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National Criminal Records Locator

About the National Criminal Records Locator

National Criminal Records Locator [NCRL], a search of a proprietary criminal records database containing over 400 million records (but not all). [ NCRL Source Information] As the name implies, the National Criminal Record Locator search is a “locator” device designed to perform a broad search to identify jurisdictions in which an applicant potentially has a criminal record. Potential ‘hits’ require matches on two or more identifiers – most commonly name and date of birth. If a NCRL record match is found, Verifications will automatically order the appropriate county level search(es) at no additional cost. Bear in mind that this will, when needed, add several days to the final order completion.


Any vendor who tells you that you are getting a national criminal records search is leading you on. No vendor has access to all national criminal records, as a publically-accessible database of this kind does not exist.

More Information on the NCRL: The number of records and jurisdictions covered in the National Criminal Record Locator search is massive. The database, however, does not contain every criminal record in the US, as no such database exists. Currently more than 3300 separate courts and jurisdictions in the US maintain their own criminal records. The National Criminal Records Locator search can only be ordered as part of a package that includes a county level records search and an SSN trace, as this database is not reliable as a standalone search tool. We recommend that families use this tool when seeking to cast a wide net.

There are two major weaknesses that are inherent to a criminal records database:

  1. What is included (and more importantly not included) in these records and
  2. Age of the records.

37 states compile and maintain records at a state level – this is the source of these records. The other states do not collect and provide a compilation of records. These databases are generally records of persons with felony convictions who were incarcerated in state prisons. Criminal convictions do not always involve state imprisonment. Fines, restitution, probation, or time in a county jail are common outcomes – and felons receiving this type of sentence would not necessarily be included in the databases. Misdemeanor convictions (drunk and disorderly, assault, petty theft for example) are not contained in the vast majority of these records.

These databases are by definition out of date on the day the become available. The refresh rate to the state databases is stated as between 3 – 6 months, but as a practical matter screening services are finding that some records are more than a year out of date.

Reputable providers of pre-employment screening all agree that the best screening is to review individual county felony and misdemeanor records. They often utilize the national databases to cast a wide net, in conjunction with county records searches, but would not stake their professional reputations on the ‘nationwide’ search alone.

The Basic Background Check, provided by our sister companies are an on-site search of county criminal records, with the exception of New York State. New York only provides access to a state-wide records repository, which individual NYS jurisdictions are required to routinely update. The search may be upgraded for a modest fee to include the National Criminal Records Locator.

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