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State of  California Department of  Justice · DOJ
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Fingerprint Background Checks

The California Department of Justice [DOJ] is mandated to maintain the statewide criminal record repository for the State of California. In this capacity, sheriff, police and probation departments, district attorney offices, and courts submit arrest and corresponding disposition information. The DOJ uses this information to compile records of arrest and prosecution, known as “RAP sheets,” for individuals and disseminates the information for law enforcement and regulatory (employment and licensing) purposes. RAP sheets are based upon fingerprint submissions, and therefore positively identified biometrically; a process by which a person’s unique identity is confirmed.

Authorized by California statute, the DOJ has processed State of California and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fingerprint-based background checks for decades. While all criminal background check requests must be authorized by statute, some are mandatory while others are permissive. In the past few years there has been a heightened awareness of the availability of criminal background checks to aid in regulatory hiring decisions. Consequently, the number of requests for criminal background checks continues to increase exponentially…

Purpose of Background Checks

Securing a criminal background check prior to employment, licensure, or certification provides a hiring or licensing authority an important resource, which aids in the evaluation of the applicant. These applicants are often candidates for positions that place them in a position of trust for some of California’s most vulnerable citizenry, elderly, and dependent adults and children. As such, it is vital for the hiring or licensing authority to be aware of specified active arrests or convictions. Entrusting applicants with the responsibility of the position prior to a criminal background check potentially jeopardizes the safety and integrity of the workplace and may leave some individuals exposed to unnecessary harm. Employment and licensing authorities may also face legal liability if applicants with specified active arrests or convictions are employed or licensed when statute prohibits such action based on the successful completion of a criminal background check.


Source: Attorney General | DOJ | CA


Federal Level · FBI Background Checks

If an FBI criminal background check is requested, the fingerprint images are forwarded to the FBI to perform a fingerprint-based search of records in the national criminal history database. If the applicant’s fingerprints match fingerprints in the national criminal history database, the FBI sends the DOJ a cumulative RAP (Record of Arrests and Prosecutions) sheet that contains criminal history information from any states or federal agencies that have reported the information to the FBI. If there is not a matching disposition for every out-of-state or federal arrest, the DOJ is again mandated by statute to perform the “genuine effort” to obtain the missing disposition information, just as with California arrests that are missing disposition information. Once the “genuine effort” is fulfilled, a DOJ technician must review the updated Rap sheet and prepare the background check response according to the statutory dissemination criterion.

FBI Record Review Notification

Agencies authorized to submit fingerprints and receive FBI identification records must provide written notification to the individuals fingerprinted that the fingerprints will be used to check the criminal history records of the FBI. The officials making the determination of suitability for licensing or employment shall provide the applicants the opportunity to complete, or challenge the accuracy of, the information contained in the FBI identification record. These officials must also advise the applicants that procedures for obtaining a change, correction, or updating of an FBI identification record are set forth in Title 28, C.F.R., § 16.34. Officials making such determinations should not deny the license or employment based on information in the record until the applicant has been afforded a reasonable time to correct or complete the record, or has declined to do so.


Source: Attorney General | DOJ | CA


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