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Home  | Terms & Definitions: Criminal Justice Data Improvement Program | The NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007
Terms & Definitions: The NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007

Central repository
The database (or the agency housing the database) that maintains criminal history records on all state offenders. Records include fingerprint files and files containing identification segments and notations of arrests and dispositions. The central repository is generally responsible for state-level identification of arrestees, and commonly serves as the central control terminal for contact with FBI record systems. Inquiries from local agencies for a national record check (for criminal justice or firearm check purposes) are routed to the FBI via the central repository. Although usually housed in the Department of Public Safety, the central repository may be maintained in some states by the state police or some other state agency.

Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) or Criminal History Record Information System
A record (or the system maintaining such records) that includes individual identifiers and describes an individual's arrests and subsequent dispositions. Criminal history records do not include intelligence or investigative data or sociological data, such as drug use history. CHRI systems usually include information on juveniles if they are tried as adults in criminal courts. Most, however, do not include data describing involvement of an individual in the juvenile justice system. All data in CHRI systems are usually backed by fingerprints of the record subjects to provide positive identification. State legislation varies concerning disclosure of criminal history records for noncriminal justice purposes.

Criminal Justice Information Services Advisory Policy Board (APB)
Successor to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) APB, the CJIS APB is comprised of 30 criminal justice officials who provide policy input to guide the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the administration of its CJIS Division. The CJIS Division administers the NCIC, the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), and other information system programs determined by the FBI director to have some relationship with these programs.

Data quality
The extent to which criminal history records are complete, accurate, and timely. In addition, accessibility sometimes is considered a data quality factor. The key concern in data quality is the completeness of records and the extent to which records include dispositions as well as arrest and charge information. Other concerns include the timeliness of data reporting to state and federal repositories, the timeliness of data entry by the repositories, the readability of criminal history records, and the ability to have access to the records when necessary.

Federal Firearm Licensee (FFL)
A federally licensed firearms dealer is licensed by ATF to engage in the business of manufacturing, importing, or dealing in firearms. An FFL must be enrolled with the FBI NICS Section in order to request a NICS background check.

Felony or serious misdemeanor
The category of offenses for which fingerprints and criminal history information are accepted by the FBI and entered in the Bureau's files, including the Interstate Identification Index (III) system. Serious misdemeanor is defined to exclude certain minor offenses, such as drunkenness or minor traffic offenses.

Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS)
A national fingerprint and criminal history system maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division. The IAFIS provides automated fingerprint search capabilities, latent searching capability, electronic image storage, and electronic exchange of fingerprints and responses, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. As a result of submitting fingerprints electronically, agencies receive electronic responses to criminal 10-print fingerprint submissions within two hours and within 24 hours for civil fingerprint submissions. The IAFIS maintains the largest biometric database in the world, containing the fingerprints and corresponding criminal history information for more than 55 million subjects in the Criminal Master File. The fingerprints and corresponding criminal history information are submitted voluntarily by state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies.

Interstate Identification Index (III)
An "index-pointer" system for the interstate exchange of criminal history records. Under III, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) maintains an identification index of persons arrested for felonies or serious misdemeanors under state or federal law. The index includes identification information, (such as name, date of birth, race, and sex), FBI Numbers, and State Identification Numbers (SID) from each state holding information about an individual. Search inquiries from criminal justice agencies nationwide are transmitted automatically via state telecommunications networks and the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) telecommunications lines. Searches are made on the basis of name and other identifiers. The process is entirely automated and takes approximately five seconds to complete. If a hit is made against the Index, record requests are made using the SID or FBI Number, and data are automatically retrieved from each repository holding records on the individual and forwarded to the requesting agency. Participation requires that the state maintain an automated criminal history record system capable of interfacing with the III system and capable of responding automatically to all interstate and federal and state record requests.

Juvenile Justice Record
Official records of juvenile justice adjudications. Most adult criminal history record systems do not accept such records, which are frequently not supported by fingerprints and which are usually confidential under state law. Pursuant to an order dated July 15, 1992, the FBI now accepts and will disseminate juvenile records on the same basis as adult records. States, however, are not required to submit such records to the FBI.

Livescan and Cardscan
Livescans are automated devices for generating and transmitting digitized fingerprint images. Livescan devices capture fingerprint images directly from subjects' fingers, which are rolled onto glass scanning plates. Cardscan devices scan and digitize standard inked fingerprint cards and can transmit electronic images with related textual data to remote sites for printout or direct use.

