The Wisconsin Department of Justice Crime Information Bureau (CIB) manages the central fingerprint-based criminal history repository for Wisconsin. That database contains detailed arrest, conviction, and sentencing information submitted by law enforcement agencies and courts. Reports generated from the database are referred to as criminal history reports or background checks. You can view a criminal history report by making a request by mail or online. A fee will be assessed for each criminal history report requested.1
Criminal history reports are notoriously difficult to read and understand. The reports are organized in enumerated “cycles.” Generally, a cycle begins at arrest and ends with a court disposition or sentencing information. All information submitted to the CIB though official channels will appear on the criminal history report unless a proper request is submitted.
Susan Lund, U.W. 2012, is a public interest attorney at Legal Action of Wisconsin, where she specializes in removing legal barriers to family-sustaining employment for low-income clients in the Milwaukee area.
If a proper request is made, some records can be removed from a criminal history report. While many cycles do not qualify for removal, a cycle should qualify for removal from the criminal history report if none of the charges underlying the arrest resulted in conviction.2 The CIB does not remove portions of a cycle; an entire cycle must qualify for removal or no information will be removed. To request removal of a cycle in which no charges resulted in conviction, submit a Fingerprint Record Removal Request to the CIB.
Inaccurate records on the criminal history report can also be corrected. If a criminal history report shows incorrect or incomplete information, an individual can correct or challenge information by submitting a Wisconsin Criminal History Challenge Form to the CIB. Depending upon the situation, it may be necessary to attach records or a fingerprint card to achieve the desired outcome.
Finally, an individual can obtain an explanatory letter from the CIB if they have a false record match. A false record match occurs when another person’s criminal history appears on an individual’s criminal history report. This can happen if the person was the victim of identity theft or if they have similar identifying information as someone with a criminal history. If a false match occurs, the individual can send the CIB a full fingerprint card with a Wisconsin Criminal History Challenge Form. If the challenge is successful, the CIB will not dissociate the record from the individual; instead, a letter is generated stating that the criminal history on the report is the result of a false match. The letter is meant to be given to potential employers or other interested parties who may request a criminal history report.
2 Wis. Stat. § 165.84(1) (“Any person arrested or taken into custody and subsequently released without charge, or cleared of the offense through court proceedings, shall have any fingerprint record taken in connection therewith returned upon request.”).