Law enforcement agencies are the first and the oldest adopter of live scan fingerprinting of criminal (as well as non-criminal) subjects. The history of biometrics is as old as the history of fingerprint recognition and dates back to the 19th century. Biometrics in law enforcement applications is used for the identification of criminals, crime scene investigations, forensics, criminal and employment background check, etc.
From the era of ink-stained fingers, fingerprint recognition has reached the era of sanitizer rubbed fingers before you place them on a live scan fingerprinting machine. This is not to say that ink and roll fingerprinting is dead.
Law enforcement agencies such as the FBI still accept fingerprint cards, on which you can make fingerprint impressions with ink and send for non-criminal applications (such as background checks, etc.). However, live scan fingerprinting has become a preferred method of capturing fingerprints over the years, both by the law enforcement agencies as well people who avail live scan fingerprinting services.
What is live scan fingerprinting?
The process of capturing fingerprints with a live scan fingerprinting machine is called live scan fingerprinting. A live scan fingerprint scanner looks like a normal fingerprint scanner, however, it may have additional equipment (e.g. laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc.) and, supporting software to process live scans.
The process of live scan takes place electronically so there is no involvement of ink to capture fingerprints. Before the inception of live scan fingerprinting, law enforcement agencies were solely dependent on ink-based capture. Ink-based fingerprint capture involves staining fingers with ink and pressing them against a paper to make an impression of fingerprints. This process seems easy and it is, however, it has many pitfalls and quality issues which are discussed later.
There are all different types of fingerprint scanners in the market ranging from bulky 10-print scanners to tiny mobile phone scanners. Live scan fingerprinting, however, cannot be done with just any fingerprint scanning device. Live scan fingerprinting equipment can have a certain set of recommended specifications in order to ensure that captured live scan prints are interoperable with the law enforcement systems.
Setting minimum specification requirements for live scan systems ensures that the objectives of the live scan fingerprinting can be fulfilled.
History of live scan fingerprinting
The history of live scan fingerprinting is not more than a couple of decades old. Before the availability of live scan fingerprinting equipment and technology, ink-based impressions were the only way for capturing fingerprints.
Live scan fingerprinting is not just about setting up live scan fingerprinting equipment and capturing fingerprints electronically. It requires a robust and widespread infrastructure, in which fingerprints of individuals can be collected from different locations and maintained at a centralized/decentralized location.
This is generally made possible by setting up an AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System). An AFIS is a computerized system for sorting, comparing, and exchanging digital fingerprint data. AFIS is generally backed with superior computational power as there can be millions, even billions of records to process, which can take a significant time.
Law enforcement agencies also need to maintain a database of identities associated with biometric identifiers. FBI holds the largest database of biometric identities including fingerprints as well as other biometric identifiers. FBI had started developing its IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System).
The Federal Bureau of Investigation had started putting significant efforts and manpower into developing an automated system for fingerprint recognition in the late 1960s. A contract for the research on automation of fingerprint recognition was given to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) by the FBI in 1969.
In 1975, the FBI started pushing forward fingerprint recognition by funding the development of fingerprint sensors and minutiae extracting methods. Due to the high cost of digital storage back then, only the minutiae were stored while processing fingerprints. The fingerprint machine algorithm M40 developed by NIST became the first operational algorithm used by the FBI.
FBI’s large-scale computerized fingerprint identification system IAFIS became operational in 1999. With IAFIS, it became possible for the FBI to search fingerprints collected on any system. It also made the integration of different systems possible. IAFIS was able to accept electronic submissions of fingerprint services (e.g. for criminal history, background check, etc.) with AFIS.
Who needs live scan anyway?
Live scan fingerprinting has been made a regulatory/legal requirement in many civil as well as criminal applications. For example, at the time of booking a criminal, law enforcement agencies require fingerprints/palm prints or other biometrics either to enroll a criminal on their database or to search for any existing record.
Same way, there are many civil identity applications (such as background screening) for which an individual may need to go through live scanning. Many job types such as government, finance, banking, daycare, old age homes, etc., in which an individual is entitled to an influential position or come in contact with vulnerable citizens (such as children at daycare, old age homes, etc.) are required to be screened for their background to make sure that criminals or sex offenders can be screened out of the process.
Live scan fingerprinting locations
Now the question is that where can you get yourself live scanned? There are third-party service providers authorized by the law enforcement agencies (e.g. the FBI, Department of Justice, etc.) that provide live scan services. You can also buy equipment and do it yourself, however, live scan equipment is expensive for one-time use, so there are service providers who buy them and can do it for a fee, which is way less than buying the live scan fingerprinting machine.
Who provides live scan fingerprinting services?
