Stephens to Investigate Flaws in PA's Fingerprint Reporting

HARRISBURG-- Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) has announced he will investigate why as many as 500 fingerprints submitted to the FBI monthly by law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania are rejected as unreadable.

Stephens will also examine if the agencies responsible for the flawed submissions are following up to make sure the fingerprints of suspects and criminals are properly entered into the national database.

“This is a major problem, not only for completing background checks for gun purchases, but for all kinds of criminal investigations,” Stephens said.   

During a House Judiciary Committee hearing examining the state’s background check system for gun purchases, officials from the Pennsylvania State Police testified that as many as 2 percent of the fingerprints sent to the FBI for examination each month are returned as unusable.  The reasons include technical errors, like cards with repeated digits, or smudges.  They are then returned to the local enforcement agencies that collected the fingerprints.

Fingerprints are submitted to the FBI for inclusion in its national crime database, and can be used to check if a potential gun buyer has a criminal background.  The State Police explained that notwithstanding the rejection by federal authorities, these records are included in any firearms background checks conducted in Pennsylvania using the PICS system.  However, these records would not be included in searches conducted outside of Pennsylvania.

“I want to know what happens after the FBI returns these erroneous fingerprints” Stephens explained.  “What procedures are in place to make sure the fingerprints are taken properly and resubmitted?  How can we help local law enforcement do a better job ensuring criminals are listed in the national database?”  

Stephens will follow up with the state police and will meet with federal officials to see what changes need to be made to ensure more submissions are accepted into the national database.

“The system as it operates now is unacceptable,” Stephens said.  “When someone commits a crime in Pennsylvania that information needs to be readily available to those accessing the national database.”  

Representative Todd Stephens
151st District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: David Foster
267.207.0207 /
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