Tennessee speeders could get fingerprinted

Bill ignites debate about privacy vs. cost savings

Motorists stopped for traffic violations in Tennessee could be fingerprinted if state lawmakers approve a bill pending in the legislature.

Currently, when drivers are cited during traffic stops, police officers ask for the driver's signature on the ticket, but the proposed bill would allow police departments to eliminate signatures and collect fingerprints.

Supporters say collecting fingerprints would save money and help police determine whether the driver is wanted for a criminal offense, but opponents worry that it allows the government to tread on individual privacy rights.

"The way I see it, if they take your fingerprint, they have access to your history and that's an invasion of privacy," said Martha Simms, 27, a mother of two who recently got a speeding ticket in Davidson County.

State Sen. Joe Haynes and State Rep. Mike Stewart co-sponsored the bill, which gives police departments the choice of collecting a signature or a fingerprint, or collecting a signature and a fingerprint. The bill has been approved by the state House of Representatives, and senators will vote on the measure Wednesday.

The bill, if passed, will take effect on July 1. At that time, any police department within the state could require fingerprinting as a means of identification, said Haynes, a Goodlettsville Democrat. "It's their discretion," he said.

Metro would use prints

If the bill is approved, the Metro Nashville Police Department plans to start requiring fingerprints by the end of the year. Police reports would be filed electronically, as would traffic and misdemeanor citations.

"This police department intends to use the fingerprint the same way as a signature is currently used," Metro police spokesman Don Aaron said. "If a person who has stolen someone's identity gives a wrong name, an officer will be able to catch that immediately. And, if they have an outstanding warrant, be it for a misdemeanor or a serious felony, an officer will be able to see that as well." (The Tennessean, 5.16.2009, Nicole Young) http://www.tennessean.com/article/20090516/NEWS03/905160341/Tennessee+speeders+could+get+fingerprinted  

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