While running a background check in North Carolina is (generally) a pretty straightforward process, it is still important to understand the rules, regulations and laws, and good practices that dictate how you should move forward.
In the United States, there’s no such thing as a unified or “universal” background check process.
While all states (including North Carolina) have to abide by federal rules and regulations like those established by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), each state is able to further dictate how their background check process unfolds.
Below we highlight important things you want to know about pursuing a background check in the state of North Carolina, how it differs from other states in the nation, and how to move through the process as quickly and as expeditiously as possible.
Read This Before You Run Background Checks in North Carolina
For starters, you’ll want to know that while North Carolina does play some limits on information available in background checks, for the most part, the state is a lot more “wide open” than others in the union.
North Carolina, like every other state in America, abides fully by two major federal laws dictating protections put in place for individuals applying for a job or opportunity that have criminal records in their past.
For starters, the Fair Credit Reporting Act imposes a certain amount of responsibilities on employers that are requesting criminal background checks as well as the kinds of firms that furnish this information, too.
To begin with, every background check in North Carolina (and everywhere else in the US) requires that an employer first get consent to conduct the background check in the first place.
On top of that, it cannot just be verbal consent – it has to be written consent, signed and dated by the individual approving for a background check to move forward.
Secondly, the FCRA requires that employers outline exactly how they plan to use the information discovered during the background check process when it comes to employment opportunities.
Employers also have to provide complete copies of all reports and documentation they uncovered during the background check process
North Carolina also abides by the Title VII clause of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the clause that protects employees and potential employees from discrimination in all aspects of employment – including the screening, interviewing, and hiring process.
Individuals and organizations interested in running background checks in North Carolina are going to want to get further guidance about how to abide by the Title VII clause from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
North Carolina goes further than federal laws and mandates when it comes to background checks, though.
State law allows individuals that have had their criminal record (including arrests, charging information, and conviction details) expunged to omit those records from their background checks. Employers are not legally allowed to ask applicants about any of their criminal histories that have been expunged, either.
Further, North Carolina limits (to a certain extent) the leeway that state licensing boards have when they are using information gleaned from criminal records to either grant or deny certain licenses for professional occupations.
North Carolina requires all licensing boards to consider:
- The significance and seriousness of crimes reported
- How long ago the crime occurred
- The age of the applicant when the crime was committed
- The circumstances surrounding the crime
- All relationships between the crime and the professional occupation the applicant is pursuing, if any
- Any and all subsequent criminal activity (or lack thereof)
- Any and all character references, testimonials, and written documentation pointing to this applicant “turning a new leaf”
Who Can Legally Run Background Checks in North Carolina?
As far as who is legally allowed to run background checks in North Carolina is concerned, state law (in concurrence with federal law) allows every private employer the opportunity to inquire about potential applicants’ criminal histories.
North Carolina also extends this to (most) public employers as well as professional licensing boards, certification organizations, and private individuals as well.
Certain records are “sealed off” from legal access for everyone outside of law enforcement.
And while North Carolina doesn’t necessarily have “ban the box” laws on the books like the way that Hawaii does, this state certainly takes the privacy and history of its citizens very seriously.
A number of counties and municipalities have moved forward with “ban the box” style laws and regulations, including:
- Durham City
- Spring Lake
The major difference with these restrictions (compared to more traditional statewide initiatives like Hawaii has) is that these rules really only apply to public employers – employers that are working for the city, the municipality, county, or the state themselves.
What Info Will Be Provided During These Checks?
North Carolina has similar reporting systems to most other background check platforms in states across the country, with (mostly) the same information reported on background check forms.
We are talking about information like:
- Criminal history
- Arrest history
- Civil lawsuit history
- Public records – like marriage information, birth information, divorce information, and property purchases
The North Carolina criminal background checks are pretty in-depth, including:
- Arrest and conviction records (North Carolina employers are legally able to ask about criminal history, including arrests and convictions)
- Case number and filing dates
- Jurisdiction where incidents were recorded
- Charges that were filed
- Degree of the offense (whether we’re looking at a misdemeanor or a felony)
- Disposition and disposition date
- All sentencing information
The only exception to these kinds of criminal background checks will be for records that have been sealed away or expunged. Those are expressly “off-limits” for all background check services in North Carolina.
Employers that discover these expunged records (even inadvertently) are not legally able to ask any questions about them. Applicants are also not legally required to give any information up, voluntarily or otherwise, about these records.
Here’s Why Employers Are Running Background Checks in North Carolina
Anytime employers are making a new hire in bringing someone on board to their company they are taking a risk.
No matter how well a person interviews, and no matter how personable they may appear, they are still a complete and total stranger – and there’s no way to really judge qualifications, aptitude, personality fit, and more until they get some time actually in your business.
At the same, it’s never a good idea to make these kinds of decisions “willy-nilly” – just hiring anyone and every one without having a good idea of their past.
By taking advantage of background check services in North Carolina, employers are able to get a better idea of at least some of the history of their applicants.
This obviously isn’t going to be a complete and total breakdown of who they are, what their character is like, and how they are likely to be as an employee. But it’s a valuable snapshot all the same.
Conducting these kinds of checks not only protects your business but also protects your employees, your visitors and your vendors, and your customers as well.
There’s a lot of peace of mind that North Carolina entrepreneurs, employers, managers, and property owners receive conducting thorough background checks that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Do North Carolina Background Checks Have a “Time Limit”?
According to federal law, background checks need to provide criminal history information stretching back seven years.
Some states decide to offer records that go back a little longer than that, but no state – including North Carolina – is able to shorten the amount of history that a criminal background check provides.
