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LITTLE ROCK, AR — A new law expanding access to the state police online criminal background check system has gone into effect as of 07/31/07.

Act 571 requires the state police to release criminal history information to people performing backgrounds checks on behalf of employers and others who have the written consent of the person being checked.

This means that employers can now authorize a pre-employment screening firm to obtain a record, a service not permitted prior to this date. The requesting entity (employer or third party, etc.) must keep the signed release form on file for three years.

Rep. Earnest Brown, D-Pine Bluff, sponsor of Act 571, said the legislation clarifies who can request background checks.

“We were having some problems. There was some miscommunication on who could use and how they could use the system for background checks,” Brown said Tuesday. “This is an expansion and a clarification.”

Under the new law, entities such as staffing agencies, landlords, property owners, financial institutions, law firms and companies that do background checks are now allowed to run criminal background checks on people as long as they have the person’s written consent, state police spokesman Bill Sadler said. Previously, access was limited to professional licensing boards and employers.