Texas Dept. Of Public Safety Quietly Starts Demanding Full Set Of Prints From Drivers License Applicants

from the respect-my-non-existent-authority! dept

The Texas Dept. of Public Safety has apparently decided that if you’d like to be allowed to drive a vehicle in the state, you’d also perfectly fine with a criminal booking-style fingerprinting and having those immediately uploaded to a criminal database (that reps swear isn’t a criminal database).

For years, Texas has only required a thumbprint as a minor security measure when obtaining a driver’s license or ID card. That has now changed. It’s unclear exactly when this went into effect (the Texas DPS made no announcement of this policy change), but longtime Dallas Morning News consumer affairs columnist, Dave Lieber, experienced it firsthand back in June.

The other day at the Texas driver’s license center, while paying for my required in-person renewal, the clerk said it was time to take my fingerprints.


Really. Quietly, earlier this year, the Texas Department of Public Safety began requiring full sets of fingerprints from everyone who obtains a new driver’s license or photo identification card. This applies to those who come in as required for periodic renewals, but it doesn’t apply to mail-in renewals.

Not only that, but since 2010, Texas law enforcement has been running facial recognition searches on DPS license photos with its Image Verification System.

When Lieber exposed this, thanks in part to a former DPS employee (who noted the full set of prints are uploaded to AFIS [Automated Fingerprint Identification Service], creating a record in criminal databases if no previous record exists), a spokesman for the agency said it was perfectly legal plus pretty awesome at fighting crime.

A DPS spokesman tells me that the 9-year-old law makes a clear reference to fingerprints so the new fingerprint collection system is legal.

DPS spokesman Tom Vinger says, “It is important to understand that the purpose of this process is to combat fraud, identity theft and other criminal activity, including potentially thwarting terroristic activity. Making sure that people are who they say they are in the process of issuing government identification is a critical safeguard to protect the public against a wide array of criminal threats.”

The law Vinger refers to is Transportation Code 521.059, a lengthy bit of which he quotes in a longer response to Lieber’s article.

The Department is confident in its legal authority to collect 10-prints. The authority exists in current statute, including Transportation Code 521.059, (see below), and in current administrative code. The technology upgrade was funded by the Texas Legislature…

Sec. 521.059. IMAGE VERIFICATION SYSTEM. (a) The department shall establish an image verification system based on the following identifiers collected by the department:

(1) an applicant’s facial image; and
(2) an applicant’s thumbprints or fingerprints.

(b) The department shall authenticate the facial image and thumbprints or fingerprints provided by an applicant for a personal identification certificate, driver’s license, or commercial driver’s license or permit using image comparison technology to ensure that the applicant:

(1) is issued only one original license, permit, or certificate;
(2) does not fraudulently obtain a duplicate license, permit, or certificate; and
(3) does not commit other fraud in connection with the application for a license, permit, or certificate.

(c) The department shall use the image verification system established under this section only to the extent allowed by Chapter 730, Transportation Code, to aid other law enforcement agencies in:

(1) establishing the identity of a victim of a disaster or crime that a local law enforcement agency is unable to establish; or
(2) conducting an investigation of criminal conduct.

(d) Expired.

Added by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 1108 (H.B. 2337), Sec. 4, eff. September 1, 2005.

Vinger may be correct that the DPS is allowed to collect prints as the result of this law, but it’s not specifically ordered (or permitted) to collect all 10 prints. Note that the section quoted says “thumbprints or fingerprints.” This “or” is important. A look at the actual amendments to existing law shows that the DPS isn’t actually required to demand a full set of prints.

The amendments also refer to 521.042(b), which states the following:

(b) The application must include:
(1) the thumbprints of the applicant or, if thumbprints cannot be taken, the index fingerprints of the applicant;

So, there’s no legal backing to Vinger’s claims. Sure, the DPS is technically permitted to collect all 10 prints, but only because nothing specifically forbids this practice. But the law does not demand all 10 prints be provided in order to obtain a license or identification card. The law only asks for thumbprints or index prints.

