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Fingerprinting is a vital asset to law enforcement, prosecutors and defense attorneys—they can make or break case. They have the power to both prove guilt and innocence. People arrested and booked for crimes are fingerprinted as a standard practice across the country. They are then uploaded and stored in state and national databases. Such prints are linked to one’s past offenses and can be used as a tool to link one to new crimes.

Since 2001, in the wake of 9/11, many places of employment will require background checks and fingerprinting. While such practices are used by employers to avoid hiring people who have unsavory backgrounds which could jeopardize the company, it turns out that in many cases the information about one’s past is incorrect. Inaccuracies regarding one’s past can have a catastrophic effect on their future.

In fact, as many as one-half of the criminal records stored in the FBI’s fingerprint database could have “missing or inaccurate” information about how people’s criminal cases concluded, ABC News reports. The findings come from research conducted by the federal Government Accountability Office and the Department of Justice.

In the United States, first-time drug offenders are often able to have their record expunged if they complete certain requirements. Simply put, those who follow the direction of the state could have felony charges disappear, allowing them to have more options in their future. It is no secret that those who have a felony on their record—have a hard time finding employment and as well as other limitations depending on which state you live.

Unfortunately, just because someone completes all the requirements to have their record expunged, does not mean that the FBI and state databases will be updated. The lack of due diligence has civil rights and employment rights advocates up in arms, according to the article. The nonprofit National Employment Law Project, conducted a study in 2013 which found the database(s) often lack information about how a particular case ended, whether there was an acquittal or the charges were dropped for instance.

“You have to work with what you’ve got, but what we’ve seen is that in states like California where they track down the missing dispositions, then the information is more reliable,” said Maurice Emsellem, the program director for the National Employment Law Project, “Otherwise, without that kind of follow-up, you’re going to continue to see a lot of workers, mostly workers of color, fall through the cracks.” 

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Southern California. Based out of Orange County, Attorney Brower has represented individuals charged with crimes in state and federal court.

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower online or by telephone at 714-997-4400.

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