Even though the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) definitely makes it easier for US citizens to gain access to public records they might not have been able to access before, the whole background check process is still pretty complex and convoluted.
Every state has its own rules and regulations regarding how background checks are handled, and Iowa is no different.
That’s why we have put together this detailed guide.
Below you’ll find information to help you navigate the Iowa background check process.
You’ll be able to stay in full compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1960 (Title VII), but you’ll also be able to navigate the Iowa specific parts of the background check process pursuant to the Iowa Open Records laws.
Let’s get right into it!
Iowa Background Check Info You Need to Know
As we just mentioned a moment ago, Iowa has some of its own rules and regulations that you’ll need to know about before you start a background check here.
These laws are bundled together under the classification of Iowa Open Records Law and are generally regarded as a series of laws and regulations that help the general public (including employers) gain better and more transparent access to public records.
As part of these laws, the Iowa state government created what is called the Iowa Public Information Board.
This governmental body is fully responsible for enforcing those public record rules and regulations and is an organization made up of government officials as well as private individuals and members of the media.
Every public record request gives state officials 20 days to respond. After that, the request is immediately approved – and even if a request is denied, individuals and organizations have an opportunity to appeal that denial, too.
At the end of the day, this definitely helps streamline the background check process in Iowa quite a bit.
Can Anyone Look Up Someone’s Background in Iowa?
According to state law, anyone requesting background information regarding any individual in the state of Iowa has the opportunity to do so as long as they go through the approved process.
This process does vary from department to department, however. The process may not be identical with the Iowa Department of Public Safety and the Iowa Judicial Branch, for example – though they have a lot more in common than they have differences.
Iowa allows individual citizens, groups, private businesses, public sector organizations, and noncitizens the opportunity to search background information in the state of Iowa, too.
This is definitely one of the more transparent states in the country, that’s for sure.
What Type of Info Shows Up on an Iowa Background Check?
Criminal background checks conducted in the state of Iowa are going to include a lot of details relating to the criminal history of the individual being researched, details that can include, but are not limited to:
- Personal information regarding the person in question
- All dates and locations of any arrests on record
- The name of the arresting officer and their Police Department
- Where the booking occurred
- The case status of that arrest
- And the name of the individual that put out the arrest warrant
Court records will include information like:
- Detailed breakdowns of court minutes
- Information regarding all case files on record
- Docket numbers for further research
- All orders made by the court
- Information regarding the judgment documentation
Inmate information is also available (on request) from the state of Iowa. This kind of information includes:
- Personal data and details
- Any mugshots that have been taken
- The location of the inmate within the Iowa prison system
- The inmate registration ID number
- Any information regarding facility transfers
- And custody information and current status
Why Are Employers Running Background Checks in Iowa?
There are plenty of different reasons that employers in the state of Iowa would be interested in running a background check, reasons totally unique to that employer as well as to that specific hiring process.
At the same time, many businesses in Iowa share a lot of commonalities when it comes to their reasons behind running background checks.
Below we highlight just a few of the most common reasons Iowa businesses, entrepreneurs, and hiring agencies are going to look a little deeper into the history of the applicants they are considering for new positions.
Improve Workplace Safety – One of the most common reasons employers look into the background of potential new hires is that they want to ensure (as much as possible) a safe workplace for everyone employed. Digging a little deeper into the criminal history of potential new hires can reveal any problems with violence they may have had in the past, and while that’s not a predictor of future behavior it does provide a more complete picture than an application and interview could.
Gain Insight Into Intangibles – Character is always an important part of the hiring process, with businesses interested in bringing new members onboard that are honest, hard-working, trustworthy people. They look into a person’s criminal past (or lack thereof) to get a better feel for these kinds of intangible qualities.
Avoid Legal Issues – No business wants to bring on any extra liability or potential legal issues, especially if they haven’t already invested any money, time, or resources into a potential hire. Businesses are always looking to protect their bottom line, and are going to look into the background of most potential employees to be sure that there aren’t any unpleasant surprises to be found.
How Far Back Do Background Checks Reach?
