How To Get a Background Check From the Police in 2023

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Background Checks | May 9, 2024

Citizen at the police station asking how to get a background check from the police to an officer behind the counter.

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A police background check is critical when looking for information on a person’s criminal record. The process for how to get a background check from the police in 2023 is simple, but the process should be done as directed for the best results.

A person could also request a check on oneself from a local police station, but it requires the person to be direct and honest when providing information. But the check will only entail what is open to the public, as it isn’t going to cover every single thing like what a rap sheet would include.

What Is a Police Background Check (Level 1 vs Level 2)?

A police background check can be either a local level 1 check or a national level 2 check. Keep in mind that a level 1 check is only a name-based background check and confound to the local area only (county and state).

Whereas a Level 1 background check focuses on one local area and entails reviews of past infractions, a Level 2 check will include records from all jurisdictions within the country. Simply put, if a national-level check is needed, like in the case of a US criminal record check, a level 2 report will be needed.

Screenshot of the Criminal Record Checks and Local Police Check sections on the Travel.State.Gov website.

(Image: Travel.State.Gov5)

A noteworthy part of the Level 2 check involves its use of fingerprint data. The person’s fingerprints are collected and then sent to a police department’s analysis division. It can complete a statewide review of the person’s record based on any activities one might have done that could suggest the person’s questionable stature.

The FBI can also review the fingerprint data. The police department can forward the contents to the FBI, although an applicant could use a channeler to take advantage of a fast-tracked FBI check which helps get in direct touch with the bureau through pre-approved channels to facilitate the process in less time.3

Police Background Checks and FBI Background Checks Are the Same

Since the Level 2 background check from the police will go through the FBI, it essentially works the same way as an FBI background check. Part of the review includes working with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.1

Screenshot of the map of NICS participation by U.S. states and territories from the FBI website.

(Image: Federal Bureau of Investigation6)

The FBI and police departments alike can reach the NICS to get information on a person. The NICS works for many purposes, from confirming one’s record for job applications to reviewing if a person can safely apply for a license to operate a firearm.

The FBI is responsible for recording fingerprint information on people. A police station can contact the FBI for details on how the fingerprints it collects are being read. The applicant can use these details to get answers surrounding a person, making it essential for one’s work needs.

Things That Appear on Criminal Records Included in a Police Background Check

But what information is revealed on a screening from the police exactly?

After completing the process for how to get a background check from the police, the user can get a proper police record. The report provides records on a person from the past seven years.

A criminal record can include such details as these:

  • Specific arrests from the past seven years
  • Any convictions involved
  • Whether a person is on a sex offender registry
  • Terrorist watch list results
  • International criminal records can also be made available, although anyone might have to contact another country for this point; this aspect works when searching for details on a person who lived in another country

The criminal record is essential, but it does not go into everything like a rap sheet would. A rap sheet is more for when someone is looking for more detailed points on someone’s past. However, the rap sheet is not something that is fully available to all people, as it contains extra info that might be too sensitive.

What Shows Up on Your Rap Sheet

Another report that is available is a different type of police record, although it is only available if someone will operate certain government-related positions. The record is also called a rap sheet,2 which is short for a “record of arrests and prosecutions.” It includes details on all felonies and misdemeanors a person has committed within the United States.

The rap sheet will feature content from the FBI and from whatever law enforcement groups operate in a state. Active warrants may also appear on the sheet. These reports can be comprehensive and will include various bits of data that might be from the past. But the info could be necessary when looking at people who want to enter federal positions.

Is a Rap Sheet the Same as a Criminal Record?

A rap sheet is different from a criminal record in that a rap sheet is confidential. The official criminal data on one’s account and the fact it may have active warrants makes it to where it must be kept private. The rap sheet may also contain information on an entire person’s record, while the criminal record is only for the last seven years.

The only employers who can view a rap sheet are governmental agencies. Other businesses can still obtain a criminal record that displays all the arrests and convictions a person holds. It is not going to be as thorough as a rap sheet, nor is it going to include any active warrants. However, the review process is still critical for finding details on a person for hire.

Can Records Be Removed From a Background Check From the Police?

It is often difficult for people to remove negative items from their background checks. Some items may be removed from a background check:

  • A record can be expunged, meaning the person has completed probation or a jail term.
  • A certificate of rehabilitation may appear on a check.4 It states that a person has completed a rehabilitation program following a conviction. The program is likely court-mandated and is necessary for helping a person move forward and avoid possible future criminal concerns.
  • Juvenile records can be sealed if a person has not been convicted of criminal activities as an adult. These may also be sealed if at least five years have passed since the juvenile court’s jurisdiction is no longer relevant.

How To Get a Police Background Check on Yourself

While an applicant can get a background check from the policy when checking on people one wishes to hire, that person can also ask for a check on oneself. The rule will vary by state, but a person can visit a local police station to complete the process. Some states may also help people complete the background check online, although the rules will vary over where one will go for the work.

How to get a background check from the police on yourself graphic outlining the steps to get a background check on yourself using police resources, including providing your name and address, a valid identification and if necessary, provide fingerprints, then pay for the police background check report to be generated.

These steps are necessary to acquire a background check at a police station:

  1. Provide a name and address.
  2. Supply a few identifying numbers, including a Social Security Number or a driver’s license number.
  3. The station will also charge a specific amount for the service. The cost of the service will vary by provider.
  4. A fingerprint file may also be necessary. The file will compare one’s records with what the FBI holds.

It will take a few weeks to get the results of a check. However, the process can help a person confirm one’s data and help ensure that person isn’t being reported as having done anything illegal or questionable.

Can You Get a Background Check at the Police Station?

A police station can help anyone with whatever background check needs one will have. A person can get a check in person, or someone can get the materials necessary for a check from the station and bring it to one’s workplace. The person can then submit the information that one collects in the process from an applicant.

The process for getting that check will vary by station and jurisdiction. But the process can be necessary when anyone considers the sensitive details that go into the process of learning about someone.

Police Background Check: Required Steps

Remember to follow the suitable required steps when getting a police background check ready:

  • Provide the necessary information to the police station.
  • Be ready to answer questions about one’s past. Always be honest about the content.
  • Complete everything as needed, as failing to cover all the information in the background check can result in delays in how the check is processed.

A background check can be useful for many purposes, whether it is for hiring someone or confirming the background of a person. Anyone can use a background check to confirm what the authorities are reporting about anyone. Be certain when getting a background check that it’s sensible to see what works and that there’s an idea of what works here.


1Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2024). About NICS. FBI. Retrieved May 2, 2024, from <>

2Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2024). Identity History Summary Checks (Rap Sheets). FBI. Retrieved May 2, 2024, from <>

3Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2024). List of Approved Channelers. FBI. Retrieved May 2, 2024, from <>

4Judicial Branch of California. (2024). Certificate of Rehabilitation. California Courts Self-Help Guide. Retrieved May 2, 2024, from <>

5U.S. Department of State. (2024). Criminal Record Checks. Travel.State.Gov. Retrieved May 10, 2024, from <>

6Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2024). About NICS. Retrieved May 10, 2024, from <>

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