Law Enforcement

Law enforcement agencies use warrant and criminal history records obtained through local, state, and national criminal justice information systems primarily for investigative purposes. For example, criminal histories, used in conjunction with driver's records, allow law enforcement to accurately identify an individual as well as aid officers in building cases against suspects based upon information such as prior criminal patterns, known associates, frequented locations, and vehicle or property information. A suspect's prior record can be helpful in obtaining a search warrant, establishing criminal knowledge or motive, providing a probable location to serve a warrant, or establishing alibis is a suspect was incarcerated at the time of the crime.

Warrants

If and when law enforcement has a reasonable suspicion that a person was involved in a crime - or establishes probable cause for questioning - they submit a formal affidavit to a judicial official to issue a warrant for the person's arrest and extradition, if needed. Upon issuance, the warrant subject is considered a fugitive from justice. In order to apprehend the person, law enforcement submits the record to the local, state, regional, or national warrant systems - depending on the severity of the offense - in order for law enforcement officials in other jurisdictions to locate the person and bring them into custody.

Accurate and real time access to warrant information is one of the primary officer safety tools. Warrant information is essential to the police officer in the field. This information is used routinely by officers during encounters with the public, such as vehicle stops, to ensure both officer and public safety. If an individual is found to have an active warrant, the officer can take precautions against risk of harm or flight because warrants frequently include known risk factors ("cautions") about an individual. The public is served by arresting the individual with the outstanding warrant.

Dispositions

Upon arrest, law enforcement sets in motion a series of events and corresponding information exchanges that culminate in establishing a person's criminal history. The disposition or adjudication of the arrest charges is a critical component of a person's criminal history and has broad implications for public safety. When a person is fingerprinted via a Livescan device they are assigned a unique identification number that serves to verify the person's identity as well as match the person and charges upon disposition. This essential process enhances the accuracy of a person's criminal history record - ensuring confidence in critical investigative information. Equipped with this information, law enforcement knows if a suspect has restrictions (such as possession of a firearm or other dangerous weapon by a felon, active restraining or protection orders, etc.), is an escapee, or has failed to comply with supervision conditions (such as no alcohol/drug use, geographic restrictions, etc.) and can make informed decisions about how to proceed with the investigation/arrest.

Law enforcement uses criminal history records to guide decision-making at every stage of the investigative/arrest process. Therefore, it is critical that criminal history records be timely, complete, and accurate.