Monday, January 3, 2011

New Bill: HB 48 - Fingerprints of Juveniles




Wording for my new bill has been published online.  You can read the bill HERE.

One of my constituents works for Weber County CSI.  He has been talking to me about this issue for several years. However, recently there has been story that has brought new urgency to this issue.  Apparently, a perpetrator was recently booked into Weber County as an adult on burglary charges.  Since this was his first time being booked as an adult, his fingerprints were taken and put into our state Bureau of Criminal Information's database.  Once there, a search was run and it was discovered that his prints matched 10+ unsolved cases where prints were taken from the scene but no match was found from perpetrators who had been caught.

Yet, this perpetrator had been caught before.  However, he was a juvenile when he was apprehended previously.  So why didn't his fingerprints show up in the system?  His prints simply weren't taken by law enforcement. 

I discovered in my interviews with law enforcement personnel that there is a widely held belief that juvenile offenders CAN"T be fingerprinted.  If you read the law, you can see that this belief simply isn't the case.  Nevertheless, there is a superstition about this issue that seems to pervade law enforcement.  Therefore, the current practice is to apprehend, issue a ticket or court date, and then release the juveniles back to their parents without getting any prints along the way.   

This bill aims to remove any hesitation that now exists when fingerprinting juvenile offenders after apprehension.  This bill also adds gang crimes as an offense worthy of fingerprinting.  

There are several benefits to having fingerprints documented:

1.  It will prevent crimes from occurring by identifying perpetrators early and allowing for apprehension more quickly.
2.  It should decrease property damage and should decrease insurance rates due to a decrease in claims.
3.  It will put pressure on gangs who use juveniles to do their bidding.  Many young gang member earn "stripes" by committing offenses to gain recognition within their particular gang. You can read more about that here.  These types of gangs know that juveniles have been shielded from fingerprinting.  These types of activities will not longer be "protected".

Probably the most interesting part of this bill is that all the people, hardware, and paperwork is already in place to make it happen.  This bill will give them the nod to go ahead and do their job.  It will hopefully make for quieter streets and increase justice in our society. 

6 comments:

  1. Great idea. The way to curtail theses crimes is to ID them as early and often as possible.

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  2. I like it! ....provided the right safeties are in place to get them "out of the system" should they be proven innocent.

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  3. My apprehension with this is that, being juvenile, they are technically wards of their parents, and not the state. Granted that an offense should be treated as such no matter the age. I would be much more supportive if the fingerprints could be used anonymously (requiring a court order or warrant to open the file) on match. If my 16-year-old was fingerprinted just because he was caught breaking curfew and not convicted, I would be upset and bring suit against the state.

    Should be fingerprinted if and only if convicted of a significant crime, and still only be used with court authority.

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  4. The fingerprinting provision is only for offenses that would be equivalent to a felony if they were an adult. Or, for a gang related offense as defined by the code. Note: This gang provision may be edited as we move forward due to some technical issues that have been brought up on the matter.

    Breaking curfew or minor things that most juveniles do would not be deemed enough of an infraction to justify the print. Things like burglary, drug peddling, ect. are the types of offenses that would be subject to this law.

    One suggestion that has been brought up is expunging the record after a specified period of time after the juvenile becomes an adult and they have not committed another crime. We are looking into this as well.

    Can you clarify your "Anonymous Usage" suggestion?

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  5. After I had posted this, I realized it was ambiguous and vague.

    My thought is that fingerprinting a minor should not be a problem, but access to those fingerprints should be controlled. Putting those fingerprints in the database for searching would be a good tool for law enforcement. But if they have a "hit" on a juvenile fingerprint, law enforcement can get no further information (not even name, etc.) until a warrant from a judge has been procured.

    Doing it this way protects the juvenile (even juvenile gang-bangers are still a protected class!) and the burden of proof lies with the Law Enforcement. They would not be able to use this as a "fishing expedition" and would have to prove to a judge they have legitimate cause to proceed in investigation.

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  6. Jeremy - this is great. If youth make the decision to act in a felonious manner, they deserve to be fingerprinted and tracked. I respectfully disagree with the previous comments - juveniles are NOT one of the protected classes. If they have the tendency to commit felonies, their right to privacy goes out the window. By not fingerprinting, we are providing a training mechanism for tomorrow's criminals.

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