How can I do an FBI background check on myself?
July 3, 2007 9:44 PM   Subscribe

I`m applying for the Peace Corps. I got a couple misdemeanors in college, but I`ve done a state criminal background check and I`m clean. Do you think these will turn up on my FBI background check for the Peace Corps? Is there a way to do the FBI background check myself first to see if I have anything on my file?
posted by djpollert to Law & Government (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My understanding of these things is that it's generally better to be honest about minor past indiscretions, because they really don't like it if you lie to them.
posted by Good Brain at 10:09 PM on July 3, 2007

FBI Identification Record Request. Had to do this as part of my wife's process for immigrating to Canada.
posted by Emanuel at 10:17 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

(note that this may not be exactly the same background check that the Peace Corps would do, but it will tell you what's in your file)
posted by Emanuel at 10:18 PM on July 3, 2007

You can request an FBI criminal records check on yourself. Info here.

You can also request your FBI file (if one exists) through a Freedom of Information Act request. This isn't the same as your criminal record.

But I don't think misdemeanors disqualify you from serving in the Peace Corp. I also agree with Good Brain that you're better off disclosing it fully and honestly.
posted by thinman at 10:19 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Good Brain, I appreciate your comment, and agree...but if there is nothing there and I put something down it looks weird too; don`t you think? I`m not trying to be dishonest, but if there is no record of my minor indiscretions and I put them down, it seems like that will come across in a negative way. Do you have an opinion on that? Thanks very much for the comment.
posted by djpollert at 10:23 PM on July 3, 2007

Years ago, I had a friend who was applying for police officer positions. She'd stolen a tube of lipstick when she was 12 or 13 and it had gone on her juvenile record. She knew the record was sealed, but she was concerned that the police departments might somehow still have access. And she worried about declaring something that might not show up. After talking to many people and thinking it over, she decided to be honest and declare it. She got job offers at a couple of police departments right away. (She was about 23, white and didn't speak a second language, so that's amazing.) She's now a police officer. Apparently, her interviewers said they appreciated her honesty and that someone who'd had to go through that thought process would be a good police officer, rather than a goody-goody.
posted by acoutu at 10:31 PM on July 3, 2007

If they are misdemeanors and you are honest about them, then they are no big deal. If you are not honest about them, the lying is a much bigger deal than the infractions.

Seriously, this question comes up a lot with people applying for different jobs and volunteer positions and the overwhelming advice is to be as honest as possible. Lying about it makes it a much bigger problem.
posted by Brittanie at 10:35 PM on July 3, 2007

I'm gonna have to say yes. I had a friend who applied to the Peace Corps, and I wrote his peer rec. Unfortunately he had a misdemeanor recommendation for possession of weed - not saleable quantities - and it disqualified him from service.

You might want to get a lawyer's advice.
posted by Miko at 10:44 PM on July 3, 2007

I should have mentioned that his record was otherwise stellar. The Peace Corps is [justifiably] harsh.
posted by Miko at 10:45 PM on July 3, 2007

For whatever it's worth, in many states you can find court cases online. Even if the judgment or sentence was suspended or sealed, the fact that you were in court for something has been recorded for posterity. Anybody can find this information (in Iowa, for example, it's here). Don't try to hide anything.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 11:02 PM on July 3, 2007

It's never the crime, it's the cover-up.
posted by docgonzo at 12:31 AM on July 4, 2007

Hopefully I'm not threadjacking here, but I have a quick question that I don't understand. Why is the peace corps so "harsh" as described above? I understand you don't want rapists and murders but its a volunteer organization. Who cares if a volunteer had a possessions charge?
posted by wile e at 4:14 AM on July 4, 2007

FWIW honesty is the best policy. I had an uncle who served time for a felony possession with intent to sell, and got a master's in URP while inside. Once out, he joined the Peace Corps. They even sent him to South America... I guess he must have made a strong impression as someone who really turned his life around (which is true). That was over 35 years ago now, YMMV.
posted by methylsalicylate at 4:58 AM on July 4, 2007

I haven't applied for the Peace Corps, but I am a lawyer, and I had to undergo a background check in order to take the bar exam.

My sense is that if you are truthful, and the offenses are simple misdemeanors, you should be fine. I've seen people with multiple alcohol-related offenses pass the bar's character and fitness check. So, I think you should be fine as long as you disclose your offenses on the application.
posted by reenum at 5:05 AM on July 4, 2007

Thanks everyone. I'm going with honesty, but also doing the FBI background check just because I want to know. This is my first experience with metafilter and I'm literally blown away by all the people willing to give me genuine and well thought-out advice. Really, thank you.
posted by djpollert at 5:17 AM on July 4, 2007

wile e: i think because drug possession shows a propensity (even if just recreational) to intoxication and perhaps addiction (depending on the substance). in my interview they asked me if i liked to drink a lot, too.

to get back to the original question, yes, i would be forthcoming about the misdemeanors, and talk about what you learned and how you've changed. good luck!
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:25 AM on July 4, 2007

Juvenile convictions, expunged adult convictions, arrests or indictments/informations that didn't culminate in conviction -- those things might slip through a background check. An un-expunged adult conviction? No way. It will come up. You could hire a private investigation firm to try to duplicate the FBI's methods, but you couldn't take any comfort in its results -- the FBI has more and better access than any private investigator.

It's good you don't ask about not disclosing it -- if you're asked on the application you have to say.

If you wonder whether or not you should volunteer it in the absence of a question, I defer to people who know more about the Peace Corps.
posted by MattD at 6:24 AM on July 4, 2007

Shoot me an e-mail, dj, since you don't have one listed in your profile.
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:57 AM on July 4, 2007

Why is the peace corps so "harsh" as described above? I understand you don't want rapists and murders but its a volunteer organization. Who cares if a volunteer had a possessions charge?

It isn't a volunteer organization (i.e. a non-profit), it's a federal agency. Peace Corps volunteers are paid (stipended) representatives of the United States Government and probably fall under the same strict regulations as other federal employees.

This was almost certainly something decided by Congress and not the wussy do-gooders of the Corps.

I would also not put my money on a personal FBI check, as there's no guarantee that the results will come out the same way for you as for a formal interagency background check. Heck, I wouldn't consider it a guarantee that two separate background checks would come out the same way. There are just so many variables.

So, if it was weed, you want to go a different direction. If it was, oh, public intoxication or trespassing or introduction of a cow to the upper level of a science building, I doubt they care so much.
posted by dhartung at 11:50 AM on July 4, 2007

On the topic of sealing records, even if you do get your record sealed, law enforcement agencies will still be able to see it. And bar reviewers (for the lawyering types). Though it can vary by state, if anybody else asks, the answer is usually "we don't have any records of Jon Doe."
posted by craven_morhead at 9:47 AM on July 5, 2007

Re: The weed charge. Somewhere on the PC app I believe it says it has to be "x amount of time since arrest for possession" until you can apply.
posted by GilloD at 8:41 AM on March 4, 2008

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