This usually means that the agency offering the service is able to check criminal records in any county in the US, but not ALL in one shot.
There is no legal way that one can check the national FBI NCIC database of criminal history records without congressional authorization.
A national check of major newspaper and wire services databases for news articles reflecting conviction information will only turn up a small fraction of existing records.
However, there is a database that consists of mainly felony convictions and sex-offender registry information that is available (see our Multi (50) State Criminal check for only $15.00).
It consists of sex offender registries plus mostly felony conviction records and some misdemeanor records from 50 states. It is not current and does not contain all records but it is a very useful database. It is only available in addition to running a normal county or statewide criminal record check in the jurisdictions where a person has lived or worked. That is because none of the databases contain ALL criminal records in any of the jurisdictions listed. In most states, they contain only records of persons who were convicted of a felony and sentenced to more than 1-year in a state prison.
That usually means that the other 95% of persons convicted of a crime in that state will not appear in the database.
A good example are statistics from NY State.
In NY, there are about 500,000 arrests per year. Out of those, about 18,000 end up as felony convictions with a sentence of more than one-year in state prison. Those 18,000 are the only ones that end up in the NY portion of the database, which means that the other 482,000 arrests will not appear in the database.
The percentages don’t change much in other states, and because of the gaps we recommend this database as an add-on search, but do not offer it as a stand alone background check.
Another caution on the databases. They are not current. Some states only get updated on a semi-annual basis, others every two months and some every month.
The following links will take you to the NY State Criminal Justice statistics.
Criminal Justice Indicators – New York State: 2004-2013
Criminal Justice Statistics