Limited Access Areas are probably some of the biggest pain points in the background screening process. Regardless of what background screening provider you’re using, if you request criminal history records you either have or will at some point run into them. They cause seemingly interminable delays that slow down your hiring process and there’s practically nothing that anyone can do about them.
Limited Access Areas are courts where access is limited in some way. It sounds like the world’s most ridiculous definition, but that’s really all there is to it. The courts provide the same kinds of records with the same disposition information, but they put restrictions on how people get to the records.
In practice, if we say a court has limited access it’s typically one or more of these issues:
- The court lacks a public index, which means that only court clerks can access the records.
Normal courts allow outside researchers to access their records, which means that we can send as many people as we need in to the court to get the records that we need to complete your search. If only the court clerks can access the records, you’re looking at just a few people doing the work of dozens. What’s more, some courts limit the number of cases a court clerk can accept from a given CRA in a given day.
- Court technology is outdated or non-existent, so all searches are done hyper-manually.
Maybe they haven’t digitized their files yet, or haven’t digitized their search system. Anyone who remembers card catalogs will understand how much longer this can take.
- They only provide a name match – and a single identifier is not sufficient for us to pass the information back to you. That means we have to do extra research to ensure that the subject of the report is the subject of the record.
- The court has some sort of onerous process requirement in place. Some courts require that a paper form be signed instead of accepting eSignatures. Others require that a form be signed and notarized, yet others require more information than we typically collect.
What are we doing about it?
We’re doing everything we can, but for the most part that means trying to convince courts (or sometimes even an area’s legislative branch) to change how they’re doing things, and that’s not a quick process. Courts that don’t accept eSignatures get literature about the legal validity of an eSignature as compared to a wet signature. State legislatures who are considering implementing a law that limits courts to a name match get information on why dates of birth and other identifiers are so important.
These are all big changes. On a day-to-day basis, we try to get in front of any delays we can. If, for instance, we know that a court is going to request a wet signature, we’ll ask for that up front.
What can you do about it?
Sometimes, you can’t do anything. Not always, but it’s frequently just a matter of being patient, as annoying as that is for all parties. Other times, there are some limited things you can do to help us gain a few days.
First and foremost, make sure all pieces of required information are provided and are correct and all forms are completed. Second, allow us to contact the applicant. If forms aren’t finalized, or if we need to send them special paperwork so we can get information from New Hampshire, it is typically easier and faster for us to contact the applicant directly, rather than making you act as a middle man.