What Does An FBI Background Check Entail?

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fbi criminal background check
The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducts both criminal and routine background checks on individuals for a variety of reasons.
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Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.

News online, in print, and cable networks kept a close eye on Brett Kavanaugh, the now-appointed Supreme Court Judge, during the recent public hearings on his nomination. Although news mostly centered on sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, many agencies were also focused on the Federal Bureau of Investigation background checks that were run on him.

After six FBI background checks of Kavanaugh, there was still demand for one more following his September hearing. What would the FBI dig up they hadn’t already? And what’s in an FBI background check, anyway?

FBI Criminal Background Checks Versus Routine Checks

When the FBI runs a background check, it’s either a criminal or routine check. If it’s a criminal check, the FBI could turn up information on any arrests or criminal charges. In that way, the agency could uncover damning evidence.

However, most FBI background checks of a presidential appointment are typically routine. The interviews conducted by FBI agents are voluntary, and they’re usually with people who know the subject well, which are typically family and friends.

How Long Does An Applicant’s FBI Background Check Take?

The time it takes for the FBI to conduct a criminal or routine background check depends on how you submit it. According to Legal Beagle, submitting your application directly to the FBI means it will be at least 12 to 14 weeks before the results come back. Paying a fee to go through an FBI “channeler” — a private firm hired by the Bureau to collect and submit background check fingerprints — speeds up the waiting time to less than a week.

Regardless of the route chosen by the applicant, an FBI background check can be prolonged if there’s an error in the application, so if you’re submitting an application, it’s important to double and triple check your information for mistakes.

What Is The FBI Looking For In A Background Check?

Although routine, a basic background check by the FBI could include information beyond a regular background check. The SF-86 is a form that’s used for a scrape of data. Questions about one’s criminal history are included, as are questions about debt, including bankruptcy.

Subjects of a routine FBI background check fill out the form themselves, so they answer whether they’ve used drugs or alcohol in the past five years. And they include employment history. All this information, along with anything the subject has done that could cause embarrassment to the President of the United States if publicly known should be declared at this point.

The FBI does a thorough check for the facts, and then presents its report, plus a summary, including whether it recommends the appointment. In Kavanaugh’s case, nothing was declared, and nothing was uncovered. However, the FBI doesn’t typically explore anything a person may have done when they were minors. Plus, because Kavanaugh didn’t mention any allegations, the FBI wouldn’t have investigated in those first six checks.

Why You Should Run a Background Check on Yourself

While you shouldn’t be worried about an FBI background check, it’s still a good idea to run a regular background check on yourself. If you have a criminal background, you might be able to do something about getting your records expunged. A periodic check of your background can confirm when those records are scrubbed clean.

It’s also helpful to know what’s in your background check, in case time has erased or otherwise altered some of your memories. Someone else might be running a background check on you, and you’ll be in a better position to discuss anything that’s on your record, whether accurate or not, if you similarly have the report in hand.

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