A third-party vendor, who is an approved e-Fingerprint service provider (aka FBI approved channeler), can help capture and submit live scan fingerprints. The third-party vendor should have FBI IAFIS certified live scan fingerprinting equipment as well as access to the FBI’s system (for electronic submissions).
There are plenty of live scan fingerprinting locations unless you live in a remote area. In the United States, these third-party service providers can be found nearby in most metropolitan areas. You can quickly find a live scan fingerprinting location near you just by a quick Google search.
There are also service providers who have a nationwide network to provide live scan fingerprinting services. For example, UPS offers live scan fingerprinting services to its customers at UPS stores nationwide.
There are some service providers who you can perform live scan fingerprinting at your own location such as home or office at the time of your choice. These service providers call themselves onsite mobile fingerprinting live scan service providers. Onsite mobile live scan fingerprint is more convenient and can be a time saver for people who are short of it. Once booked, you can expect a professional fingerprinting operator to visit your location at the chosen time with a mobile live scan fingerprint unit.
Along with live scan fingerprinting machine, these professionals also carry standard FBI (FD-258), FINRA, and NFA cards, in case you need your fingerprints printed on an FBI card. The on-site mobile fingerprint service providers, however, will cost you more than in-store live scan fingerprinting services.
How does live scan fingerprinting process work?
You need to go through live scan fingerprinting when there is a need to do so. For example, when your employer or licensing agency has asked you to get a live scan background check done. However, regardless of the reason to go through live scan fingerprinting, the process is more or less the same.
Request for live scan fingerprinting form
First of all, you will need a request for a live scan fingerprinting form, which is generally provided by the requesting agency. This form has different sections namely applicant submission, applicant information, details of the operator (the third party live scan fingerprinting service provider who completed the transaction), etc.
This form also contains the necessary information for an applicant such as privacy notice, privacy act statement, and non-criminal justice applicant’s privacy rights, to let you know that how your law enforcement agency is going handles your biometric and biographic information to protect your privacy.
You will need to file a request for a live scan fingerprinting form and bring it to the live scan location you have chosen. It is always a good idea to verify with the agency where a live scan request is generated (e.g. your employer, licensing authority, etc.).
There are different types of requests for live scan fingerprinting forms and you need to choose the one that fits your case. For example, in the State of California, you can request your own rap sheet (criminal history record) for review via Form BCIA 8016RR (California Resident Criminal History Record Request).
There are also different live scan fingerprinting forms for different employment types. For example, you will need a different form for community care licensing (Live Scan Form LIC9163) from the California Department of Social Services and a different form for healthcare licensing.
Once you have the right form have it filled correctly, the next step is to contact your live scan fingerprinting service provider.
Live scan fingerprinting cost
Above we discussed how the FBI approves third-party service providers to provide live scan services for individuals and grant them access to the agency database for electronic submissions. Live scan fingerprinting services are provided for a cost, which is way cheaper than buying and setting up your own live scan fingerprinting machine. An FBI-approved channeler can itemize the cost as per the application type on your live scan request form.
|DoJ fee varies from||$25 – $42|
|Rolling scan fee typically varies from||$20 – $40|
|DOJ fee for record review||$25|
Getting fingerprints captured
Once you are at your live scan fingerprinting service provider (or the service provider is at your location if you have booked a mobile live scan fingerprinting), the first thing to do is to provide your duly filled request for a live scan fingerprinting form. The operator may also ask for a photo ID (such as a driving license) to confirm your identity.
The software that is used for performing live scan fingerprinting should instantly show the captured fingerprint. If anything goes wrong, you might need to rescan individual prints.
The live scan operator would prepare his/her live scan fingerprinting machine by opening live scanning software on his/her PC and standing by the scanner. The operator shall guide and assist you throughout the process. Generally, both the thumbs are scanned first, followed by 4 finger slaps from each hand. These are flat scans as your fingers/thumbs are not rolled, however, you will also need to provide a nail-to-nail rolled scan from each finger. The operator will put each finger (and thumbs) on the scanner and roll it.
Post submission, the agency where you have submitted your fingerprint should return results as per their standard turnaround time.
The live scan software used with the fingerprint scanner may have the ability to electronically submit fingerprints to agencies such as the FBI, FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), etc. Bayometric’s live scan software can capture live scan fingerprints while keeping stringent quality checks in place and submitting them to the FBI electronically.
What are the benefits of live scan?
Live scan fingerprinting is basically done for background screening in non-criminal requirements, such as employment, licensing, etc. Live scan fingerprinting, when compared with other methods of performing background checks with/without including biometric information, offers several benefits.
Live scan fingerprinting-based background checks of potential candidates for jobs and assignments offer more accuracy and confidence in the background verification process than other ways of background checks.
For example, if you choose to hire a babysitter and instead of performing a live scan-based background check, rely on an online background check, a simple fraudulent ID will be enough to fool you. This individual may have a criminal background and pose threat to you or your family members.
