View Full Version : Give fingerprint or get jail time

10-21-2005, 10:54 PM

Traffic violators face ID theft check
Give fingerprint or get jail time

Judi Villa
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 20, 2005 12:00 AM

Motorists cited for criminal traffic violations will have to give their thumbprint to Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies or go to jail.

"This will be mandatory. No exceptions," Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Wednesday. "If they don't want to give the print, they're going directly to jail. Period."

Arpaio launched the new policy Wednesday across the Valley, expanding and toughening a pilot program in which motorists pulled over for routine traffic stops were asked to voluntarily provide a thumbprint. The goal was to catch people who took the wheel with stolen or phony driver's licenses and ultimately to combat identity theft in Arizona, which ranks top in the nation for the crime.

But Arpaio said about 67 percent of motorists declined to voluntarily give their thumbprints. Although Arpaio cannot require people to provide a fingerprint if they are cited for civil traffic violations, he said he can if the citation is criminal.

Criminal traffic violations include reckless driving, excessive speed (more than 20 mph above the posted speed limit) and driving under the influence, while civil violations include speeding, failure to yield or unsafe lane changes.

Officials at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office said they had not been consulted about the new policy and could not comment whether it was legal.

"Of course we can take prints," Arpaio said, referring to criminal traffic violators. "We can arrest everybody if we want to."

The prints are entered into the Automated Fingerprint Identification System to see if drivers are using fake identification.

Civil libertarians have been vehemently opposed to the program since the pilot began in February in the West Valley. It expanded to the East Valley three months later.

"We still have a major constitutional privacy issue here," Dawn Wyland, interim director of the Arizona Civil Liberties Union, said Wednesday.

It's one thing to take a fingerprint from a person suspected of driving drunk, Wyland said. But it's something entirely different to threaten people with jail for offenses they never dreamed would land them behind bars.

Across the Valley, motorists cited for criminal traffic violations are not routinely arrested and fingerprinted. Officers often opt to cite and release them instead.

"You can go to jail for driving a little too fast through a school zone," Wyland said. "How much are we going to put up with? This is a bad one."

Wyland also questioned Arpaio's link between traffic tickets and identity theft.

"The trouble I'm having is finding the nexus between people violating traffic laws and identity theft," she said. "I just don't see it."

Still, Arpaio insisted the mandatory thumbprinting could reduce identity theft and help deputies locate wanted people. Nearly 7,500 traffic citations have been issued this year during the pilot program. Roughly 3,000 of those tickets were for criminal traffic offenses.

About 15 of those cited were found to be using fraudulent identification, Arpaio said. One man was wanted for sexual assault, he said.