Chair McKelvey Vice Chair Woodson, and Committee Members:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii SUPPORTS THE INTENT of HB 259 and offers these additional comments:
Arrest booking photographs, taken by state criminal justice agencies for lawful purposes, should not be traded, bought or sold on the open market. Given the proliferation of commercial ventures on the Internet claiming to offer background checks for a fee, the League supports the intent of legislation which seeks to limit the use of such photographs to the purposes for which they were intended, and as outlined in Hawaii Revised Statutes, including Section 846-9.
State and federal criminal justice agencies are statutorily limited by procedures that outline the proper use, exchange, and accuracy of such information, including for those who are arrested but never charged with a crime. Commercial ventures that sell “background checks” or utilize arrest booking photographs for other purposes, without statutory limits, can lead to the detriment of an individual’s reputation and cause harm to their economic self sufficiency. This is particularly true in cases that are dismissed, or result in non -conviction or exoneration.
At the same time, the League recognizes that the hurdle of implementation of HB529 is steep. Efforts to control the proliferation of digital imagery on the Internet present many challenges. As currently drafted, the onus is on the individual to pursue a remedy. Attempts to regulate the website commerce which is the subject of the bill also poses inherent challenges. Should the bill move forward, any amending language should consider the following questions: Does the bill interfere with the ability of criminal justice agencies to conduct the important public service of protecting the public/community from crime? Does the bill infringe on access to information that may be necessary for legitimate purposes, such as employment criminal background checks, or the sharing of information between criminal justice agencies? And finally, does the bill provide adequate and additional protection for individuals who are entitled to have such access restricted under the laws of the state?
Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony on this important measure.