U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Report of the National Focus Group on the Retention of Civil Fingerprints by Criminal History Record Repositories

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2008
66 pages
This report examines situations in which fingerprints submitted to state criminal central repositories for applicant criminal record checks are retained.
The keeping of civil fingerprints in searchable state administered systems is the foundation for various services. Dramatic increases in fingerprint-supported criminal record checks to determine suitability for a variety of non-criminal justice purposes results in large numbers of fingerprints being collected and retained by state criminal history repositories. Besides the background checks for which the fingerprints are primarily collected, these prints are often utilized in a variety of other ways to improve public safety. Many states match these “civil” or “applicant” fingerprints against databases of latent fingerprints, which are partial or complete fingerprint images of unknown individuals collected from crime scenes, stolen property, and other sources. In a growing number of states, civil fingerprints are retained to support “rap-back” or “hit-notice” programs through which employers and licensing agencies are notified when current or potential employees who have successfully passed a background check are subsequently arrested. The National Focus Group on the Retention of Civil Fingerprints by Criminal History Record Repositories was convened to examine the various beneficial practices and legislation governing civil fingerprint use and to inform law- and policymakers of their value. The focus group also examined and addressed concerns expressed about the public’s awareness of the myriad uses of retained applicant fingerprints, and the potential negative impact that could occur if the public is not adequately informed about how prints are used after the initial criminal record check for which they are collected is completed. The focus group’s discussions and deliberations served as the basis for this report.

Date Published: December 1, 2008