Understanding Juvenile Fingerprinting In New York State:
Procedures and Record Use

Several procedural changes accompany the 1996 amendments to State laws governing juvenile fingerprinting and record use.

Effective November 1, 1996, the Family Court Act (FCA §306.1) specifies that, following the arrest of a child alleged to be a juvenile delinquent, law enforcement agencies in New York State must fingerprint:

Along with the juvenile's fingerprints, certain personal identifier and arrest information must be recorded on the juvenile fingerprint card and the attached "stub" (OCA 501 J). When a juvenile is charged at arrest as a Juvenile Offender (JO), this information must be recorded on both adult and juvenile fingerprint cards (DCJS-2 and DCJS-2 JD, respectively) and on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fingerprint card.

The fingerprints must be immediately forwarded to the State's central repository for fingerprints --DCJS.

The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) is the State's central repository for juvenile and adult fingerprint records. Upon taking a juvenile's fingerprints, agencies must forward the original juvenile and, when taken, the adult and FBI fingerprint cards to DCJS without unnecessary delay. The FBI card is then forwarded to the FBI. The police cannot retain the original fingerprints or copies of those prints [FCA §306.1( 4)]. Outside New York City, the stub, along with other relevant information, is forwarded to the agency where processing of the juvenile's case continues.

DCJS must provide the arresting agency with information on any pending arrests and prior juvenile delinquency adjudications for the fingerprinted juvenile.

Juvenile fingerprints, along with offender and arrest information from the fingerprint card, are stored in DCJS's Computerized Criminal History (CCH) data base. DCJS must search this data base for any information it has concerning a juvenile delinquency adjudication, adult conviction, or pending matter for the fingerprinted juvenile. DCJS must then promptly transmit a report --commonly referred to as a "rap sheet" --to the arresting agency with the results of this search. DCJS also searches its data bases containing missing person fingerprints and crime scene fingerprints.

Copies of the rap sheet must be shared with other appropriate agencies.

Upon receiving the rap sheet, the arresting agency must promptly transmit two copies to the family court and two copies to the presentment agency [FCA §306.2( 3)]. In turn, the presentment agency must furnish a copy of the rap sheet to the juvenile's law guardian or counsel. The probation department may request a copy of the rap sheet from DCJS for the purpose of preparing a pre-disposition report ordered by the court (FCA §351.1).

Outside New York City, the agency terminating the processing of a case in which
fingerprints have been taken must record the case disposition on the fingerprint card
stub and forward it to DCJS.

The agency that terminates the processing of a case must record how the case was disposed on the fingerprint card stub and then forward the stub to DCJS. New York City is excluded from this reporting process because its disposition data are submitted via a computer interface with DCJS. The stub of the fingerprint card is the only mechanism DCJS has to secure disposition data for cases outside New York City. The stub must be completed and returned to DCJS by:

DCJS must destroy a juvenile arrest record when the case outcome is favorable to the respondent or when the most serious adjudication charge is not among those specified for record retention.

A disposition is updated to DCJS's CCH data base and the fingerprints are retained when a juvenile delinquency finding is entered and --

Upon receiving notification that a case has been disposed in any other manner than specified above, DCJS must destroy all records in its possession that pertain to the case. In such instances, arresting agencies must also destroy any records in their possession obtained pursuant to FCA §306.1.

The permanent retention status of adjudication records is usually determined when a youth reaches 21 years of age.

The adjudication record becomes a permanent part of a youth's adult criminal history record if he or she is subsequently convicted of a crime that occurs before his or her 21st birthday [FCA§ 354.1( 7)]. If no such criminal event occurs, the juvenile delinquency records must be destroyed forthwith when a youth reaches the age of 21, provided he or she has been discharged from placement for at least three years.

It is important that local agencies make every effort to comply with their mandated reporting responsibilities.

The Family Court Act requires arresting agencies to forward juvenile fingerprints to DCJS. It also requires probation departments [FCA §308.1( 12)] and law enforcement agencies, presentment agencies and family courts (FCA §354.1) to submit case disposition information to DCJS upon terminating the processing of a juvenile delinquency case. The failure of arresting agencies to submit fingerprints impedes the State's ability to track the delinquent activity of juveniles who commit serious crimes. When dispositions are not reported, rap sheets lack juvenile delinquency adjudication information that may be important for determining appropriate interventions.

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