California LiveScan is the state system administered by the California Department of Justice for criminal background checks and is available only to workers whose job includes working with children, the elderly, and the disabled. These include law enforcement agencies, public and private schools, non-profit organizations, and home supportive care agencies. There are no other statewide criminal checks available to employers. All public and private school teachers, recreational workers, and nursing home workers must be LiveScaned.
Church pastors and daycare workers are also eligible to use the program. Most churches use LiveScan if they already use it for their affiliated church school. Organizations using this program send their applicants who have been conditionally hired pending the background check, to a LiveScan provider who fingerprints the applicant (the applicant places their fingerprints on a scanner that electronically scans the fingerprint digital, hence the name) sends the applicant’s data online to the state where a state-level criminal check is done and, if chosen by the organization ordering the report, an NCIC check (FBI files) is done to Nacional level. The resulting information is then sent to the participating organization.
This system is one of the best in the country, but the purpose of this article is to point out that it has what I consider major flaws that very few people know about. I think it is very important, especially for parents, to know the limitations of the system in the hope that one day the state will bridge the loopholes and protect more children.
The LiveScan system imposes strict limitations on what information is available and how that information is distributed. The criminal history report is sent to the organization’s Custodian of Records, who may or may not be the person making the hiring decision and, in larger organizations, it is generally not the same person. The Custodian of Records can only tell the person making the hiring decision that the person has passed or failed the LiveScan. They don’t even get to know why that person didn’t pass the background check.
SURPRISING FACT # 1. CALIFORNIA LIVE SCAN DOES NOT REPORT ALL CRIMINAL HISTORY The State of California has mandated that LiveScan disclose only records related to the following categories: 1. Crimes related to child abuse or elder abuse 2. Sex offenders 3. Convictions or incarcerations in the last 10 years as a result of committing: theft, robbery or any serious crime.
Now, at first glance, the list above looks pretty good, but let’s go over some of the crimes it doesn’t cover, and as we go through the list, try to think about your child’s babysitter or Sunday school teacher involved in these crimes. . Here’s a partial list: assault, accessory to a crime, complicity and complicity, writing bad checks, carrying a weapon without a license, contempt, domestic violence, spoofing, Medicare fraud, stalking, drug possession, exposure indecent, misdemeanor, prostitution, lewd conduct, disorderly conduct, disturbance of the peace, vandalism, burglary, malicious mischief, public drunkenness and the list goes on. I don’t know about you, but before I hire someone to work with kids, I think I’d like to know if they are the kind of people who are drunk in public who smoke marijuana and fight in a bar. Most people would agree.
SURPRISING FACT # 2. LIVESCAN DOES NOT VERIFY ANY CIVIL FILES. Okay, maybe now you’re thinking that this California LiveScan doesn’t cover as much as you thought and you’d be right. It also does not cover any civil court judgments against a person, such as Restraining Orders, Non-Abuse Orders, Protection Orders, and Injunctions (for things like stalking). Don’t you think that’s important? The Family Violence Prevention Fund estimates that up to three million women are victims of domestic violence each year and restraining orders are an important way to protect themselves.
SURPRISING FACT # 3 LIVESCAN DOES NOT VERIFY THE CALIFORNIA SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY (aka Megan’s Law Registry). THE PRECEDING SENTENCE IS NOT A MISTAKE; IT’S TRUE! You can verify this by calling the California Department of Justice and asking them. Their number is 916 227-4974. By now you’re probably wondering, “How the heck can this be true? A state system designed to protect children doesn’t even look for drug-related offenders, wife abusers, and sex offenders? That’s inconceivable! “. Even as I write this, I have a hard time believing myself. It doesn’t even go through Megan’s Law list for sex offenders who have moved to California from another state and need to register.
OBJECTIVE WAITING; THERE IS MORE. There are even two more areas that LiveScan does not verify or report. When you search for criminal records, you are only looking for the records in which a person’s fingerprints were taken. In the case of minor, non-violent crimes, people sometimes receive a notice to appear, much like a traffic ticket. People who are arrested in this way are not fingerprinted. I understand that when big cities do things like prostitution sweeps, they sometimes use that method for both prostitutes and their “clients.” Also, if an arrest is found on someone’s criminal record and there is no corresponding provision, such as a trial verdict, plea agreement, or sentencing information, they withhold the information from you. The following quote is off their website: “Unless otherwise authorized by law, when only one arrest record exists but the Department is unable to obtain the corresponding disposition information, the Department will suppress that arrest information and provide the Authorized agency a response that no criminal historical information exists. “
As a person who has been in the background check business for 13 years and the father of two college-aged daughters, you would have designed the system very differently, to say the least. It certainly would not have designed holes large enough to pass a truck and allow criminals access to children. The more I study this information, the more I am convinced that the state of California is more interested in protecting the rights of criminals than in protecting children and the elderly. In all of my dozens of conversations with pastors, school administrators, and law enforcement, I have only spoken to one person, who was truly aware of the built-in limitations of the LiveScan system. Most people assume that if it is the state system, then it must be the best and most comprehensive.
While re-researching the data to write this article, I also discovered that it is possible for someone to remove their sex offense offense after serving their sentence, but they will still be required to register as a sex offender. That’s one more very compelling reason to check Megan’s Law checklist.
Again, if someone were doing a background check on my daughter’s teacher, coach, counselor, or pastor, I would want a more complete check and I expect better from the State of California on behalf of all children.
THE ALTERNATIVE: Most organizations that use LiveScan are required to do so by state law, but if you have a choice, you should consider a private sector background check from a reputable company that gives you all the criminal information county by county, verifies the records, Megan’s Law list, and records from any other state where a person has lived.