Sunday, November 30, 2008

Report: Travis County among worst in state at updating crime data

An AP report published in the Statesman gives a little more detail on the study described in this Grits post that found major inadequacies in the statewide database maintained by the Department of Public Safety for criminal background checks:

Fort Worth-based Imperative Information Group, a company that does background investigations, looked at 562 cases for offenses that ranged from theft by check to capital murder. All were known to have ended with a conviction or "deferred adjudication," similar to probation.

Its study, conducted in October, found that the Department of Public Safety database did not have records on 36 percent of the 562 cases, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. In three instances, the cases were not reported to the database even though the defendants were sentenced to death.

The public database includes only cases that have ended in a conviction or deferred adjudication. State licensing agencies, employers, churches and others rely on the database to screen prospective employees, customers and volunteers. The missing records stem from human error and lax reporting from law enforcement agencies, courts and district attorneys, the newspaper reported.

AP's reportage adds the news that Travis County had among the worst problems with data reporting statewide. Imperative found:

The Imperative report showed that about half the Travis cases it studied did not include information on how the case turned out. Recent DPS reports show that Travis has been doing worse than that.

For about a decade, the DPS has been telling the Legislature that some counties are not reporting their case outcomes.

According to the most recent DPS report, Travis County reported 40,931 adult arrests in 2005. By 2008, Travis had reported the outcome of 16 percent of those cases — matching its consistent rank among the worst in the state.

Mange said that in some instances a case may take years to resolve, and in those cases, the result would not be available. But in the majority of instances where the resolution is not reported, she said, "we just aren't notified about it" being finished. Mange said most of the problems come from computer systems that aren't compatible with the state's system.

"We are working with Travis County to resolve some of the issues," Mange said. "They have shown an interest in ... fixing the problem."

Michelle Brinkman, chief deputy of the Travis County district clerk's office, said the issue has been brought to the attention of District Clerk Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza . She said Travis has been sending its results, and the county's technology staff is "working with the DPS staff to determine why this data is not yet fully available within their system."

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another crusade for Grits, all nice and local, right there in the Evil Empire, the fount of all wisdom, great thinkers,and mega government.

Anonymous said...

Why are Deferred Adjudications reported at all? They are not convictions!! These DAs seem to find their way to the Public Data, but cannot find the way off there. The courts are to blame and these DAs are not convictions. Even if they are reported, they should be removed and expunged after the probabtion has been successfully completed, but some remain there indefinitely, WRONG!!

Legislators, do something about the way shoddy reporting is being done by courts as well as DPS. There should be no cost to the person who gets the DA to have ir removed, that person has served what is required and paid a fine, so DO YOUR JOB!!!Remove this Public Data from the view of everyone, including some of the scoundrel District Attorneys who use this information in order to villify a person. When indeed that is not the case; people do learn from these probations and the money lost, so DO YOUR JOB!!

Anonymous said...

True, deferred adjudications are not convictions, but they are a criminal sanction. If someone were to complete a term successfully, the record usually show the final disposition as dismissed, terminated or discharged. The only way it would not appear on a person's record is if they somehow managed to obatin an order of expunction, which is still at the discretion of a judge.

Anonymous said...

I have also read that often DAs that receive an "order of non-disclosure" are not correctly acted upon by the counties, so that all of the information is available to the public at large --and not restricted to a narrow group of entities, such as law enforcement, schools, etc.

The bottom line is that even nondisclosure orders are at the discretion of the courts. District Attorneys are thus able to dangle a carrot in front of a harassed or frightened defendant as a final inducement to take a plea. Later, no one can hold the District Attorney accountable.

Anonymous said...

True, deferred adjudications are not convictions, but they are a criminal sanction. If someone were to complete a term successfully, the record usually show the final disposition as dismissed, terminated or discharged. The only way it would not appear on a person's record is if they somehow managed to obatin an order of expunction, which is still at the discretion of a judge.

DA's are not criminal sanctions AFTER they are successfully completed, although the law makers in Austin have now seen a way to make them appear or be used the same as convictions.

When a defendant accepts a plea for Deferred Adjudication, it is a contract between them and the state of Texas that if said defendant completes the terms of their probation, they will be released without conviction, the indictment will be dismissed, and all disqualifications and disabilities are to be dismissed.

The state however has found a way to write in to law certain things that allow the DA to be used as a disqualification just like a conviction. A person who successfully completed DA cannot be granted a concealed carry license, are still disposed on the SO registry, cannot apply for, nor hold certain licenses (the list of these is rather large), will not qualify as a teacher, firefighter, police (but who would want to be anyways). Certain offenses that were dismissed still will not be allowed to be a health care provider.

While I understand that some people should not be allowed to hold such license or job, the basic tenant for the DA has been broken by The Legislature and the justice system. That is, the court did NOT convict the individual, the AG has stated numerous times that Deferred Adjudication is not a conviction, and yet they are still made to live as though they have a conviction on their record (with many having conviction entered as to disposition, instead of dismissed).

I have done some research on DA's and similar laws in other states. In all other instances that I have found, if the charges are treated the same way and dismissed in other states, the defendant is not treated in any way similar to the way that Texas treats its successful DA.

My thought is, if you don't want certain persons to be allowed Deferred Adjudication, then take that off the books as an option. Already DWI's are not allowed to be granted DA.

My second thought is, do as the Supreme Court stated and truly dismiss these charges. Deferred Adjudication is supposed to be a second chance for offenders that show the promise of not committing a crime again, give them that second chance.

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