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Why DPS takes all 10 fingerprints when you get your driver's license

The Texas Department of Public Safety would like to clear up any misconceptions related to the legality of the expanded fingerprinting process within the Texas driver’s license system.

These misconceptions are based on a lack of accurate or comprehensive information about this topic. DPS believes Texans deserve to have all the facts about the fingerprint law and the protections it provides our residents.

DPS has been charged by the Texas Legislature with the significant responsibility of issuing Texas driver’s licenses and Texas identification cards — a responsibility the department takes very seriously. On average, DPS issues about 6 million licenses and ID cards per year, including renewals. The department has a duty to protect and ensure the integrity of the driver’s license system, as these government-issued documents serve as de facto identification documents nationwide, which can be used to board a plane, conduct financial transactions, etc.

The 10-print fingerprint process, which is authorized in existing Texas law, was implemented earlier this year after funding for this expansion was approved by the Legislature. The department is confident in the legal authority to collect all 10 fingerprints. It is also important to remember that for the better part of 45 years, DPS had collected thumbprints through the driver’s license system and digital thumbprints since 1995.

Making sure individuals are who they claim to be in the process of issuing government identification is a critical safeguard to protecting the public against criminal threats. It is important to understand that the only reliable way to establish a person’s identity is to collect all 10 fingerprints.

Additionally, the Image Verification System mandated by Texas statute in 2005 authorizes DPS to use license and ID photos and “thumbprints or fingerprints” to help law enforcement protect the public by detecting fraud, identifying criminals and potentially solving crimes.

Some have falsely stated that the fingerprint images obtained at driver’s license offices are used to search an applicant’s criminal history — but this is simply not true. The state’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System is a fingerprint identification database; it can only be accessed for investigative or statutory purposes. Without 10 prints to integrate into the system, there are major gaps in public safety that leave law-abiding citizens vulnerable to identity theft and other schemes of criminal operatives.

DPS works to protect residents from ever-changing threats, including the growing incidence of identity fraud. This new fingerprint technology provides crucial protections to the state and our residents, including:

Reducing driver’s license or ID card fraud by preventing duplicate or alias licensing.

Preventing the cards from being used fraudulently to obtain goods, services or other forms of identification.

Helping guard against identity theft, which affects millions of victims nationwide every year.

In addition, the transition to 10 prints bolsters other processes in the overall licensing strategy to deter terrorists and other criminals from obtaining Texas licenses or ID cards to support their covert movements within our country.

We appreciate the public’s support of the state’s efforts to fortify the driver’s license system to protect law-abiding Texans against identity theft and fraud and to protect our state from criminals seeking to exploit vulnerabilities of antiquated systems. DPS has an obligation to combat these threats, and Texans expect and deserve these critical safeguards.


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