Individuals who apply for a fingerprint clearance card — whether a Level I fingerprint clearance card or a standard fingerprint clearance card (see below for an explanation of the difference) — submit this application to the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS), along with fingerprint imprints. DPS conducts a background check on your criminal history at both the state and national (i.e., FBI) levels. If there are any arrests on your record, DPS compares the criminal offenses with a list of offenses that would cause the denial or suspension of a fingerprint clearance card, such as assault, theft, drug offenses, as well as many others. Offenses that appear in this list are referred to as "precluded offenses."
If a person's criminal record includes precluded offenses, DPS will see what the disposition — that is, the final result of an offense, such as conviction, no contest plea, dismissal, etc. — of each offense is. If a conviction exists, DPS denies the card. Sometimes, though, the criminal record does not include disposition information. DPS conducts research with a variety of law enforcement agencies to try to find out the disposition. If, after 30 business days, DPS still does not know the disposition of an offense, it will deny the card.
In most cases, individuals whose card is denied are able to apply for a good cause exception to the Board of Fingerprinting.
A suspension occurs when DPS discovers that a person who holds a fingerprint clearance card has a new arrest for a precluded offense. For instance, a cardholder who is arrested for assault will have his or her card suspended. In most other respects, however, there is little difference between a suspension and a denial for the purpose of the good-cause-exception application process.
In 2009, a new law went into effect that created two types of fingerprint clearance cards rather than just one type. Beginning on July 1, 2009, DPS began issuing Level I fingerprint clearance cards, in addition to the standard fingerprint clearance cards. There are more types of criminal charges that can cause a Level I card to be denied or suspended, so the Level I card is more restrictive and harder to get. Standard cards correspond, for the most part, with the fingerprint clearance card that existed prior to the legislative changes.
Level I cards are required for the following professions or activities. (Also listed are the state agencies that regulate that profession or activity.) If your profession or activity is not listed below, then either a Level I card or a standard card will suffice.
- Adoption, Department of Economic Security (DES)
- Board of Fingerprinting members and employees
- Child care group home employees, Department of Health Services (DHS)
- Child care group home licensees, DHS
- Child care home providers, DES
- Child care employees, DHS
- Child care facility licensees, DHS
- Child Protective Services (CPS) employee, DES
- Day care home providers, DES
- DES contractors
- Developmental-home licensure, DES
- Division of Developmental Disabilities employees, DES
- Foster-home licensure, DES
- DES information-technology employees
- Non-CPS employees, DES
- In certain circumstances, individuals who hold fingerprint clearance cards that were issued prior to July 1, 2009, can use those fingerprint clearance cards in place of a Level I card.
Application's are available on the Forms and Resources page. Please be sure to read the instructions carefully and to see the section on frequently asked questions. If you can't download the application, please contact us at (602) 265-0135 or [email protected].
Before the Board looks at the application, it must receive a complete application package. Failure to submit a complete application package will delay the process and may cause the application to be denied. A complete application must include at least the following.
- Application form (completed, signed, and notarized). Applicants should not fail to answer any of the questions. The application form also requires a personal statement that explains, from the applicant's perspective, every arrest that may be on your criminal history record. Applicants should make sure to address every arrest, even if it did not appear on the letter from DPS, and even if the arrest did not lead to a conviction. Applicants also may want to describe the positive lifestyle changes they have made. (For more information on personal statements, please see the "Resources" section of our Forms & Resources page.)
- Two letters of reference (completed on the forms provided by the Board). Both letters must be completed by someone who has known the applicant for at least one year. One form must be completed either by the applicant's current or former employer or by someone who has known the applicant for at least three years. Applicants may submit more reference letters, if they like. However, they must submit at least two, and the references must use Board-prescribed form.
- Evidence that the applicant has met all sentencing requirements. For every conviction on an applicant's record, regardless of whether the offense appeared on the DPS letter, the applicant must prove to the Board that the applicant met his or her sentencing terms. Sentencing terms might have included probation, parole, restitution, fines, community service, counseling, educational classes, drug or alcohol screening, incarceration, etc. To prove that an applicant met these requirements, she or he must provide a document from the court that sentenced her or him that shows the applicant completed the requirements. If the applicant contacts the court, and it says it has no record, the applicant should get a written statement from the court that indicates it has no record. If the applicant has not completed the sentencing requirements, he or she should submit a written statement that indicates the progress made toward completing them. (For more information on personal statements, please see the "Resources" section of our Forms & Resources page.)
- Police reports (not required of all applicants). If any of the applicant's arrests occurred within five years of the date the fingerprint clearance card was denied or suspended, the applicant must provide police reports for each arrest, even if the arrest did not appear on the DPS letter, and even if the applicant was not convicted. The applicant must provide the entire report.
- Disposition information (not required of all applicants). If the applicant's denial or suspension letter indicated that DPS could not find the disposition of an arrest, she or he must provide court documentation indicating the disposition. ("Disposition" means what finally happened to a case after an arrest, such as conviction, acquittal, dropped charges, etc.) If the applicant contacts the appropriate court, and it says it has no record, the applicant should get a written statement from the court that indicates it has no record. (For more information on personal statements, please see the "Resources" section of our Forms & Resources page.)
- Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services. All applicants must disclose whether they have had a substantiated allegation of child or adult abuse or neglect made to a child-welfare or adult-welfare agency, regardless of whether the allegation led to criminal charges. In Arizona, the child-welfare agency is called Child Protective Services (CPS), and the adult-welfare agency is called Adult Protective Services (APS); the agencies may have different names in other states. If the applicant has had a substantiated allegation of child or adult abuse or neglect, he or she must contact CPS, APS, or the appropriate child-welfare or adult-welfare agency, request a copy of the final report on the allegation, and submit that report with the application. The applicant must also submit a written statement that explains the allegation.
When you send in your application, the Board staff will order your criminal history records from DPS. Once these records arrive, a Board investigator will examine all criminal records and submitted application materials to determine whether the application is complete. If it is not complete, she or he will send a letter or contact you by telephone to explain what's missing from the package. If it is complete, the investigator will send the file to the Board for an expedited review.
The Board conducts an initial review of complete applications called an expedited review. All applications are examined under an expedited review; there is no need to specially request a review. Applicants are not present at this review; an expedited review is just an examination of the criminal records and the documents the applicant submitted. The Board makes one of two determinations when reviewing files:
- The file qualifies for a good cause exception under an expedited review. That is, the applicant can receive a card without having to appear at a hearing. The Board will direct DPS to issue a card, which normally arrives at your address within a couple of weeks.
- The file does not qualify for a good cause exception under an expedited review. That is, the applicant must appear at a hearing. This determination is not the same as a denial. Applicants still have an opportunity to present their case with oral testimony and, in some cases, additional documents.
For applications received on or after September 19, 2007, the expedited review must take place within 20 days from the time the Board receives the complete application package, including the criminal-history information from the Department of Public Safety.
Applicants who are not approved for a card under an expedited review must appear at a hearing. Hearings take place in Phoenix, Arizona, and are conducted by an administrative law judge designated by the Board. At the hearing, the administrative law judge will ask questions and give the applicant the opportunity to submit testimony (the applicant's own testimony or that of a witness) to demonstrate that he or she is rehabilitated and not a recidivist. The hearing is the applicant's opportunity to demonstrate why he or she should be granted a good cause exception.
For applications received on or after September 19, 2007, the hearing must take place within 45 days of the expedited review. However, under state law, an applicant must be given at least 20 days' notice of the hearing. Therefore, the hearing will take place between 20 and 45 days of the expedited review, unless the applicant requests that the hearing be rescheduled or continued.
Following the hearing, the administrative law judge will file a recommendation to the Board. Within 80 days of the hearing, the Board will make the final decision. (For more information, see the section "Results: Board Makes Final Decision" below.)
The administrative law judge may allow an individual to appear at a hearing by telephone. However, the circumstances must be exceptional, and the applicant must demonstrate that appearing in person would be an undue hardship. In general, inconvenience, however significant, is not grounds for having a telephonic hearing. To request a telephonic hearing, the applicant should submit a written statement explaining why he or she would suffer undue hardship if not allowed to appear telephonically at the hearing. The statement should be submitted with enough time for the hearing officer to examine and respond to the request; applicants should not wait to submit request for telephonic hearings until just a few days before the scheduled hearing.
Applicants with disabilities may be entitled to accommodations, including American Sign Language interpreters. Applicants should notify the Board office as soon possible of any required accommodations to allow the Board staff sufficient time to make arrangements for the accommodations.
Due to budget constraints, the Board currently does not provide language interpreters (apart from American Sign Language). If applicants are not comfortable communicating in English, they should bring an interpreter to the hearing.
If we received your good-cause-exception application on or after September 26, 2008, the administrative law judge will file with the Board a recommended order either granting or denying your application. The recommendation describes what the administrative law judge determines are the facts in your case and how the law applies to those facts. However, it is only a recommendation is not the final decision. The Board itself will make the final decision by adopting, rejecting, or modifying the administrative law judge's recommendation.
The Board will hold another hearing, where it will decide whether or not to accept the administrative law judge's recommendation. There will be at least three but normally five Board members present. These Board members represent some of the state agencies that require fingerprint clearance cards. At least 20 days before the hearing, the Board staff will send you a notice indicating the time, date, and location of the hearing. You are entitled to attend the hearing, but you are not required to attend. If you do attend, you will not be permitted to speak or present evidence. You will only be allowed to observe the Board proceedings.
Along with the notice of your hearing, you will also get a copy of the administrative law judge's recommendation. If there's anything in the recommendation that you disagree with, you can submit a written response at least 10 days before the hearing (the due date will appear on the hearing notice). Prior to the hearing, the Board will review your written response. Your written response cannot include new evidence that you did not present at or before your hearing before the administrative law judge. Therefore, you should make certain that you present all evidence at or before the hearing before the administrative law judge.
At the hearing, the Board members will have discussion, if necessary. They will then make a decision to accept, reject, or modify the administrative law judge's recommendation. You will know when you leave the hearing whether your application was approved or denied.
Under no circumstance whatsoever should you attempt to contact Board members prior to the hearing. If you attempt to contact Board members, your application may be denied.
For applications received on or after September 19, 2007, the Board's decision must be made within 80 days of your hearing before the hearing officer. Unfortunately, the process is not likely to take much less time, given the legal requirements that the Board has to meet.