Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Summit Provides Clarity for Criminal Reporting Issues

Judges are responsible for upholding the law, but they’re also agents to help improve the legal system as a whole.  

As recently retired Circleville Municipal Judge Gary Dumm approached the end of his final term, he coordinated a summit in Pickaway County with local and state stakeholders about a longstanding dilemma in Ohio: up-to-date reporting of criminal records.

“All of us who work in the criminal justice system have some responsibility to make sure that the recordkeeping and the reporting of convictions and dismissals are all accurate,” said Dumm.

Local courts and law enforcement agencies are required to report arrest and conviction information into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). NICS is a national database that houses criminal background records of persons who may be disqualified from owning or possessing firearms.
The purpose of the database is to keep those who are dangerous to society off the streets and prevent people with certain criminal histories, as well as civil commitments, from obtaining weapons. 

Courts, county and municipal clerks, and law enforcement submit data to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and the Ohio Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS) which helps determine an individual’s eligibility to possess firearms in accordance with federal and state law. This information is then available to the FBI to decide on an individual’s eligibility to purchase a firearm.

However, the NICS database is only as good as the information that it receives. Currently, there’s no centralized system or database in Ohio connecting the courts, law enforcement, and those who perform background checks.  

“The primary responsibility of government is to protect its people, and the consequences of this information not getting into the right hands can be deadly,” said Kahrlton Moore, the director for the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Office of Criminal Justice Services.

The summit was a way for all partners to gain a better understanding of the role each plays in the distribution of criminal information. There are numerous wheels in the cog from the moment someone is processed by law enforcement, to fingerprinting, to arrest reports, and judicial decisions.

“You can feel the groundswell of people who have been dealing with the way that we share, or don’t share, information that something has to happen. Something has to change,” Moore said.

After hours of discussing standard operating practices and proposed improvements, and analyzing statistics and new legislation to aid the procedure, the collaborators have a clearer comprehension of how all the parts work in the system. The next step is finding and implementing tools than can maintain and simplify the operation universally.

“We can all leave this room feeling that we have support, and that we will continue to have some support, and it will get better as time goes on, and we will all work together to make that happen,” Dumm said.

The Ohio Supreme Court worked with federal, state, and local partners to develop resources to help educate local courts, including flowcharts outlining the reporting processes, reference matrices by jurisdiction of the federal reporting requirements, and information on how to report to BCI.

Additionally, the Supreme Court has planned a three-part webinar series designed to assist courts in better understanding the reporting requirements. 

  • Part 1 – Understanding BCI Reporting was held in November; however, interested parties can view the recording
  • Part 2 – The FBI’s Role in NICS Reporting & the Controlled Substance Disqualifier will be held on Jan. 14, 2020.
  • Part 3 – Audit Compliance with Reporting Standards is scheduled for Feb. 26, 2020. Judicial officers and court personnel can register on OhioCourtEDU.