The Senate Judiciary Committee passed former Chairman Joseph R. Biden, Jr.'s (D-DE) Fugitive Information Networked Database Act of 2008 (S.3136), legislation designed to improve the identification, apprehension and extradition of felony fugitives. Senator Biden worked closely with Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) to strengthen the bill by including provisions of his Capture, Arrest, Transport Charged (CATCH) Fugitives Act of 2008 (S. 3143).
The Fugitive Information Networked Database (FIND) Act of 2008 will provide incentives to states to enter new and outstanding felony warrants into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database by authorizing grants to state and local agencies to upgrade their warrant databases. This upgrade will make their systems compatible and interoperable with the national database - allowing for seamless entry of state and local warrants into the federal database. The FIND Act will also authorize additional funds to locate, capture and bring to justice dangerous fugitives.
"Many fugitives know that if they can cross state lines, there's a good chance they can escape justice. This is inexcusable," said Senator Biden, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime & Drugs. "We owe it to our communities to take track these dangerous fugitives, take them off the streets and extradite them to face justice so that they end up where they belong: behind bars."
"We cannot afford to have 2.8 million charged felons at-large in our communities," said Senator Durbin. "Our bill addresses serious problems we face bringing fugitives to justice. It will give law enforcement offices the resources to protect innocent civilians by ensuring that fugitives are arrested and detained even if they cross state lines."
According to a recent investigative series by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, anywhere from 1.9 million to 2.7 million felony fugitives are on the run from law enforcement, putting communities across the country at risk. The series cited the story of Florida fugitive Eloy Williams, who was wanted for rape and fled to Georgia, where he was apprehended for suspicious behavior at an apartment complex. The police checked the NCIC database but Williams' name had not been entered. He was freed and over the next 14 months, he raped four women and a 14-year old girl.
The FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) serves as the computer database that law enforcement agencies across the nation routinely use to locate and identify fugitives, crime suspects whom police can't find to arrest and defendants who skip court or violate their probation or parole rules. Too often, state and local law enforcement agencies enter warrants into the state and local databases, but not into the national FBI database. As a result, a fugitive wanted for rape in one state can escape justice by crossing state lines. The Biden/Durbin bill will ensure that all relevant criminal justice agencies, including police and courts, have access to the database.
The Fugitive Information Networked Database (FIND) Act of 2008 protects our communities from violent criminals who have fled across state lines. Specifically, the legislation will:
Provide grants to state and local agencies to upgrade their warrant databases to make them compatible with the National Crime Information Center and for additional personnel to perform the validation process. It also authorizes funds to ensure that police, courts, and other relevant criminal justice agencies have access to the database;
Ensure accountability by requiring state and local agencies, as a condition for receiving a grant, to report to the U.S. Attorney General on current warrant backlogs, demonstrate good faith efforts to eliminate warrant backlogs and develop guidelines to ensure felony warrants can be entered seamlessly into the federal, state and local databases;
Authorize additional resources for the U.S. Marshals Service to fund and develop new Regional Fugitive Task Forces to coordinate with state and local law enforcement, as well as fund the extradition of fugitives through the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transport System;
Support grants to states and Indian tribes to fund the extradition of fugitives apprehended out of state for prosecution with preference given to those States and Indian tribes that improve their entry of warrants into the NCIC system; and
Direct the GAO to submit to Congress a report on states' efforts to enter felony warrants and extradite fugitives for prosecution.