criminal search

Matching Records – No Full Names Please

Tasha Dyson, CFE Background Investigation


criminal searchWe have a client (let’s call them Sub) who is obtaining criminal history information as part of their compliance to another company (let’s call them Prime). Prime states that Sub should “Provide a criminal record check with the applicant’s full legal name.” Sub contracted with RMA to provide that information.

When we search, we don’t limit our results to the full legal name. Here’s our standard process:

  • We search using the first name and last name. When we see a matching date of birth, we look more closely.
  • We search using first name, last name, and middle initial. When we see a matching date of birth, we look more closely.
  • We also search for previous names (if we know them) such as maiden names or previous married names.
  • When we find a potential match, we then start looking at other information such as address, full or partial SSN, or driver’s license number.
  • If a record matches on three or more pieces of known information, we report it.

Sub, our client, submitted the information to Prime, but the results were rejected because the search did not use “the applicant’s full legal name.”

Here’s the problem: When you limit the search to a subject’s full legal name, you will probably miss matching records.

Let’s say your subject is Katherine Marie Petersen, and her maiden name is Saunders. Using the records from NC Administrative Office of the Courts as an example, records matching your subject could be listed as:

  • Petersen, Katherine
  • Petersen, Katherine, M
  • Petersen, Katherine, Marie
  • Petersen, Katherine, S
  • Petersen, Katherine, Saunders
  • Saunders, Katherine
  • Saunders, Katherine, M
  • Saunders, Katherine, Marie

In addition, there could be matching records based on misspellings or abbreviations, such as:

  • Peterson for Petersen
  • Sanders for Saunders
  • Mary for Marie
  • Kathy, Kath, or Kat for Katherine

The information contained in the record depends on how it was originally entered by the officer or the clerk. In general, the older the record, the more likely it is to be inaccurate or incomplete.

The whole point is to be as accurate as possible about the applicant’s criminal history. This requires widening our search possibilities, including searching maiden names and previous married names, not just the “full legal name.”


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