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MADISON - Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen urged legislators to adopt a bill that would enable the real-time electronic sharing of driver's photos from the Department of Transportation to officers making traffic stops and for other criminal justice purposes. The bill, 2009 Assembly Bill 230, was discussed this morning at a meeting of the Assembly Committee on Transportation. Van Hollen provided written testimony on the bill, supporting its adoption.
Van Hollen said in his written testimony that the bill would "bring the law in line with technology." According to Van Hollen, "Once implemented, the bill will protect law enforcement officers, help them protect the public, and do so in a manner that will protect against inappropriate use of driver's photos."
Under current law, law enforcement can electronically access, in real-time, certain government records through the state Department of Justice's "TIME" system . The TIME system is used by officers on nearly every call for timely, accurate, on-scene information. Items available through the TIME system under current law include vehicle registration information, criminal history records, warrant information, court records, and missing persons status. The TIME system can also transmit text information pulled from a driver's DOT records, including information relating to physical descriptions and identifiers such as age, weight, height, and driver's license numbers.
Current law also enables law enforcement to access photographs maintained by the Department of Transportation for the purposes of investigation (criminal or missing persons) or to identify accident victims or deceased persons, but only upon the submission of a written request on agency letterhead a form that generally precludes real-time access to photographs through the TIME system.
Gary Hamblin, a former Dane County Sherriff and the Department of Justice's Administrator for the Division of Law Enforcement Services the division that administers the TIME system also appeared before the Assembly Committee on Transportation and provided oral and written testimony in support of the bill. Hamblin said that "having drivers license photos available to officers in the field would be an immense improvement in the officers' ability to provide public safety." Hamblin discussed a variety of scenarios in which having access to the records would be useful.
"Think about how much easier it would be to find the elderly man who becomes confused and wanders away from his home in the evening if each responding officer had ready access to the man's driver's license photo," Hamblin said. "The ready access to photos could mean the difference between a happy ending and a tragic outcome."
Hamblin noted that Minnesota officers currently have electronic access to Minnesota driver's records. If the bill is passed into law and implemented, Wisconsin officers would also have access to DOT photos from other states that make electronic photos available to law enforcement for criminal justice related purposes. A copy of the bill is available at http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2009/data/AB-230.pdf.