Failure to update the database has real-world consequences because it's used for employment screenings:
The state's criminal database, riddled with holes four years ago, has just as many gaps today.
Although officials in Dallas and other poorly reporting counties promised in 2004 to do better, the Department of Public Safety says counties in the most recent assessment submitted outcomes on just 69 percent of criminal charges – the same percentage as before.
"That's astonishing. That's leaving a substantial total number of criminals unreported in the system," said John Bradley, Williamson County district attorney. "That's the biggest threat to public safety that you can imagine, particularly in a post-9/11 time when we rely on databases to protect the public."
Angie Klein, manager of the DPS criminal history records bureau, attributed the counties' lack of progress to slow resolution of many felony cases, and glitches in big urban counties, which can bring down statewide compliance rates.
"It's hard to keep trained personnel," she said.
The DPS database also is used to screen schoolteachers and volunteers who work with children, and caregivers for the sick and frail. Gaps can affect background checks run by employers on job applicants and landlords checking on prospective tenants. Everyone from job applicants to people trying to adopt children or buy guns can be affected, Ms. Klein said. No one knows how many Texans didn't get a job because an acquittal or dismissal wasn't in the system, she said.
An increasing number, though, are venting. A surge of complaints from people, mostly job seekers frustrated that their acquittals or charge dismissals don't appear in the database, has forced DPS to double the size of an error resolution unit, to 20 employees, Ms. Klein said.
Reading that, one is reminded of the Rothgery case considered by the US Supreme Court this Spring out of
Kerr Gillespie County. Rothgery's original detention was for being a felon in possession of a handgun, but he wasn't really a felon - the crime database failed to report the updated outcome that the charge had been dropped to a misdemeanor (see the comments). And so began a years long-journey that led Mr. Rothgery all the way to SCOTUS. But it ironically could all have been avoided with better record keeping.