If you have ever considered a career that requires a government license or certification, and you have a criminal record, you need to know about Live Scans and Government background checks before you apply for the position.
A Live Scan is an inkless electronic fingerprinting/palmprinting. Live Scan electronic fingerprints/palmprints are then forwarded to the California Department of Justice or the FBI within seconds, allowing state or federal criminal history results to be received back much more quickly than traditional fingerprints taken with a finger rolling process using ink. While ink fingerprints taken before the advent of computer technology could take months to process, Live Scan results can be received in as little as 24 to 48 hours.
Electronic LiveScans can scan fingerprints and send them to the DOJ
In California, there are about 800 private Live Scan providers who submit their fingerprints to the government through various providers such as Cogent and Biometrics4All. Police agencies in California also use Live Scan technology to take fingerprints. A list of all California Live Scan locations is found here.
Because Live Scans are processed through private companies, they cost anywhere between $10 and $125, depending on the location and the type of Live Scan requested.
Because Live Scans are based on fingerprints and not only on name, birth date, and demographic information, they will not give false positives. This makes Live Scans much more accurate than your traditional background check. Additionally, Live Scans connect directly to your California or Federal criminal history record and can include much more information than a commercial background check, depending on who is requesting the check. A Live Scan can include up to your entire criminal history or as little as just the list of your felony and moral turpitude convictions.
A Live Scan reports all or part of your Summary Criminal History Record, and can also include your Federal Record. The Summary Criminal History Record is the criminal record kept by the California Department of Justice. This criminal history includes arrests, charges, dispositions, convictions, dismissals, diversions, identifying info (including fingerprints), “in custody” status if the person is in jail or prison, and a history of applications for certain licenses.
Live Scan reports can also give the requester subsequent notification if you are later arrested or convicted of a crime.
You cannot remove a conviction from a Live Scan background check without receiving an expungement, pardon, or record sealing with only one exception. The California Department of Justice’s policy is to only maintain a criminal record until the person reaches 100 years old. Consequently, there is a chance that once you turn 100 your record will be automatically purged even without receiving an expungement or record sealing.
Expungement in California does not remove a conviction from your record but instead changes the conviction to a dismissal. Even though the case is still on your record, most requesters of your Live Scan cannot see dismissed cases unless they are processing an application for licensure by a state or local agency or for contracting with the California State Lottery. Consequently, expungments are a very effective way for a person with a conviction to clean up their record in order to enter a new career that requires a Live Scan background check.
A reduction to a misdemeanor is another form of conviction relief available for certain felony offenses. Reductions are a very effective form of relief because a subsequent Live Scan will only show a misdemeanor conviction instead of a felony conviction.
Because the Live Scan includes much more information than a commercial background check, luckily not just anyone can access your Live Scan. Without being authorized by California law, it is a misdemeanor for any person/employer to request your Live Scan or even to request that you give them a copy of your Live Scan. However, there are many agencies, organizations, employers, and individuals who are allowed to access or request your Live Scan. Depending on who is requesting your Live Scan, it will include either all or a part of your criminal history.
Because a Live Scan uses your fingerprints and palmprints, you will always know if someone requests your Live Scan because you will have to have your electronic fingerprints taken. Certain government agencies can request your criminal record without getting a Live Scan, although when requested without a Live Scan it will not be as accurate and could include other people’s arrests and convictions.
The following list of who can request your Live Scan is by no means exhaustive, but it does include the majority of the people/groups who are allowed to access the report. Also, some agencies may be able to receive a more in depth Live Scan report than stated below because the law allows the government to receive the complete report if it will help accomplish the goals of a law.
You can always request your own Live Scan by filling out an application, going to a service provider, and paying the applicable fee. The report that you will receive will include your entire California criminal history, and your federal criminal history if you request it.
You can request that your Live Scan be sent to any foreign government or agency. Some people do this in order to qualify for a foreign adoption.
Courts, peace officers, district attorneys, city attorneys, correctional officers, probation officers, parole officers, public defenders, and private attorneys of record in a criminal case can request your full criminal history report. Any other agency, officer, or state official can request all or a portion of your criminal history in order to implement a law or regulation. Any city, county, district, of officer can request your record for employment purposes.
Requests by the government are also allowed for:
If you wish to become employed or certified as a peace officer (sheriff, deputy, police officer, warden, Attorney General, Government special agents and investigators), the government agency involved will request a Live Scan and send you to have Live Scan fingerprints taken. The report that the government receives will include:
If you wish to become employed/licensed/certified to work for a government agency which relates to the apprehension, prosecution, incarceration or correction of criminals (other than peace officers), or if you work for an agency which collects or stores criminal history records, then you must get a Live Scan at the request of the agency that will employ you. The report that the agency will receive is not as detailed as those for peace officers. It includes:
If you wish to work with day cares, foster family homes, or residential care facilities for the elderly or people with chronic or life-threatening diseases, then you must either submit a Live Scan to the Department of Social Services to get a license or you must have the day care, foster family home, or care facility request your Live Scan. The Live Scan will include:
If you wish to work for a cable, telephone, internet, or satellite company, or work in a position with supervisory or disciplinary power over minors, or provide in-home non-medical care to an aged or disabled adult, or work for a private security company or private patrol company (whether or not you carry a firearm), you will have to get a Live Scan. The Live Scan will include:
If you wish to seek employment in a bank, credit union, or other financial institution, you will have to get a Live Scan at the request of your employer or the California Department of Business Oversight. The Live Scan will include:
If you wish to work as a notary, you must get a Live Scan. The Live Scan report will include:
For employment in any other profession which was not listed previously but which is authorized by law, the employer/agency my request a Live Scan that will include:
This applies to the following professions:
If you reside outside of California or there is not a LiveScan provider near you, then you can obtain your criminal history report by submitting a DOJ report request along with a completed fingerprint form. This process typically takes 6-8 weeks to complete.
VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure to save your 10-digit Automated Transaction Identifier (ATI) number that you receive from the LiveScan provider. If you have not received your background information after 4 weeks, call the Department of Justice's automated tracking system and use the ATI number to track the progress of your record search. (The ATI number always appears in the following sequence: 1 LETTER; 3 NUMBERS; 3 LETTERS and 3 NUMBERS).