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BILL AS PASSED BY SENATE 2007-2008

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S.246

AN ACT RELATING TO ELECTRONIC ACCESS TO CRIMINAL AND FAMILY COURT RECORDS

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  12 V.S.A. § 5 is amended to read:

§ 5.  DISSEMINATION OF ELECTRONIC CASE RECORDS

(a)  The court shall not permit public access via the internet to criminal case records or family court case records.  The court may permit criminal justice agencies, as defined in 20 V.S.A. § 2056a, Internet access to criminal case records for criminal justice purposes, as defined in section 2056a.

(b)  This section shall not be construed to prohibit the court from providing electronic access to:

(1)  court schedules or opinions of the district court; or

(2)  state agencies in accordance with data dissemination contracts entered into under Rule 6 of the Vermont Rules of Electronic Access to Court Records.

Sec. 2.  20 V.S.A. § 2056b is amended to read:

§ 2056b.  DISSEMINATION OF CRIMINAL HISTORY RECORDS TO PERSONS CONDUCTING RESEARCH

(a)  The Vermont criminal information center may provide Vermont criminal history records as defined in section 2056a of this title to bona fide persons conducting research related to the administration of criminal justice, subject to conditions approved by the commissioner of public safety to assure the confidentiality of the information and the privacy of individuals to whom the information relates.  Bulk criminal history data may only be provided in a format that excludes the subject’s name and any unique numbers that may reference the identity of the subject, except that the state identification number may be provided.  Researchers must sign a user agreement which specifies data security requirements and restrictions on use of identifying information.

(b)  No person shall confirm the existence or nonexistence of criminal history record information to any person who would not be eligible to receive the information pursuant to this subchapter other than the subject and properly designated employees of an organization who have a documented need to know the contents of the record.

(c)  A person who violates the provisions of this section with respect to unauthorized disclosure of confidential criminal history record information obtained from the center under the authority of this section shall be fined not more than $5,000.00.  Each unauthorized disclosure shall constitute a separate civil violation.


Sec. 3.  20 V.S.A. § 2056c is amended to read:

§ 2056c.  DISSEMINATION OF CRIMINAL HISTORY CONVICTION RECORDS TO EMPLOYERS THE PUBLIC

(a)  As used in this section:

(1)  “Applicant” means an individual seeking or being sought for employment, a volunteer position with an employer, or admission to a course of instruction offered by the Vermont criminal justice training council.

(2)  “Criminal conviction record” means the record of convictions in Vermont.

(3)  “Employer” means any individual, organization, or governmental body, including partnership, association, trustee, estate, corporation, joint stock company, insurance company, or legal representative, whether domestic or foreign, or the receiver, trustee in bankruptcy, trustee or successor thereof, and any common carrier by mail, motor, water, air, or express company or an authorized agent.  Authorized agent shall include a person who is licensed under chapter 59 of Title 26 to provide private investigative services.

(4)  “The center” means the Vermont criminal information center.

(b)(1)  An employer may obtain from the center a criminal conviction record for any applicant who has given written authorization on a release form provided by the center, provided that the employer has filed a user’s agreement with the center.  The user’s agreement shall require the employer to comply with all statutes, rules, and policies regulating the release of criminal conviction records and the protection of individual privacy.  The user’s agreement shall be signed and kept current by the employer.

(2)  An individual, organization, or governmental body doing business in Vermont which has one or more individuals performing services for it within this state and which is a qualified entity that provides care or services to children, the elderly, or persons with disabilities as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 5119c may obtain from the center an out-of-state criminal conviction record for any applicant who has given written authorization on a release form provided by the center, provided that the employer has filed a user’s agreement with the center and complies with all other provisions of this section.

(c)(1)  The employer may obtain a criminal conviction record only:

(A)  after the applicant has been given an offer of employment conditioned on the record check;

(B)  after a volunteer has been offered a position conditioned on the record check.

(2)  The Vermont criminal justice training council may obtain a criminal conviction record only after an applicant has been accepted into a course of instruction offered by the Vermont criminal justice training council conditioned on the record check.

