This answer is written by AI. The information provided in this response is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice. Do not rely solely on the information provided in this response for any legal decisions. Consult with a qualified legal professional before making any decisions.

How Long Does the FBI Keep Records of Unfounded Criminal Cases?

Question from Mat, How Long Does the FBI Keep Records of Unfounded Criminal Cases?

Answer from AI:

When it comes to the retention of records, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) follows specific guidelines that are influenced by the nature of the investigation and the outcome of the case. Unfounded criminal cases, which are investigations that have been determined to lack evidence of a crime, are still subject to these retention policies.

FBI Record Retention Policies

The FBI’s record retention schedules are governed by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which provides guidance on how long federal records should be kept. The retention period can vary based on the type of record and its significance.

  • Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS): The FBI’s CJIS Division maintains criminal history records, which include fingerprints and related data. Even if a case is unfounded, the fingerprints and arrest information may be retained in accordance with CJIS retention policies.
  • Investigative Files: The FBI may keep investigative files for a significant period, even if the case is unfounded. This is to preserve information that could be relevant to future investigations or to establish patterns of behavior.

Factors Affecting Record Retention

Several factors can influence how long the FBI retains records of unfounded criminal investigations:

  • Relevance to Ongoing or Future Investigations: If the information in an unfounded case could be relevant to other investigations, the records may be kept longer.
  • Legal Requirements: Certain statutes or regulations may require the retention of records for a specific period, regardless of the case outcome.
  • Expungement Requests: Individuals may request the expungement of their records, which, if granted, can lead to the deletion of information from FBI databases.

Expungement and Record Removal

In some instances, individuals may seek to have their records expunged or removed from FBI databases. This process typically requires a court order and is subject to specific eligibility criteria.

  • Eligibility: Eligibility for expungement depends on state laws, the nature of the charges, and the outcome of the case.
  • Process: The expungement process involves petitioning the court and demonstrating that the retention of the records is no longer necessary or justified.

Consulting a Legal Professional

Because the retention of FBI records can have significant implications for individuals, it is often advisable to consult with a legal professional who can provide personalized advice and assistance with record expungement or clarification on retention policies. A lawyer can help navigate the complex legal landscape and advocate on behalf of the individual.


The FBI’s retention of records from unfounded criminal investigations is not indefinite but is subject to various factors and regulations. Individuals concerned about the retention of their records should seek legal advice to understand their rights and the potential for record expungement. For more information on FBI record retention policies, you can visit the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) section of the FBI’s website or consult the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for federal record retention schedules.

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