What you need to know about sex offender background checks

February 17 2021
5 min read

Performing criminal background checks is an essential aspect of the hiring process. It can help protect your company from legal liability and safeguard your employees, clients, and business.

Criminal background checks provide information on felonies and misdemeanor offenses. But do they provide information on registered sex offenders or sexual crimes? In this post, we discuss the benefits of a sex offender background check and the type of results you can expect

What is a Sex Offender Background Check?

A sex offender background check is a search of the "National Sex Offender Registry" (NSOR).The sex offender registry is a database that has information about convicted sex offenders. The database is maintained by law enforcement to identify and monitor sex offenders.

This search helps identify individuals that are listed as a registered sex offender.

Who must register as a Sex Offender?

Any person convicted of certain sex crimes must register as a sex offender.

The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) is a federal law that requires states, the District of Columbia, Native American nations/tribes, and U.S. territories to monitor and track convicted sex offenders.

All fifty states requires convicted sex offenders to register. Those convicted of more violent crimes are also typically required to update their addresses more frequently and remain registered for an extended period.

Sex offenders who fail to register or update their registration may face additional penalties and up to ten years in prison.

Per the United States Department of Justice:

"It is a federal crime for an individual to knowingly fail to register or update his or her registration as required pursuant to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). For example, a sex offender is required to update their registration in each jurisdiction they reside, are employed, or attend school."

The SORNA categorizes crimes into three tiers, with each tier requiring specific self-reporting requirements.

Below is an overview of each tier and the requirements for sex offenders after they are released from prison.

Tier III

The most serious level of sex offenders. Tier III offenders are individuals that were previously convicted of a tier II offense whose crime is punishable by 1 + years in prison. Conviction of tier III crimes have a lifetime reporting requirement for offenders. Examples of tier III offenses are convictions that involve:

  • Sexual contact with a minor under 13 years old.
  • Aggravated sexual abuse.
  • Non-parental kidnapping of a minor.

Tier II

Offenders that were previously convicted of a Tier I offense whose crime is punishable by 1 + years in prison. Convictions of tier II crimes have a 25-year reporting requirement for offenders. Examples of tier II offenses are convictions that involve:

  • Production or distribution of child pornography.
  • Sexual Exploitation of Children.
  • Sex trafficking.

Tier I

Offenders convicted of offenses that involve a sexual act or contact with another individual are not included in tier II or tier III. Convictions of tier I crimes have a 15-year reporting requirement for offenders. Examples of tier I offenses are convictions that involve:

  • False imprisonment of a minor.
  • Being in possession or receiving child pornography.
  • Video Voyeurism of a Minor.

What Shows Up On A Sex Offender Background Check?

The NSOR contains information, such as the following, about persons convicted of sexual offenses:

  • First and last name.
  • Address matches.
  • States in which the person is registered as a sex offender.

Orange Tree's NSOR service completes a search of a national database of sexual offender records from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico (including registered sex offenders).

The National Sex Offender Registry search will occasionally provide information on the tier level; however, this information is not typically provided as part of a standard report.

Orange Tree can help employers remain compliant by reporting the underlying criminal offense that got the individual placed on the sex offender registry (if allowable per the FCRA guidelines).

What is the FCRA requirement for a Sex Offender Background Check?

Section 613 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has special requirements about the use of public record information (ex. Database searches like the NSOR) for employment purposes. When a potential criminal record is found, background screening providers must do one of two things.

  1. Notify the consumer that public information has been found, which may adversely affect their ability to obtain employment, provide the name and address of the person receiving the information.
  2. Maintain "strict procedures" that ensure the information collected is accurate and up to date.
Orange Tree Insight: To ensure our clients receive accurate and timely results that are FCRA compliant, Orange Tree automatically performs a confirming search of found records at the county/state courts.


What are the limitations of a Sex Offender Background Check?

As with the National Criminal Record Search (NCRS), the NSOR database records may not be current or complete. For instance:

  • The NSOR database is updated inconsistently, i.e., at various time intervals.
  • Some sex offenders fail to Register.
  • Some states limit the reportability of offenses under a certain level.
Orange Tree Insight: For employers conducting business in California and Nevada states, please note that employers cannot make a hiring decision based solely on the NSOR status.


To overcome these shortcomings of the NSOR search, Orange Tree recommends including a county and or statewide criminal check as well as a National Criminal Records Search (NCRS). Adding these searches provides a more comprehensive look into the candidate's background.


Why should you do a Sex Offender Background Check?

A Sex Offender Registry Check can quickly identify someone on the NSOR. Identification of potentially risky candidates is essential for any company. This search is especially important for employers who work with vulnerable persons (the young, sick, disabled, elderly), the public, customers, or other employees.

Other industries and positions that may benefit from a sex offender search in the background check include:

  • Healthcare positions that require direct contact with patients or family.
  • Roles in human resource, legal, marketing, or finance departments.
  • Jobs in public-facing industries such as hospitality, dining, in-home services, education, etc.

You may also want to consider screening anyone who volunteers for your company or represents your company in any way.

Most Orange Tree clients search the NSOR as a standard part of their criminal records searches. Taking this step will provide some much-needed peace of mind.

Ready to get started with criminal background checks?

Orange Tree provides comprehensive background solutions explicitly designed in the employer's best interest. We regularly help our clients create screening packages based on the responsibilities and risk level associated with their open positions. We design compliant, legally defensible solutions that align with our clients' specific business policy.

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