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National Background Check vs County Background Check

Updated: Jan 25

In today's world, background checks are essential for employers, landlords, and various organizations to ensure the safety and security of their workforce, tenants, and community.

Two of the most common types of background checks are national background checks and county background checks. This article will dive into the differences between these two methods, highlighting their pros and cons, as well as the importance of confirming national background check hits at the county level and adhering to strict Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) compliance.

Order a Background Check on employees, contractors or volunteers today!

National Background Check

A national background check search casts a wide net, searching a comprehensive database that aggregates information from hundreds of various organizations and government agencies across the United States. It's beginning step of the background screening process in the United States.

The list of agencies and organizations searched may include:

  • Sex Offender Registries

  • Administration Office of the Courts

  • Board of Pardons and Paroles

  • National Wants and Warrants

  • Department of Public Safety

  • State Judiciary

  • State Superior Courts

  • Municipal Courts

  • Circuit Courts

  • Common Pleas

  • Summary Dockets

  • County Warrants

  • County Mugshots

  • National Fugitive Database

  • Crime Stoppers Warrants

  • Department of Corrections

  • County Booking

  • Jail Booking

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI.GOV)

  • Bureau of Criminal Apprehension


  1. Broader scope: A national database search covers a much larger geographic area, providing a more extensive overview of an individual's background.

  2. Faster results: Results are generated more quickly, as it involves searching through an existing database.

  3. Cost-effective: National database searches are generally more affordable than county-level searches, making them a good option for organizations with budget constraints.


  1. Less accurate: Even though Global Background Screening's National Search receives records as soon as 1 business day, National databases may not be as up-to-date as county-level records.

  2. Limited detail: National databases might not include all relevant information, such as specific details on criminal charges, case outcomes, or the most recent court dates. However, anything that shows up on the National Criminal Database will need to be verified at the county level.

  3. Limited Applicant information: Date of Births, Addresses and other personal information may be limited causing issues if not verified at the county level.

  4. Jurisdictional issues: Most importantly, some criminal records are maintained at the state or local level only and may not be included in a national database. It's possible that a search conducted on a national level might miss records held in a specific state or locality. This is why it's always important to utilize the SSN Trace and check all counties associated within your required search scope. (Typically 7 years)

County Background Check

County-level searches involve researchers going directly to the courthouse public access terminals, requesting information from clerks, and verifying the most recent information on applicants. This method focuses on a specific geographic area and provides detailed information about specific criminal charges, case outcomes, next court dates, and sentencing information. County background checks are typically ordered in conjunction with a user's SSN trace address history and any possible records found at the National level.


  1. More accurate: County-level searches are more accurate and up-to-date, as they involve directly accessing local records at the courthouse.

  2. Greater detail: These searches provide more detailed information, which may not be available in a national database.

  3. Higher reliability: By searching at the local level, there's a lower chance of overlooking relevant records, making the results more reliable.


  1. Narrower scope: County-level searches are limited to a specific geographic area and may not reveal records from other jurisdictions, potentially leaving gaps in a subject's background.

  2. Longer turnaround time: These searches can take longer to complete, as they often involve manual requests and retrieval of records from local sources.

  3. Higher cost: County-level searches are generally more expensive due to the additional time and resources required to access local records.

Confirming National Background Check Hits at the County Level

Global Background Screening understands the importance of providing accurate and comprehensive information. We follow strict federal and state compliance for confirming all possible hits from the national background check at the county level, adhering to FCRA compliance in the process. The FCRA is a federal law that governs how consumer reporting agencies use and share consumer information, protecting individuals' privacy and ensuring the accuracy of the information used in consumer reports.

Can You Order a Free Background Check?

Many individuals aren't aware that they can conduct a criminal background check without any cost. If you're familiar with the specific courthouse you need to search, you can visit in person to use public access computers or ask a clerk for help.

However, difficulties arise when you don't know where to go or how each public access terminal works, especially since multiple courts can exist within a single county. For instance, Georgia has State, Superior, and Municipal courts across its 159 counties. This is when a background screening company like Global Background Screening becomes invaluable, offering swift, efficient, and compliant searches through their network of court researchers across all states.

Let's Summarize the importance of a National and County Background Check

A national background check provides a broad overview of an individual's background by aggregating data from numerous organizations and government agencies. However, these searches may not be as accurate or detailed as a county-level search. Final dispositions, amended cases and even violation of probation may be off. In addition, needed identifiers like the Date of Birth and Addresses may be missing, causing false positives with common names. On the other hand, county-level searches provide the most accurate and up-to-date information by directly accessing local records.

It is always beneficial to combine both search methods for the most comprehensive background check possible. Companies like Global Background Screening take extra care to confirm all possible hits from national background checks at the county level, ensuring the highest accuracy and reliability. Additionally, adherence to strict FCRA compliance is crucial for safeguarding the rights and privacy of individuals, maintaining a balance between the need for information and individual rights.

Understanding the differences between national background check and county background check is vital for organizations looking to make informed decisions about potential employees, tenants, or other individuals.

By considering the pros and cons of each method and working with a reputable background screening company, organizations can ensure they receive the most accurate and comprehensive information possible, ultimately promoting a safer and more secure environment.

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