The background check. Examinations of our past seem so common in every corner of our lives, that on that rare occasion where we are not asked to verify our personal information or consent to an examination of it, the transaction seems either charmingly quaint or mildly suspicious. Our criminal history, finances, family relations, utilities, medical history, schooling or employment, to name a few, are routinely brought forth and scrutinized (or verified) as a necessary part of routine personal and business operations.
The ubiquity of the background check has fomented a public expectation that virtually every person we encounter has been screened for one thing or another. Certainly, the priest or teacher is screened for child or sexual related offenses. The Uber driver has been thoroughly vetted for traffic offenses. The apartment manager’s personal finances are in order, such that the proper handling of rents is not in jeopardy.
These expectations, however reasonable, are not subject to uniform regulation and even more rarely are they mandated by law. The inconsistent handling of sex offender regulations helps highlight our misperception of the efficacy and regularity of background checks. Society considers itself tough on sex offenders, and lawmakers fashion themselves as protectors of the children and those most vulnerable. Florida Statute 948.30 is a good example. If a sex crime victim was under the age of 18, the offender cannot work for pay “or as a volunteer at any place where children regularly congregate, including, but not limited to, schools, child care facilities, parks, playgrounds, pet stores, libraries, zoos, theme parks, and malls.”