Is taking a full set of fingerprints simply to garner a driver’s license legal?
Government officials in Texas and a series of other states appear to think so. Since the 1960s Texas has required thumbprints for license renewals – index fingerprints if the thumb is missing. The decision to start collecting full sets of fingerprints in the Lone Star State began earlier this year. The move has many residents concerned about the possible uses of the personal identifying images.
Privacy advocates do not agree with state lawmaker arguments that the new practice does not infringe upon privacy rights, The Dallas Morning News reported
The new policy applies to required walk-in renewals but not mail-in renewals.
“Until now, if a person never got arrested, most likely his or her fingerprints would never get recorded or placed in a government database,” The News said.
The Texas legislature approved the fingerprinting.
Other states which mandate the collection of a full set of fingerprints in order to garner a driver’s license include California, Utah, Colorado, Hawaii, and Georgia.
The Texas Department of Public Safety stood behind the new rule.
“Making sure an individual is who they claim to be in the process of issuing government identification is a critical safeguard to protecting the public against a wide array of criminal threats. One of the most accurate and simplest ways to do that is through fingerprints,” a Texas Department of Public Safety representative told TheBlaze in an email.
Former Texas Department of Public Safety employee Ryan Barrett reportedly quit his job as a state fingerprint technician over the new collection policy.
“When DPS launched the policy without public announcement, Barrett says, he began asking his supervisors questions,” The News reported. “Is this legal? Where in the law is this permitted? Why is the state doing this? When the answers were insufficient, he says that, along with his desire to leave the overnight shift, gave him reasons enough to resign. He’s back in school pursuing his education.”
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According to Barrett, the fingerprints collected for driver’s license renewal are being run through the Texas criminal database. The former DPS fingerprint technician does not feel that the 2005 state law being used to support the new mandate actually supports such a practice. Texas Department of Public Safety officials deny the claims regarding criminal history searches.
A Texas DPS representative told The Blaze:
“The DPS’ 10-print fingerprint technology provides crucial protections to the state and our residents, including (1) reducing [driver’s license]/ID card fraud by preventing duplicate or alias licensing; (2) preventing the DL/ID from being used fraudulently to obtain goods, services or other forms of identification; and (3) helping guard against identity theft, which affects millions of victims nationwide every year. In addition, the transition to 10-print bolsters other DL processes in the overall licensing strategy to deter terrorists and other criminals from obtaining Texas DLs/IDs to support their covert movements within our country.”
David Reischer, a lawyer for LegalAdvice.com, said he believes the practice is legal, although he pondered whether there is a constitutional case against it.
“It is possible that the Fourth, the Fifth and [Fourteenth] Amendments may be used to strike down such a state statute but no case has, of yet, been before the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said. “The … Supreme Court may find that fingerprinting may not implicate the Fourth Amendment since it ‘involves none of the probing into an individual’s private life and thoughts that marks an interrogation or search. However, there may be a more compelling argument under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments as in violation of ‘due process’ rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.”
What do you think about states collecting full sets of fingerprints in order to get or renew a driver’s license?