The Law Dictionary

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What Does An FBI Background Check Show?

Obtaining a background check is often an important part of the hiring process. Background checks may also be useful for adoptions or for verifying that certain individuals are qualified to enter particular professions that are considered sensitive.

What Is Found in an FBI Background Check?

In their National Crime Information Center the FBI maintains records of arrests from state and local agencies. Most of the records are linked by fingerprints as every individual who is arrested is fingerprinted as part of the booking process. The NCIC is essentially a database of these records. In addition, the NCIC also tracks reports of missing persons and fugitives who are wanted by law enforcement.

When an FBI background check is requested, it typically shows all of the arrests for the individual in question. The data includes the date when the individual was arrested and provides a detail of the charges. Both felonies and more serious misdemeanors may be in the report. However, it is unusual to see moving violations or fines included. These offenses are typically not reported to the FBI because they are so minor. Nonetheless, a handful of agencies do report these matters at a federal level.

Who Needs an FBI Background Check?

Employers are the most frequent people to request background checks. Many jobs require that an individual maintain a clean criminal record to obtain, and in some cases to maintain, employment. People in teaching and medical professions are often the subject of a background check. When someone applies for a government job, even at city or county governments, it’s likely that a background check will be performed.

Individuals other than employers may also find FBI background checks useful. For instance, a family looking to hire a nanny may want to request such a check in order to ensure their children’s safety. People hoping to adopt a child will probably be made the subject of an FBI background check by the agency that is coordinating the adoption. Sometimes people will request a background check on themselves. This helps to ensure the accuracy of the information. Also, as some data should be removed after a certain length of time, obtaining a background check can make certain this has happened. If it has not, then it can be corrected. Requesting a background check on themselves is the best way for people to ensure that the information being viewed by potential employers is accurate.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.