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NIJ Helps Police to Exchange Driver's License Photos

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2009
2 pages
This report describes a pilot project in which the U.S. Justice Department's National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has partnered with law enforcement agencies in four States in order to transmit driver's license photographs across State lines to an officer's computer within seconds of a request.
The project addresses the need of law enforcement officers to confirm the identity of people who are not carrying a driver's license or other form of photo identification. A person may provide a name and birth date to an officer, which enables the officer to obtain some further basic information, including whether the person has a valid driver's license from any State in the Nation; however, without a photograph, police do not know whether people are being truthful about their identity. A fugitive who is stopped for a traffic violation, for example, could deceptively provide the name and birth date of a family member with an out-of-State driver's license and a clean record. The pilot project to remedy this gap in identification procedures began in 2008 and includes North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, and Virginia. If the project establishes the feasibility of developing a nationwide capability for transmitting driver's license photos across State lines to an officer's patrol car computer, this would not only increase the speed with which an officer can make a reliable identification of a driver without a photo license, but would also eliminate the need to detain a driver simply for identification purposes. Further, it would increase officers' safety by enabling them to quickly identify suspicious persons who are possibly dangerous fugitives. Some restrictions that may be imposed on such a photo-sharing system by some State's laws are discussed.