Updating And Correcting FBI Record FAQ

Q. What is an FBI record?

A. An FBI Identification Record, also commonly called a Criminal History Record or Rap Sheet, is a record of certain information taken from fingerprint submissions retained by the FBI in connection with arrests and, in some instances, federal employment, naturalization, or military service. For a more detailed discussion on updating and correcting FBI records, please visit the Updating and Correcting FBI Records page.

Q. What does the FBI record show?

A. If the fingerprints are related to an arrest, the FBI Identification Record includes the name of the agency that submitted the fingerprints to the FBI, the date of arrest, the arrest charge, the court name, and the disposition of the arrest “if known” to the FBI at the time the record was created.

Q. How is an FBI record created?

A. All arrest data included in an FBI Identification Record is obtained from fingerprint submissions, disposition reports and other reports submitted by agencies having criminal justice responsibilities.

Q. Which agency in Massachusetts submits the information to the FBI?

A. In Massachusetts, the law enforcement agency that provides this information to the FBI is the Massachusetts State Police, which submits your fingerprints and information as taken by town, city, municipal and state police during the booking process of an arrest.

Q. What is the disposition of the arrest?

A. The disposition of an arrest is simply the final outcome of the court process. It is whether you were ultimately found guilty or not guilty and acquitted, the case dismissed or disposed of by way of a nolle prosequi, and if you were incarcerated.

Q. Why is the disposition not shown on a typical FBI record?

A. The case disposition is rarely listed in the FBI Identification Record for the obvious reason, and that is because the fingerprints are taken during the booking process at the police station, processed by the Massachusetts State Police Identification Section shortly thereafter, and then submitted to the FBI well before the final court disposition occurs.

Q. How is the FBI record different from the state CORI?

A. In stark contrast to your state CORI, which is a record of court disposition maintained by the Office of the Commissioner of Probation ("OCP") and disseminated by the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services ("DCJIS"), your FBI Identification Record is essentially an arrest and fingerprint record maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") and disseminated by the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services ("CJIS") division. Therefore, the FBI Identification Record typically includes the court name, date of arrest and criminal charge but, unlike the state CORI, not the final disposition.

Q. Can you seal or expunge an FBI record?

A. No. Unlike the state CORI that is governed by several statutes particular to sealing criminal records under the Massachusetts General Laws, there is no similar federal law particular to sealing or expunging FBI records under the United States Code (“U.S.C”). It is also noteworthy that expunging criminal records in Massachusetts is not a by-product of statutory law but, rather, once of very specific and limited case law.

Q. Why update an FBI record?

A.Unlike your state CORI, your FBI Identification Record cannot be sealed or expunged so, if you received a "favorable" disposition such as a not guilty, dismissal or nolle prosequi, you will certainly want it to be updated to be accurately listed on the FBI Identification Record for the obvious reason; that is, to show that you received a favorable disposition so that whoever performs an FBI background check won't otherwise draw an unfair adverse inference against you that is derived from an incomplete FBI Identification Record. Having the final court disposition listed on your FBI Identification Record will also provide positive proof that your case was closed, and is not still open and pending. Your FBI Identification Record should always be updated in the case of an incomplete favorable entry. For a more detailed discussion on updating and correcting FBI records, please visit the Updating and Correcting FBI Records page.

Q. Why correct an FBI record?

A. The FBI record should similarly be challenged in the case of a potentially harmful erroneous entry. For example, criminal charges are oftentimes amended and reduced during the criminal process and you will certainly want the lesser criminal charge indicated on your FBI Identification Record as opposed to the original and far more serious and damaging criminal charge that was originally documented.