North Carolina criminal history records do not go further than seven years. While charges do stay on a criminal report for life (unless they are sealed or expunged), employers, managers, landlords, and property owners are not able to search for those records beyond the seven-year timeline.
Individuals that do want to have parts of their criminal history expunged will have to wait (at minimum) 15 years before the charge has been levied before it can be expunged. That’s a process individuals will have to go through with their District Court officials.
Breaking Down the Process to Run a North Carolina Background Check
All background checks conducted through the state of North Carolina databases are going to be handled by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (NC SBI).
The NC SBI processes personal background checks, employer and licensing entity background checks, as well as “background checks on others” that are more personal or private in nature.
Every background check begins with a visit to the NC SBI website (found that www.NCSBI.gov).
Choose the background check type that you want. You’ll be brought to a page where you are invited to choose either a North Carolina state fingerprint-based check or a check with the national database (national database check is often more expensive than the statewide check).
All of this can be done online or through the mail, with information regarding how to best proceed with the background check you’re interested in available directly on that website.
Of course, there are other types of background checks you can run in North Carolina as well.
For example, the North Carolina Court System (www.nccourts.org)allows you to review information regarding charges, convictions, and court date information available on public records throughout the state of North Carolina.
The Adult Correction platform (www.ncdps.gov) provides you with information regarding individuals that either has been sentenced to prison, are currently serving time in prison, as well as those that have been released on probation or parole.
For the most in-depth background check possible, North Carolina individuals can visit www.fbi.gov and have the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted what is called an “Identity History Summary Check”.
Finally, more detailed information regarding individuals living or working in North Carolina can be found by contacting the appropriate County Clerks of Court office.
All North Carolina counties have their own records on hand, though they most likely have unique processes and databases to get you the information you’re looking for. You’ll need to contact them outright for more details.
Should I Outsource Background Checks to Third-Party Services?
Deciding whether or not it’s a good idea to outsource North Carolina background checks to a third-party service is something you’ll only ever be able to decide for yourself.
Many of the services can provide significant time savings, especially since they are in the profession of digging up the information that you are looking for in the first place.
At the same time, some of the third-party services out there (particularly the free services) are only ever going to be able to look up public record information for you – information you could have found yourself, free of charge.
You’ll have to weigh in the pros and cons of the distinct services you are considering each time you’re ready to run another check.
How Quickly Are North Carolina Background Checks Done?
In the state of North Carolina, you can (generally) expect your background check report – regardless of the type you choose – submitted to you within 1 to 2 weeks from the date that you initiated the check.
This timeline is a little bit longer and more extended than a lot of other states in the US, but a big part of that has to do with the comprehensive nature of North Carolina background checks compared to other states, too.
Some have reported their background check details coming back within 2 to 5 business days, though this is a bit of a rarity. It’s best to expect it to take a little longer and then be pleasantly surprised if it shows up sooner than you thought it might.
Information on Background Check Prices in North Carolina
You have two different options available to you when you want to have personal review background checks conducted in North Carolina:
- NC State fingerprint-based background checks cost $14
- National fingerprint-based background checks cost $18
Employer and Licensing Entities that expect to conduct a number of background checks on a regular basis (multiple every week, month, or year) have an opportunity to sign up for an account with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations that allows them to skip paying “piecemeal” for these checks in exchange for an annual fee.
Anyone interested in pursuing this kind of account will want to contact the NC SBI directly. They should also expect to provide information about their statutory authority to run these kinds of checks, too.
North Carolina also offers a Certified Background Check (Single County) program that individuals can take advantage of to run a check on themselves or others. This program is authorized by the Clerk of Superior Court Offices.
Those looking to go down this road will need to fill out Form AOC CR 314 and submitted with the local clerk’s office along with a $25 fee paid with cash, a check, money order, or major credit card.
North Carolina Background Checks on Firearms
Every eligible American that wants to purchase a firearm in North Carolina from an authorized Federal Firearms License (FFL) dealer will have to go through a federal background check with the FBI.
Purchasers will have to fill out Form 4473, a form that is then instantly submitted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
The information is run through the FBI criminal database straightaway, and either an approval to sell that firearm is given directly to the FFL dealer, a delay is put in place (for up to three days) or a denial is sent over.
North Carolina also requires their citizens that want to carry a concealed firearm to get a pistol permit.
This process inevitably involves a criminal background check, a mental health check, and a check with the FBI NICS database as well. A $5 pistol permit fee is required, too.
Does North Carolina Open Up Driving Record Info, Too?
Official driving records in North Carolina can be obtained directly from the NC Division of Modern Vehicles.
Information can be requested online or in person. In-person requests are almost always made available on the spot and online requests mail out within 14 business days.
Driving record requests must be made pursuant to the North Carolina Driver Privacy Protection Act, however, which means these records are not available to just anyone and everyone.
Individuals can request their own records, but those requesting records from someone else need to get permission from that individual (written permission) as well as:
- Full first and last name
- Date of birth
- North Carolina driver’s license/ID card number
- Social Security number
Address history information is available for $14 (you can’t access this online), with a Certified True Copy of a driving record available for $15. Complete Extract Copies of a driving record can be had for $10.75, and a Limited Extract Copy of the last three years of driving history can be had for the same price.
Will It Be Possible to Search North Carolina Sex Offender Records?
North Carolina provides all of its citizens with an opportunity to search complete statewide sex offender records, 100% free of charge and totally online (with in-person records available at District Court facilities and most police departments).
Those interested in searching this database will want to visit the www.NCCourts.gov website, navigate to the “Criminal Background Check” and “Obtaining Court Records” section of the site, and then move forward from there.