Originally created 03/14/97

Senate gives thumbs down to driver's license fingerprints



ATLANTA - The Senate gave a thumbs down to fingerprinting for a driver's license Thursday after a winter full of vehement protest to the measure and its eleventh-hour slide through the General Assembly last year.

The measure that passed 44-7 now goes to the House for consideration. The House has already approved a milder compromise that allows for fingerprinting but imposes strict limits on access to the records.

However, Gov. Zell Miller has promised to veto any legislation to repeal the fingerprint option.

Debate was minimal after several hours-long hearings in the House and Senate where virtually no one spoke in favor of the fingerprint rule, which the Department of Public Safety says is crucial to controlling check fraud.

The law empowering the department to require fingerprints passed late in the 1996 legislature's session with little debate.

Despite the claim of benign intentions, the present law can be misused and is a violation of privacy, said the bill's author, Sen. Pam Glanton, R-Jonesboro.

"A fingerprint is part of search and seizure," Glanton said.

Public Safety Commissioner Sid Miles has assured fingerprint opponents that the information will not be shared or sold by the department without the permission of the individual.

He estimates that the majority of the 700 check fraud cases his department works every year could be solved by preventing people from obtaining fake licenses. Without fake identification, criminals cannot open bank accounts, Miles said.