(3)  An organization that receives a criminal conviction record pursuant to this section shall provide a free copy of such record to the record subject within ten days of receipt of the record.

(4)  An organization entitled to receive a criminal conviction record pursuant to this section shall not require an applicant to obtain or submit personally a copy of his or her criminal conviction record for purposes of employment or acceptance into a course offered by the Vermont criminal justice training council.

(d)(1)  Employers shall be provided with informational material by the center prior to authorization to request criminal conviction records.  The materials shall address the following topics:

(A)  Requirements of the user agreement.

(B)  How to obtain criminal conviction records from the center.

(C)  How to interpret criminal conviction records.

(D)  How to obtain source documents summarized in the criminal conviction records.

(E)  Misuse of criminal conviction records.

(2)  Employers shall certify on the user agreement that they have read and understood the materials prior to receiving authorization to request records from the center.

(e)  The release form shall contain the applicant’s name, signature, date of birth, place of birth, and the signature as attested to by a notary public.  The release form shall state that the applicant has the right to appeal the findings to the center, pursuant to rules adopted by the commissioner of public safety.

(f)(1)  Except as otherwise authorized by this chapter, no person shall confirm the existence or nonexistence of criminal conviction record information or disclose the contents of a criminal conviction record without the record subject’s permission to any person other than the applicant and properly designated employees of the employer who have a documented need to know the contents of the record.

(2)  An employer who receives criminal conviction records pursuant to this section shall maintain a confidential log of all record requests as specified by the center.  The employer shall confidentially retain records relating to requests for criminal conviction records for a period of three years.  At the end of the retention period, if logs and records are to be destroyed, they shall be shredded.

(g)  A person who violates subsection (f) of this section shall be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $5,000.00.  Each unauthorized disclosure shall constitute a separate civil violation.  The office of the attorney general shall have authority to enforce this section.

(h)  The center shall provide notice of the penalty for unauthorized disclosure on a form accompanying any report of a criminal conviction record to an employer.  The notice shall include, in boldface print, the following statements:  THE REQUESTOR AGREES TO USE CRIMINAL CONVICTION RECORD INFORMATION RECEIVED FROM THE VERMONT CRIMINAL INFORMATION CENTER FOR THE PURPOSES INTENDED BY LAW.  THE REQUESTOR AGREES NOT TO DISCLOSE THE CONTENTS OF ANY CRIMINAL CONVICTION RECORD WITHOUT THE APPLICANT’S PERMISSION TO ANY PERSON OTHER THAN THE APPLICANT AND PROPERLY DESIGNATED EMPLOYEES WHO HAVE A DOCUMENTED NEED TO KNOW THE CONTENTS OF THE RECORD. A VIOLATION MAY RESULT IN A CIVIL PENALTY OF UP TO $5,000.00. EACH UNAUTHORIZED DISCLOSURE SHALL CONSTITUTE A SEPARATE CIVIL VIOLATION.

(i)  Nothing in this section shall create a statutory duty for an employer to perform a criminal conviction record check on every job applicant hired by the employer.  An employer’s failure to obtain a criminal conviction record on an employee who subsequently commits a criminal offense shall not be the sole factor in determining civil or criminal liability unless otherwise authorized by law.


(a)  As used in this section:

(1)  “The center” means the Vermont criminal information center.

(2)(A)  “Criminal conviction record” means the record of convictions in a Vermont district court.

(B)  Release of conviction records by the center pursuant to this section or pursuant to any other provision of state law which permits release of Vermont criminal records shall include only the charge for which the subject of the record was convicted, and shall not include docket numbers.

(b)  A person may obtain from the center a criminal conviction record for any purpose provided that the requestor has completed a user’s agreement with the center.  The user’s agreement shall prohibit the alteration of criminal records and shall require the requestor to comply with all statutes, rules, and policies regulating the release of criminal conviction records and the protection of individual privacy.  

(c)  Criminal conviction records shall be disseminated to the public by the center under the following conditions:

(1)  Public access to criminal conviction records shall be provided by a secure Internet site or other alternatives approved by the center. 