Background checks done with biographic information such as name/age/address may result in an error due to higher chances of human errors and multiple records with similar biographic information.
Biometric-based background verification with live scan, however, eliminates the possibility of such incidents that may occur during data entry or wrong records fetched.
Live scan fingerprinting is faster than all other available methods as it allows electronic capture of fingerprints. It becomes even faster to get results if fingerprints/palm prints are submitted electronically and not by printing and mailing them. Electronic submissions of live scanned fingerprints put them in a queue along with the other background check applications.
With its New Generation Identification (NGI) system, the FBI can process live scan fingerprinting requests faster than ever.
Though law enforcement agencies still accept paper-based submissions of fingerprints, getting fingerprints right on fingerprint cards can be a challenge. Superficially, taking fingerprints on FBI applicant cards may seem like an easy process but it may take multiple attempts to get it right, and you may still not be sure if all your efforts will pay off and the applications will be accepted by the agency. Capturing rolled fingerprints is even more challenging as a slight slip of the finger may result in overlapping ridge impressions.
If you have ever gone through ink-based FBI applicant fingerprint card submission for a background check, you know how messy they can be. You have to always keep a backup card ready because there are high chances of errors. A slight movement error can waste your effort (and your FBI application card).
Instead of entangling in ink and roll, you can capture your fingerprints electronically with card printing services such as Bayometric’s Print to Card solution or you can submit them electronically if you wish to take that fastest route. Since there are no ink and manual efforts involved, live scan fingerprinting is undoubtedly way more efficient than paper-based submissions.
We all know that paper is made from trees and unnecessary use of paper leads to more trees being chopped to produce more paper. On the other hand, producing paper requires a lot of water, which again impacts the environment negatively.
Live scan fingerprinting and electronic submission of fingerprints is a paper-free process, in which no paper is required and wasted. Cumulatively, using electronic means to submit fingerprints for a background check can leave a positive impact on the environment.
Some government agencies may request your criminal history without a live scan, however, you will always know when it is done with a live scan as you have to go through a live scan and provide your fingerprint/palm print.
Live scan vs. background check
Is live scan the same as a background check?
The answer is that a live scan is a part of the whole background check process. Live scan only covers the portion in which your fingerprints/palm prints are captured electronically using live scan fingerprinting equipment. Live scan fingerprinting, however, is not the only way to initiate the process of your fingerprint/palm print submission for background checks. Instead of using live scan, you can make ink-based fingerprint impressions on an FBI fingerprint card and send them to the agency. This process does not have a live scan involved.
Live scan fingerprinting, however, dramatically expedite the process and you get results faster. It also improves the chance of your application getting accepted by the agency. Ink-based fingerprint capture may be prone to errors and have a higher probability of your background check request getting rejected due to unusable fingerprint impressions.
What is the difference between DOJ and FBI background check?
California Department of Justice keeps a database of all arrests as well as court actions taking place in the state. These complied records of arrest and prosecution are utilized by the law enforcement agencies for criminals as well as performing criminal background checks for non-criminal applications such as employment or regulatory purposes. DOJ also sends copies of the RAP sheet to the FBI, to record them in the Federal criminal database.
To get a DOJ background check done, applicants have to complete a request for live scan service form specific to DOJ (BCIA 8016). California’s Department of Justice (DOJ) requires different forms to be applied for different employment types (i.e. organization types).
If an applicant wants FBI criminal history background checks along with DOJ background checks. The DOJ forwards the request to the FBI. FBI is a national agency and maintains the national criminal history database for the incidents of arrest and prosecution taking place across the United States. The FBI reverts to the DOJ with the arrest and prosecution, (RAP sheets) reported to the FBI from the different states.
The major difference between DOJ and FBI background check is the scope. If you want a state-wide record of arrest and prosecution, DOJ background checks should suffice. For a nationwide RAP sheet, you should also get FBI background checks done. DOJ also maintains a background clearance listing, which includes the records of applicants who cleared the background checks.
Live scan fingerprinting is used by law enforcement agencies for criminal booking, identification, sexual offender registration, and background check. It is also used for issuing licenses or permits to businesses such as banking, insurance, finance, etc.
Live scan fingerprinting for civil applications comes under the definition of “criminal history record check for a noncriminal justice purpose”. There may be several reasons why someone would have to get a live scan done, application for employment or a license, immigration or naturalization matter, security clearance, or adoption to name a few.
In a live scan fingerprint service, the fingerprints are captured and processed electronically, so it reduces the possibility of human errors that may take place while taking ink-based fingerprint impressions. Live scan fingerprinting is the backbone of many criminal as well as non-criminal applications and without this technology, law enforcement services could never be as efficient as they are today.