Monday, September 08, 2008

CRIME NEWS: Texas' Criminal History Records are Really, Really Inaccurate

You watch CSI, or NCIS, or any one of a number of crime shows on TV, and there they are: huge databases of information on folk who have been arrested for crimes in all sorts of jurisdictions.

Federal, state, city,military - heck, they'll even pull up someone who's been busted overseas somewhere. And, it's so fast, too: the screen zips thru file after file, and suddenly stops on an exact match (who's usually the guest star for that episode).

Well, those in the know have long recognized that this isn't reality -- but never more so than this past month, when the Texas Department of Public Safety publicly admitted that its criminal history records database is far from complete. According to Angie Klein, who manages this database, it's only got 69% of the state's actual criminal records.

If this were a report card, DPS would be getting a D+.

What's going on? Counties aren't reporting, for a variety of reasons. And, of course, prosecutors are really upset by this. They may not have information regarding past criminal histories before offering up a nice plea deal.

Bottom line, what does this mean? There's a 31% chance that a criminal record isn't going to be in the system.

Think about it. The good news: you're pulled over on suspicion of driving drunk and there's a 31% chance the cop's not going to know about a past DWI on your record. Or, you're arrested for burglary: there's a 31% chance that a past conviction for burglary back in Houston isn't going to pop up on your record.

Of course, you and your criminal defense attorney need to make sure that any acquittals or dismissals of your case are recorded in the system. You don't want those old criminal charges to pop up when you are applying for a lease, or a job, or buying a gun, or adopting a child ....

Source:, August 22, 2008

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