Security Clearance Process

Police Record Section Questions on the SF-86

Many security clearance applicants seem to get confused about what they are required to list when they get to the police record section on the SF-86. There are “EVER” and within the last seven year questions, questions that deal with alcohol, questions that deal with illegal drug use, questions about domestic violence, questions about arrests, and questions that ask only about convictions. All of this is enough to give the person reading it a headache the size of China. Here is what the disclaimer says when you get to the Police Record section in e-QIP:

“For this section report information regardless of whether the record in your case has been sealed, expunged, or otherwise stricken from the court record, or the charge was dismissed. You need not report convictions under the Federal Controlled Substances Act for which the court issued an expungement order under the authority of 21 U.S.C. 844 or 18 U.S.C. 3607. Be sure to include all incidents whether occurring in the U.S. or abroad.”

This is pretty straightforward, right? Yet, time and again, depending on the particular question, applicants overthink things or listen to bad advice and fail to list arrests, charges that were downgraded from the original offense, charges that resulted in adjudication withheld (a form of probation), or charges that were dismissed but may be related to the “have you ever been arrested or charged” questions.  As many on this blog site have advised, over-reporting is better than under-reporting. This prevents any appearance of dishonesty or lack of candor and gives the applicant an opportunity to show it is in the past.


  1. I wonder if the confusion sometimes arises due to the fact that private sector employers, for routine non-clearance jobs, are no longer permitted to ask about arrests (only convictions).