Senator DONALD NORCROSS
District 5 (Camden and Gloucester)
Directs Attorney General to develop guidelines for positive identification of suspects before release.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act concerning criminal identity theft and supplementing Title 52 of the Revised Statutes.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. The Legislature finds and declares that:
a. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes nationally and in this State.
b. Identity theft is particularly insidious to victims who often spend years after it occurred dealing with the bureaucracy necessary to clear their good names and records.
c. To address the growing problem of identity theft, the Legislature passed the "Identity Theft Prevention Act,” P.L.2005, c.226 (C.56:11-44 et al.). This act focuses on identity crimes involving the interception of personal financial data or the fraudulent acquisition of credit cards or other financial products in another person's name.
d. While this type of “financial identity theft” receives much public attention, another type of identity theft that also poses grave consequences to its victims is “criminal identity theft.”
e. Criminal identify theft occurs when a criminal suspect provides a law enforcement officer during an investigation or arrest with another person’s name and personal information, such as a driver’s license, whether valid or counterfeit, birth date, or social security number. For example, a suspect may present to law enforcement a relative’s driver’s license. The suspect is released, but the law enforcement agency has the victim’s information, not the suspect’s.
f. The following negative consequences suffered by innocent victims of criminal identity theft can be grave:
(1) When the suspect fails to appear in court, a bench warrant will be issued, but for the victim whose name and personal information was given, rather than the suspect. An unsuspecting victim may be stopped for a routine traffic violation and be arrested based on the outstanding warrant.
(2) Alternatively, the arrestee appears in court and pleads guilty to the charge. The victims may never know unless their driver’s license is suspended, they are subsequently denied a license or employment, or they are terminated from employment because their information has been included in state, and possibly, national criminal databases.
In either case, it is the victims who are burdened with the responsibility of establishing innocence, clearing their name, and dealing with the significant inconvenience of correcting their criminal records. And while victims may be successful in clearing their criminal records, private entities who aggregate data may continue to maintain the incorrect information necessitating further action.
g. In this State, upon arrest for an indictable offense, adult suspects under R.S.53:1-15 and juvenile suspects under section 2 of P.L.1982, c.79 (C.2A:4A-61) are required to provide authorities with fingerprints. Local police departments in most municipalities have the capability to send these fingerprints directly to the State Police to determine whether the suspect has a prior conviction. A fingerprint match would foil a previously convicted suspect’s attempt to pass off another person’s personal information.
h. But detection of criminal identity theft is more problematic when the suspect has no fingerprints on file or is arrested for a lesser criminal offense, such as a disorderly persons offense, or for the quasi-criminal offense of drunk driving. While local law enforcement officers are undoubtedly taking additional steps to confirm the identities of suspects, the Legislature finds and declares that the increase in the number of victims of criminal identity theft necessitates an official Statewide policy to address the problem.
2. The Attorney General shall promulgate guidelines setting forth mandatory procedures to be followed by local police departments to enhance their ability to positively identify suspects before they are released. The guidelines shall be disseminated to local police departments within 120 days of the effective date of this act.
3. This act shall take effect immediately, but the Attorney General may take advance anticipatory administrative action as necessary to implement this act.
This bill requires the Attorney General to promulgate guidelines setting forth mandatory procedures to be followed by local police departments to enhance their ability to positively identify suspects before they are released. The purpose of the guidelines is to address the growing problem of “criminal identity theft.”
Criminal identity theft occurs when a criminal suspect provides a law enforcement officer during an investigation or arrest with another person’s name and personal information, such as a driver’s license, whether valid or counterfeit, birth date, or social security number. The suspect is released, but the law enforcement agency has the victim’s information, not the suspect’s. As a result, unsuspecting victims whose information has been stolen may be arrested, have their driver’s license suspended, or be denied a professional license or employment based on a criminal history record they didn’t know they had.