This is why it was rolled out quietly. The DPS has no legal “authority” to demand a full set of prints before handing out a license. What it can do, however, is ask for them. At this point, supplying a full set of prints is purely voluntary. The DPS can’t prevent you from obtaining a license if you refuse, but the whole system is set up to make it appear as though it’s mandatory.

Even one of the legislators who crafted the bill stated the intent of the law was never to allow collecting a full set of prints from every person with a Texas drivers license.

Bill co-author Juan M. Escobar, who in 2005 was a state representative from Kingsville, said he recalled the point of his bill was to prevent immigrants living in the U.S. illegally from obtaining a driver’s license.

“I think the intent of the bill was to ensure that the individual was the right person that was applying for a driver’s license,” said Escobar, now county judge in Kleberg County. “The intent was to avoid the privacy issue violation. We’ll just do the thumbprint or the index finger. That was my intent.”

He added, “If they’ve gone past the law, there’s nothing that gives them that authority.”

Escobar mentions illegal immigration. DPS rep Vinger mentions terrorism. Both used tangential hot-button issues to further the amount of information demanded by Texas in exchange for a highly-essential part of everyday life. But the DPS is now exceeding even the questionable aspects of a law predicated mostly on fear. (As Lieber points out in the comments, even the 2005 law was partially motivated by terrorism fears, prompted by Gov. Perry’s 2005 Homeland Security Action Plan. [pdf, p. 36])

The state gave the DPS the authority to collect index prints if thumbprints couldn’t be obtained. For whatever reason, the DPS — nearly a decade later — has decided to roll out a very imaginative reading of the 2005 statute. Worse, it’s claiming its interpretation of words that aren’t actually there is “legal authority.” And when questioned, it’s falling back on “terrorism” and but-surely-you-want-criminals-to-be-caught rationalizing.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Texas Dept. Of Public Safety Quietly Starts Demanding Full Set Of Prints From Drivers License Applicants”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
That Anonymous Cowardsays:

Because Terrorism…

Shall we just finally admit our leadership are the largest terrorists we have ever faced?
They use fear tactics to make sure you do only what they want you to do.
They use fear of retribution to get compliance to these dictates, even if they appear to violate the rights you allegedly have.

If we don’t vote them out, the terrorists will win.
What do you support terrorism?


What the hell are they talking about? Do they really think that a terrorist is going to go to the local DMV and get a licence? No.. They’ll forge one. The only thing you’d really need an officially confirmable ID for is stuff a terrorist wouldn’t want/need to do anyway.

These guys are complete idiots. Encroaching on rights, just cause!



Until just recently they only asked for your thumbs. I remember when there was no magnetic strip and they looked like a laminated season pass to a theme park. I remember being pissed the first time they asked for my thumb prints and then when the license came with a magnetic strip on the back, the first thing I did was take the biggest magnet I could find to it.

Barbara Quintanasays:

Midland Texas, Refused to giver drivers lic, despite the law

Today my husband went in to get a license. Despite them even showing him the law that states finger prints OR thumbprints they told him they refused to take his license unless they took all 10. What is my legal recourse. I can afford an attorney and feel someone needs to take a stand. Any lawyers out there ready to take this on? Why are we being treated like criminals?


59 year Lie in Texas

Think the TxDPS wont lie ? First Drivers License Law in Texas was in 1936….or was it? Supreme Courts call BS….

?The court has held that there is no such license known to Texas Law as a “driver’s license.? (Frank John Callas v. State, 167 Tex. Crim. 375; 320 S.W. 2d 360. 1959)

And? ?We have held that there is no such license as a driver’s license known to our law.? (Claude D. Campbell v. State, 160 Tex. Crim. 627; 274 S.W. 2d 401. 1955)

And? ?An information charging the driving of a motor vehicle upon a public highway without a driver’s license charges no offense, as there is no such license as a driver’s license known to the law.? (Keith Brooks v. State, 158 Tex. Crim. 546; 258 S.W. 2d 317. 1953)

And? ?There being no such license as a “driver’s” license known to the law, it follows that the information, in charging the driving of a motor vehicle upon a highway without such a license, charges no offense.? (W. Lee Hassell v. The State, 149 Tex. Crim. 333; 194 S.W. 2d 400. 1946)

So from 1936 till 1995 any violation associated with Drivers License ” ticket for no DL, suspended DL, expired DL, etc.” was inacted upon citizens illegally….

