Note: In the print version of this article, an incorrect date was published. The TCN data field in the Abstract of Judgement application will become a required field on July 1, 2017 (previously noted as April 1).
In the December, 2016 issue of Indiana Court Times, an article focused on legislation requiring the Indiana Supreme Court to send methamphetamine-related felony conviction data to the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx).
NPLEx is a real-time electronic logging system used by pharmacies and law enforcement to track sales of over-the-counter cold and allergy medications. The goal of NPLEx is to generate a stop-sale alert to prevent individuals convicted of possessing, dealing or manufacturing methamphetamine from purchasing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.
Another important statutory requirement that has been on the books for years is sending criminal conviction information from the courts to the Indiana State Police (ISP).
ISP has the sole responsibility for maintaining the criminal history repository for the State of Indiana. This Criminal History Records Information System, dubbed ‘CHRIS’, receives arrest and conviction information from courts, clerks and law enforcement agencies throughout the state. In every felony and misdemeanor case, courts and clerks were required to send a paper copy of the judgment of conviction and sentencing order. If the court had a hard copy of the fingerprint card from the jail, this would accompany the court order. Once ISP received the information from the court or clerk, it would match the conviction information with the information submitted by the arresting agency.
Today, instead of paper fingerprint cards, most arresting agencies use digital fingerprinting devices. Once fingerprints are processed using a digital device, a Transaction Control Number (TCN) is generated and assigned to the prints, and tied to the specific offender and arrest. This information is sent electronically to ISP, where a State Identification number (SID) is also assigned. The SID is unique to the person or offender, whereas the TCN is unique to the arrest and the fingerprints taken at the time of booking.
Needless to say, this is a complicated process for all agencies involved, and if the conviction information sent by the court does not match the arrest and charging information, the conviction cannot be entered into CHRIS. According to ISP, CHRIS has matched 49% of all reported arrests with a court disposition. And, for arrests sent to CHRIS in 2014, ISP has matched 50% of these arrests with a conviction.
Steps to Improve Criminal History Repository
ISP is working with multiple partners to improve the number and accuracy of criminal history data. In 2001, the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council (IPAC) developed an interface between its case management system (CMS) and CHRIS. Around that same time, the Indiana legislature enacted a law that allows prosecuting attorneys to report criminal history information. Prosecutors were encouraged to enter conviction data into their CMS so that it could be transmitted electronically to CHRIS.
Trial Court Technology’s (TCT) first project to improve the criminal history repository started in 2011 and involved sending conviction information from the statewide Odyssey CMS to CHRIS. Although this interface is up and running in many counties, and has improved the completeness and accuracy of CHRIS records, Odyssey is not yet used by every criminal court in the state.
However, TCT developed another software application, Abstract of Judgment, that is used by all criminal courts; and it allows for the reporting of criminal conviction information. Developed in cooperation with the Department of Correction (DOC), it is housed within TCT’s INcite (Indiana Courts Information Technology Extranet) framework.
Since July 1, 2012, sentencing courts are required to complete an abstract of judgment in an electronic format for any offender sentenced to DOC. In addition, Ind. Criminal Rule 15.2 incorporated the requirement for the completion of an electronic abstract of judgment and extended the requirement to every felony conviction. Courts must complete an abstract before an offender is processed at DOC or within 5 days of the date of sentence, whichever occurs first. In 2016, courts completed an Abstract of Judgment for over 38,700 criminal felony cases.
What is the TCN & Why is it Critical?
The Transaction Control Number (TCN) is a number associated with an offender’s arrest and fingerprints related to that arrest. It is generated by the Live Scan fingerprint machines used by jails throughout the state. Once fingerprints are taken, the prints, along with specific identifying information for the offender, are transmitted electronically to ISP.
ISP assigns the SID number for the offender and sends this information back to the arresting agency. ISP makes the data from the arrest, including the TCN and SID, available to county prosecutors as well. The arrest information and the charging information from prosecutors are sent to ISP and entered in the CHRIS repository. When the court sends the conviction information to ISP, ISP must ‘match’ the arrest and charging information to the conviction. To do this, they use the name of the offender, date of birth, and the TCN. With a few exceptions, the data must be a perfect match.
How does the Court Receive the TCN?
When a new criminal case is filed by the county prosecutor, the prosecutor is required to file an Appearance (Ind. Criminal Rule 2.1) and the prosecutor is required to include the TCN on the Appearance. If the TCN is not available at the time the case is filed, the prosecutor has an obligation to file an amended Appearance as soon as the TCN becomes available.
What if the offender was not arrested but is later convicted?
Indiana Code 35-38-1-28 requires the court, following a conviction, to order the offender to be fingerprinted by a qualified agency. If this is done, the court then orders the law enforcement agency to provide the fingerprints to the prosecuting attorney and ISP.
Abstract Data to CHRIS
In order to make the CHRIS records more complete, TCT is making the Abstract conviction data electronically available to ISP.
Although the TCN is a data field contained as a part of the Abstract of Judgment application, it has not been a required field. That will change on July 1st.
In addition to making the TCN a required field in the Abstract application, TCT will work closely with the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council (IPAC) to make available to the courts the arrest and TCN information that is currently available to the prosecutors. TCT will continue to work with judges and clerks using Odyssey to expand e-filing in criminal cases so that the TCN and charging information is uploaded electronically to Odyssey. Many Odyssey counties have implemented this feature and TCT will continue to deploy criminal e-filing to additional counties in 2017.
In working toward 100% completion rates for an abstract in every felony conviction, and in an attempt to assist the Odyssey courts, TCT has compared the felony conviction data in Odyssey with the data in the Abstract database. Although the judges using Odyssey have an outstanding completion rate of over 90%, TCT will provide courts with a weekly report that will list the felony convictions found in Odyssey that do not have a corresponding Abstract completed in INcite. Our goal is to assist courts in reaching 100% compliance.
Why Abstract Data is So Important
The original purpose behind the creation of the electronic Abstract of Judgment application was (1) to transmit the Abstract from the courts to DOC electronically, and (2) to collect all felony conviction information in a single repository. As a result of this project, and beginning in 2016, courts were no longer required to send any ‘paper’ to DOC. DOC had access electronically through INcite to the Presentence Investigation Report, the Sentencing Order, and the Abstract of Judgment.
At the time the electronic Abstract application was developed, the data contained in the Abstract database became the most accurate and significant data source for the criminal code reform undertaken by the Indiana General Assembly.
It continues today to be the primary source of court data for not only the legislature, but also for the work being done by the Justice Reinvestment Advisory Council (JRAC) and the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. Both groups regularly use this data to evaluate and ultimately report on the impact of criminal code reform to the Governor, the Chief Justice, and the General Assembly.
Starting July 1, 2017, the Abstract data will also be used to establish a Child Abuse Registry portal. The public will be able to access the Registry online and perform a search by name or case number to learn of any convictions for child abuse-related crimes, as well as the offender’s photograph and last known city of residence.
Criminal background checks are relied upon by schools, employers and the public and it is imperative that the courts continue to work with our executive branch agencies to improve the process, quality, and amount of conviction data that is entered on the criminal history repository maintained at ISP.
By sending Abstract data to ISP, we hope to match more convictions with the appropriate arrest data by utilizing this new and important TCT data repository.