Master Name Index (MNI)
A subject identification index maintained by criminal history record repositories that includes names and other identifiers for each person about whom a record is held in the systems. As of 1999, only one state did not have at least a partially automated MNI. Almost all states (45) had fully automated MNIs. The automated name index is the key to rapidly identifying persons who have criminal records for such purposes as presale firearm checks, criminal investigations, or bail setting. MNIs may include "felony flags," which indicate whether record subjects have arrests or convictions for felony offenses.

NCIC Protection Order File
Contains court orders that are issued to help law enforcement prevent acts of domestic violence against a person or to prevent a person from stalking, intimidating, or harassing another person. Orders are issued by both civil and criminal state courts.

NICS Index
The NICS Index contains records provided by state and federal agencies about persons prohibited from receiving firearms under federal law. All records in the NICS Index are disqualifying records and will prohibit the sale of a firearm. Most records in the NICS Index are obtained from federal agencies. However, authorized local and state law enforcement agencies may voluntarily contribute records to the NICS Index.

National Crime Information Center (NCIC)
An automated database of criminal justice and justice-related records maintained by the FBI. The database includes the "hot files" of wanted and missing persons, stolen vehicles, and identifiable stolen property, including firearms. Access to NCIC files is through central control terminal operators in each state that are connected to NCIC via dedicated telecommunications lines maintained by the FBI. Local agencies and officers on the beat can access the state control terminal via the state law enforcement network. Inquiries are based on name and other nonfingerprint identification. Most criminal history inquiries of the Interstate Identification Index (III) system are made via the NCIC telecommunications system. NCIC data may be provided only for criminal justice and other specifically authorized purposes. For criminal history searches, this includes criminal justice employment, employment by federally chartered or insured banking institutions or securities firms, and use by state and local governments for purposes of employment and licensing pursuant to a state statute approved by the U.S. Attorney General. Inquiries regarding presale firearm checks are included as criminal justice uses.

National Fingerprint File (NFF)
A system and procedures designed as a component of the Interstate Identification Index (III) system, which, when fully implemented, would establish a totally decentralized system for the interstate exchange of criminal history records. The NFF will contain fingerprints of federal offenders and a single set of fingerprints on state offenders from each state in which an offender has been arrested for a felony or a serious misdemeanor. Under the NFF concept, states will forward only the first-arrest fingerprints of an individual to the FBI accompanied by other identification data, such as name and date of birth. Fingerprints for subsequent arrests would not be forwarded. Disposition data on the individual would also be retained at the state repository and would not be forwarded to the FBI. Upon receipt of the first-arrest fingerprint cards (or electronic images), the FBI will enter the individual's fingerprint impressions in the NFF and will enter the person's name and identifiers in the III, together with an FBI Number and a State Identification Number (SID) for each state maintaining a record on the individual. Charge and disposition information on state offenders will be maintained only at the state level, and state repositories will be required to respond to all authorized record requests concerning these individuals for both criminal justice and noncriminal justice purposes. States would have to release all data on record subjects for noncriminal justice inquiries regardless of whether the data could be released for similar purposes within the state. The NFF has been implemented in eight states: Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Montana, and Kansas.

National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)
An automated system operated by the FBI established in accordance with the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act to check the eligibility of prospective gun purchasers.

National Sex Offender Registry
The NCIC Convicted Sexual Offender Registry File is designed to help law enforcement agencies keep track of convicted sex offenders released into the community. The file contains records of persons: convicted of a criminal offense against a minor; convicted of a sexually violent offense, or who are sexually violent predators.

Positive identification
Identification of an individual using biometric characteristics that are unique and not subject to alteration. In present usage, the term refers to identification by fingerprints but may also include identification by retinal images, voiceprints, or other techniques. Positive identification is to be distinguished from identification using name, sex, date of birth, or other personal identifiers as shown on a document subject to alteration or counterfeit such as a birth certificate, Social Security card, or driver's license. Because individuals can have identical or similar names, ages, etc., identifications based on such characteristics are not reliable.

Rap back
A "rap back" or "hit notice" program will inform an employer or other designated entity when an individual who has undergone a fingerprint-based background check, and whose fingerprints are retained by a criminal history repository after the check, is subsequently arrested. His or her fingerprints, obtained after the arrest, are matched against a database that contains the fingerprints that were initially submitted. Employers are then notified of the individual's arrest. Employers pay a fee for the service in some states; other states provide the service for free.

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