where the crime occurred, our best practice recommendation is to search the county or counties where the subject has lived, as well as the state where the subject has lived, in those states where the statewide criminal records search is available and presents a good value. (Please see our discussion and recommendations in Criminal Records – Statewide.)
For a description and explanation of the different levels of crimes, please see our FAQs: What is the difference between an Infraction, Misdemeanor and Felony?