(2)  A requestor who wishes to receive criminal conviction records from the center shall accept the terms of a user agreement with the center.  The user agreement shall specify the conditions under which record information is being released and specify guidelines for the proper interpretation and use of the information.

(3)  Prior to receiving criminal conviction records using the center’s Internet site a requestor shall establish a secure, online account with the center.  Issuance of the account is conditioned upon the requestor’s willingness to accept the terms of a user agreement with the center which specifies the conditions under which record information is being released and specifies guidelines for the proper interpretation and use of the information.

(4)  All queries shall be by name and date of birth of the subject.

(5)  Only “no record” responses and record responses which constitute an exact match to the query criteria shall be returned automatically online.  In the event that query criteria suggest a possible match, center staff will determine whether the query criteria match a record in the repository and shall return the result to the requestor.

(6)  An electronic log shall be kept of all transactions that shall indicate the name of the requestor, the date of the request, the purpose of the request, and the result of the request.  This log shall not be available to any person, other than center staff on a need-to-know basis, except pursuant to a court order.  

(7)  The center’s Internet site shall provide an electronic mechanism for users to notify the center of possible record errors.

(8)  The center’s Internet site shall provide links to center training information regarding best practices for the use of record checks as part of a complete background check process.

(9)  The center shall charge a fee of $30.00 for each criminal record check query pursuant to this section.

(10)  No person entitled to receive a criminal conviction record pursuant to this section shall require an applicant to obtain, submit personally, or pay for a copy of his or her criminal conviction record.

Sec. 4.  20 V.S.A. § 2063 is amended to read:

§ 2063.  CRIMINAL HISTORY RECORD FEES; CRIMINAL HISTORY RECORD CHECK FUND

(a)  Except as otherwise provided for in this section, the cost of each check for a criminal history record as defined in section 2056a of this title or a criminal conviction record as defined in section 2056c of this title based on name and date of birth shall be $10.00 $30.00.  Out-of-state criminal history record checks shall include any additional fees charged by the state from which the record is requested.

(b)  Requests made by criminal justice agencies for criminal justice purposes or other purposes authorized by state or federal law shall be exempt from all record check fees.  The following types of requests shall be exempt from the Vermont criminal record check fee:

(1)  Requests made by any individual, organization, or governmental body doing business in Vermont which has one or more individuals performing services for it within this state and which is a qualified entity that provides care or services to children, the elderly, or persons with disabilities as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 5119c.

(2)  Requests made by researchers approved by the Vermont criminal information center to conduct research related to the administration of criminal justice.  A fee, however, may be charged by the center which shall reflect the cost of generating the requested information.

(3)  Requests made by individuals to review their own record at the Vermont criminal information center; however, copies of the individual's record are not exempt from the record check fee.

(4)  Requests made by the Vermont state housing authority and other public housing authorities pursuant to 24 V.S.A § 4010(c).

(c)(1)  The criminal history record check fund is established and shall be managed by the commissioner of public safety in accordance with the provisions of subchapter 5 of chapter 7 of Title 32.  All The first $200,000.00 of fees paid under this section shall be placed in the fund and used for personnel and equipment related to the processing, maintenance, and dissemination of criminal history records.  The commissioner of finance and management may draw warrants for disbursements from this fund in anticipation of receipts.

(2)  After the first $200,000.00 of fees paid under this section shall be placed in the criminal history record check fund, all additional fees paid under this section shall go to the general fund.

(d)  The department of public safety shall have the authority, with the approval of the secretary of administration, to establish limited service positions as are necessary to provide criminal record checks in a timely manner, provided that there are sufficient funds in the criminal history record check fund to pay for the costs of these positions.

Sec. 5.  REPORT

On or before January 15, 2010, the joint fiscal office, in consultation with the judiciary and the Vermont crime information center, shall report to the senate and house committees on judiciary on the fiscal impacts of the records request fees established by this act.

Sec. 6.  REPEAL

20 V.S.A. § 2056g (dissemination of criminal history records to licensed private investigators) is repealed.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us