The Iowa Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) is responsible for maintaining and collecting all background check information and criminal records that the visuals or businesses might be looking for.
The central hub for records is located in Des Moines, Iowa at 215 E. 7th St. It is possible for you to visit these offices directly if you want to look up records on your own, though many choose to go through the tried and true online application for information process.
Like every other state in the US, the DCI is required to maintain records for at least seven years – and provide at least seven years of information during each background check. This is pretty standard and what most employers are looking for when they are running through the actual background check process in the first place.
Iowa takes things a little bit further than that, though, maintaining all criminal history for Iowa citizens until they reached the age of 80 or until they pass away (whichever happens first).
This is (considerably) longer than most other states in the nation maintain their records, but it’s how far back background checks can go in the state of Iowa today.
How Do I Run an Iowa Background Check?
Running a background check in Iowa is not that difficult of a process to navigate, thanks to the (generally) centralized location of all the information and resources you might be after.
The overwhelming majority of people are going to need to contact the Iowa Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to initiate a background check.
This is especially true if an individual or organization is looking for criminal record information, particularly arrest and conviction information.
If, however, an individual or organization is looking for court records they are going to need to contact the Iowa Judicial Branch and run a search that way.
This process begins by speaking with the clerk in the county holding the records you want to view, or by visiting the Clerk of the Iowa Supreme Court if you’re looking for appellate court information.
Administrative records can be provided by the State Court Administrator. They’ll need to be contacted at their office directly before they will be able to release any information whatsoever.
Make sure that you have full details (including name, date of birth, last known address, etc.) to expedite the process if you’re going to be contacting the State Court Administrator. Any extra information that you can provide when you request this kind of background check will definitely help to speed things along a little bit, but it also helps them zero in on the right person in their records as well.
If individuals or organizations are looking for vital records (birth records, death records, marriage certificates, etc.) then the search has to begin with the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Again, make sure that you have as much information about the individual you are checking before you contact the Department of Public Health for these kinds of records. Every piece of extra information you can provide will help to move things along a lot faster and help to guarantee the accuracy of the reports that you are getting, too.
How Long Does It Take to Run an Iowa Background Check?
According to Iowa state law, requests for background checks need to be responded to within 20 days of their filing – either giving approval for the background check to go through or denial with a detailed explanation of why it was denied in the first place.
The overwhelming majority of background checks in Iowa are processed within 1 to 3 business days, and almost all of them are approved.
If (for some reason) a background check application you submitted has gone to 20 days and beyond it gets automatically approved, and you’ll get your information relatively quickly.
You may also want to contact the Department of Public Safety if you’re approaching that 20-day limit and have not yet received an answer about your background check application.
If something was “lost in the shuffle” they may be able to help you get it back on track, confirm that it was approved, and then give you the green light to move forward with the rest of the background check process.
How Much Do Background Checks in Iowa Cost?
State background checks that involve just a “name check” – the name, DOB, and last known address of the Iowa citizen the background check is searching for – are conducted by the Department of Public Safety DCI organization in Iowa.
Each of these searches will cost $15.
FBI background checks are available as well, taking things a step further and (generally) including a fingerprinting check as well as a name check.
These background checks (understandably) take a little bit longer for pilots to process, as they have to wait for the FBI to do their part of the background check as well. Unsurprisingly, these checks are more expensive than name-checks – coming in at $27.50 per check.
Those looking to run state sex offender checks are able to do so 100% free of charge with absolutely no station whatsoever.
Are There Background Checks for Firearms in Iowa?
As far as background checks for firearms in Iowa are concerned, the same federal laws that every state must adhere to are in place in Iowa as well.
This means that every firearm purchased from a Federal-Firearm License (FFL) dealer needs to go through what’s called a NICS background check.
This background check is conducted by the FBI, and (in most cases) is handled almost instantly.
As far as background checks for private sales are concerned, there are no rules or restrictions in place in Iowa that make those a requirement. On top of that, the state does not require any of their firearms to be registered by the state government, either.
Iowa generally has a respectful disposition to the Second Amendment. It is a “shall issue” state, which means that getting a concealed carry license in Iowa is generally pretty simple and forward. A firearms license (only available after a detailed background check) is mandatory for all handguns.
