LiveScan Fingerprinting
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Questions & Answers

Who pays for LiveScan fingerprinting?
If the live scan application is for licensing the applicant is expected to pay the costs themselves.  However, if the application is for the purpose of a pre-employment background check, the prospective employer may opt to cover all or a portion of the fees.  If the employer is paying, there will most likely be a billing code on the application that is provided by the DOJ.  Some employers may ask the applicant to incur the charges initially and be reimbursed at a later date.

What will you need to bring when you receive live scanning?
A live scan form is provided to an applicant by the prospective employer or the agency requesting the background check.  The applicant brings the completed form to a live scan facility approved by the Department of Justice.  All applicants must provide valid photo identification at the time of the live scanning.

Who is required to be live scanned?
Individuals who are applying for certain job positions and licenses are required to go through the live scan process as part of a background check. Click here to see a list of some of the professions and licenses that require live scan.

What is the process?
Applicants are given a form by the prospective employer or requesting agency to take to the live scan facility. The live scan operator inputs the information provided by the form and scans the applicant's fingerprints into a special software program.  There are codes on the form provided by the DOJ that enables them to designate the information when they receive an applicant's data.  Once the operator transmits the record, the DOJ receives it within seconds.  From there, the DOJ will forward a copy of the record to the FBI if they are also doing a search.  The DOJ will process the prints and information then will send the results to the requesting employer or agency.

Why live scan and not ink?
Traditionally fingerprints were recorded by rolling an individual's fingers in ink and then onto a ten print card. Ten print cards were then sent by mail to the Department of Justice for processing.  This method of submitting fingerprints had some major flaws.  Problems commonly associated with inked prints were smudging, smearing, and over or under inking; thus, making prints difficult, if not impossible, to read.  If any of these problems occurred, prints would have to be re-rolled until perfect prints were obtained-a very time consuming practice, indeed.  The other flaw with the ink prints was the time it took the prints to get to the Department of Justice and be processed.  Ink prints can take 10 to 12 days (plus the time it takes to be mailed) to be processed and up to 60 days if there is a criminal history; whereas live scan prints are done within 72 hours and up to 30 days if there is a criminal history.

Why should a background check be conducted using fingerprints instead of the traditional method of name and social security number?
Background checks using modern automated fingerprint identification systems, such as live scan, have an error rate of less that 1%.  Name based background checks have a record of producing a substantial number of false hits.  One study, the Name Check Efficacy Study, conducted in 1998-99 by a task force commissioned by the U.S. Attorney General, found that if out of the 6.9 million civil applicant background checks processed by the FBI in 1997 had been processed by Interstate Identification Index name checks only, about 346,500 of those would have resulted in false positives and 70,200 would have produced false negative results.  Even though the number of false hits was only 6% of the total number of searches conducted, it's scary to think that 346,500 people were falsely identified as having criminal records when they, in fact, did not and perhaps lost the opportunity of obtaining a job they needed.  Even scarier is the idea that over 70,000 individuals with criminal records were shown to have no record and were then capable of being placed in position they normally would not be allowed, such as positions working with young children.

In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is firmly opposed to name-based background checks for noncriminal justice purposes.  The FBI won't even accept such inquiries unless they are accompanied by fingerprints.  For more information on the FBI's position, read the formal statement of record made before the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime Regarding H.R.3410 and Name Check Efficacy made by David R. Loesch Assistant Director in Charge, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The simple fact of the matter is that the only means of positive identification is using fingerprints.  Name-based background checks are not based on positive identification.  Name-based checks are conducted by submitting an individual's personal identifiers such as name, race, sex, DOB, SSN, etc.  If the personal identifiers that are submitted don't match the personal identifiers maintained in the Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) system exactly, the correct record may not be disseminated.  It just takes making a single typo, or the input of the wrong code used to represent gender and race, to produce a false hit or not hit.  In addition, common names (i.e., John Smith) can result in multiple hits or when people use aliases or nicknames (Jonathon Smith, John Michael Smith, Johnny Smith, etc.).

Two individuals can have the same name but no two individuals can have the same fingerprints.

Fingerprint-based inquiries do not use personal identifiers as the primary means of conducting, so accuracy of persona identifiers will not affect accuracy of the search.  As the saying goes, "To err is human," thus whenever a process is done by a person there is some margin or error.  In the case of fingerprint-based background checks; however, 85% of the searches performed on AFIS require no human intervention, substantially lowering the possibility of errors.

It is difficult for individuals with a criminal background to get a job, especially if their crimes were violent in nature or were against children.  That is why these types of offenders commonly use false names or aliases, or even false dates of birth, on job applications.  They are able to provide prospective employers with a fake ID knowing that a background check that is name based will come back clean,  This is why background checks that include a fingerprint search deters people who have  criminal history from even applying for positions within a business or organization that publicize the fact that they require live scan for all new hires

Individuals can produce false identification, but an individual cannot produce false fingerprints.
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