Will expunged record show up in an FBI background check?

by Jamison Koehler on May 10, 2019
D.C. criminal defense lawyer

In most cases, the Federal Bureau of Information (FBI) will – as a courtesy – comply with a state court’s order to remove a criminal record from the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).  

If you have been booked (i.e., photographed and fingerprinted) for a criminal offense in D.C., your information will be entered into the NCIC, the FBI’s “electronic clearinghouse of crime data.” Remaining there until you file a motion to seal or expunge the record, this information will be accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to anyone with authority to use the database.  For example, a police officer who pulls you over for a traffic ticket will be able to access it.  So too will an immigration official checking your passport upon re-entry to the country.

When a D.C. court grants a motion to expunge or seal a criminal record, it issues an order directing a number of different entities, including the prosecuting office and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), to “remove from their publicly available records all references that identify the defendant as having been arrested.” The entities are also required to certify back to the court within 90 days that they have complied with the court’s order.

Although the FBI is also notified of this order, D.C. courts do not have “jurisdiction” over a federal agency such as the FBI.  In other words, the FBI is not required by law to comply.   In my experience, however, the FBI will almost always comply with the court’s order as a courtesy.  A failure to do so is usually an oversight that can be rectified by contacting the FBI directly.

Customer service for the FBI records office can be reached at 304-625-5590. You can also visit their website here.

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