Yes you to can profit from legalized extortion with a Badge and a Deadly Weapon to back you up….

Leave a Reply to Anonymous Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
13:40 It's Great That Winnie The Pooh Is In The Public Domain; But He Should Have Been Free In 1982 (Or Earlier) (35)
12:06 Norton 360 Now Comes With Crypto Mining Capabilities And Sketchy Removal Process (28)
10:45 Chinese Government Dragnet Now Folding In American Social Media Platforms To Silence Dissent (14)
10:40 Daily Deal: The 2022 Ultimate Cybersecurity Analyst Preparation Bundle (0)
09:29 A Fight Between Facebook And The British Medical Journal Highlights The Difficulty Of Moderating 'Medical Misinformation' (9)
06:29 Court Ruling Paves The Way For Better, More Reliable Wi-Fi (4)
20:12 Eighth Circuit (Again) Says There's Nothing Wrong With Detaining Innocent Minors At Gunpoint (15)
15:48 China's Regulatory War On Its Gaming Industry Racks Up 14k Casualties (10)
13:31 Chinese Government Fines Local Car Dealerships For Surveilling While Not Being The Government (5)
12:08 Eric Clapton Pretends To Regret The Decision To Sue Random German Woman Who Listed A Bootleg Of One Of His CDs On Ebay (29)
10:44 ICE Is So Toxic That The DHS's Investigative Wing Is Asking To Be Completely Separated From It (29)
10:39 Daily Deal: The 2022 Complete Raspberry Pi And Arduino Developer Bundle (0)
09:31 Google Blocked An Article About Police From The Intercept... Because The Title Included A Phrase That Was Also A Movie Title (24)
06:22 Wireless Carriers Balk At FAA Demand For 5G Deployment Delays Amid Shaky Safety Concerns (16)
19:53 Tenth Circuit Denies Qualified Immunity To Social Worker Who Fabricated A Mother's Confession Of Child Abuse (35)
15:39 Sci-Hub's Creator Thinks Academic Publishers, Not Her Site, Are The Real Threat To Science, And Says: 'Any Law Against Knowledge Is Fundamentally Unjust' (34)
13:32 Federal Court Tells Proud Boys Defendants That Raiding The Capitol Building Isn't Covered By The First Amendment (25)
12:14 US Courts Realizing They Have A Judge Alan Albright Sized Problem In Waco (17)
10:44 Boston Police Department Used Forfeiture Funds To Hide Purchase Of Surveillance Tech From City Reps (16)
10:39 Daily Deal: The Ultimate Microsoft Excel Training Bundle (0)
09:20 NY Senator Proposes Ridiculously Unconstitutional Social Media Law That Is The Mirror Opposite Of Equally Unconstitutional Laws In Florida & Texas (25)
06:12 Telecom Monopolies Are Exploiting Crappy U.S. Broadband Maps To Block Community Broadband Grant Requests (7)
12:00 Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of 2021 At Techdirt (17)
10:00 Gaming Like It's 1926: Join The Fourth Annual Public Domain Game Jam (6)
09:00 New Year's Message: The Arc Of The Moral Universe Is A Twisty Path (33)
19:39 DHS, ICE Begin Body Camera Pilot Program With Surprisingly Good Policies In Place (7)
15:29 Remembering Techdirt Contributors Sherwin And Elliot (1)
13:32 DC Metro PD's Powerful Review Panel Keeps Giving Bad Cops Their Jobs Back (6)
12:11 Missouri Governor Still Expects Journalists To Be Prosecuted For Showing How His Admin Leaked Teacher Social Security Numbers (39)
10:48 Oversight Board Overturning Instagram Takedown Of Ayahuasca Post Demonstrates The Impossibility Of Content Moderation (10)
More arrow
This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it