Are Iowa Criminal Records Easily Checked?
As highlighted a couple of times throughout this detailed guide, getting access to background check information in the state of Iowa is not as challenging as it might be with another state.
All individuals, organizations, and businesses have to do is contact the Iowa Department of Public Safety directly and fill out a Criminal History Request Form. After that has been filled out, the Criminal History Billing Form has to be filled out as well – with both of them sent off to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation in Des Moines offices.
From there, the records will be mailed back to you which usually takes a week or two (if not a little longer).
Sometimes you can get lucky and have those records expedited, though it’s sort of luck of the draw in those circumstances.
If you are having a difficult time getting an answer about your criminal background check application and it’s approaching the 20-day limit, or if you would like to see if you could have things expedited for you, it never hurts to contact the Department of Public Safety in Iowa directly themselves.
They do not necessarily have to help speed things up, but it’s not at all uncommon for things to start moving along when you reach out directly and see if they can assist in one way or another.
What About Iowa Driving Records?
Individuals looking for the around Iowa driving records, as well as those that want to run driving record background checks on another individual, are going to need to contact the Iowa Department of Transportation directly to begin this process.
Iowa DOT is responsible for handling all of the records.
It’s possible to gain access to these records just by visiting the IowaDOT.gov website directly, filling out the myMVD Forms, and requesting an official driving record to be displayed for your convenience.
These records cost $5.50 with a $1.50 processing fee, but you’ll have your complete record popped up on the computer for you to take advantage of at that point. You can also choose to save or print those records out if that’s something you are interested in.
You can access your Iowa DOT driving record through the mail as another option.
What you’ll want to do here is request your certified driving record from the DOT by mailing them a request to:
Driver Identification Services
Iowa Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 9204
Des Moines, Iowa 50306-9204
You’ll usually get these records sent back to you inside of about two or three weeks.
Just make sure that you submit a $0.50 payment for every single document that you are requesting through the mail. Without that payment, you’ll have to readdress, resubmit, and request the information all over again.
Can I Search Iowa Sex Offender Records?
Iowa, like pretty much every other state in the US, makes it very easy to search for any sexual offenders or sex criminals that have been convicted in this state.
The Iowa Sex Offender Registry can be found at IowaSexOffender.gov/search. You’ll be able to search this database 100% free of charge with no restrictions, just as often as you like and on a 24/7 basis.
All you have to do is fill out an identity verification form attached to a disclaimer that acknowledges you understand that your accessing the sex offender registry for the state.
After that is taking care of you’ll be able to browse the entirety of the sex offender registry, as well as set up notifications, an automated watchlist or potential registrants you want more details on, and an always up-to-date Most Wanted section maintained by Iowa State authorities.
How Do I Get Credit History During a Background Check?
All credit history background checks are going to need to be run through the three major credit reporting bureaus, the same credit reporting agencies that are responsible for what we call our “credit score”.
These three companies are beholden to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) but so are the individuals, businesses, and organizations that are trying to access your credit history as well.
If you are trying to run a background check on someone else, you’ll need to get signed and written permission to conduct a background check that includes their financial and credit history.
If someone is trying to run a background check on you, they’ll need to get the same permission from you – and you always have the opportunity to decline under federal law.
At the end of the day, these three agencies are going to be responsible for handling the majority of the heavy lifting when it comes to giving background checkers the information that they are on the lookout for.
What If I Uncover Incorrect Data on a Background Check?
If any incorrect information, inaccurate information, or incomplete information is discovered somewhere during the background check process in Iowa it’s important to reach out to the right authorities and get things remedied ASAP.
Most of the time this is going to mean a phone call to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, though you may have to contact a county clerk’s office, the state court’s office, or another agency and explain the issue to them directly.
At the same time, the state of Iowa has a pretty good track record for taking care of these errors, inaccuracies, or omissions rather quickly.
Some of the time till need to have notarized documents and evidence submitted before they can make any changes, though if the problem is directly on their end they’ll usually just be glad that it was brought to their attention and will resolve it ASAP.