FAQ: Fingerprint-based criminal history checks
House Bill 1717, which makes several changes to the way TBAE operates, passed through the legislature in May. Sections 2 and 5 of the bill put in place a new requirement for fingerprint-based criminal history checks of TBAE registrants.
If I’ve already submitted fingerprints for a concealed handgun license (or another reason, such as for a school project or when adopting a child), is that sufficient?
Unfortunately, no. FBI regulations prohibit that kind of sharing of fingerprint information among government agencies. Fingerprints are required of an Active status TBAE registrant even if he or she has submitted prints for a concealed handgun license, for a previous school district or other public project, for a federal project, for a military project, or for any other reason. FBI regulations do not appear to offer any exceptions.
When does the new law start?
Starting January 1, 2014, Active-status registration renewals or new applications for registration will require fingerprinting.
Do I have to get fingerprinted?
The new requirement applies to Active-status registrants. Inactive and Emeritus status registrants need not get fingerprinted unless and until they seek to become Active-status again.
Where do I go to get fingerprinted?
The collection and submission of fingerprints will be handled by a third-party vendor (Morpho Trust USA) under contract with the Department of Public Safety (DPS), not by TBAE or any TBAE vendor. There are about 85 vendor locations across Texas, and there will be a different process for registrants located elsewhere. The out-of-state fingerprinting process will not require travel to Texas to fulfill the requirement. The process will be undertaken at local law enforcement agencies, who are well accustomed to fingerprinting for non-law enforcement purposes.
How much does it cost?
There will be a one-time fee for administration of the criminal history check, which is expected to be $41.45. $9.95 of the total goes to the vendor, Morpho Trust USA, and the remainder goes to DPS and the FBI.
It’s $41.45 every year?
No. The fee and the fingerprint submission are one time only.
I live in California (or elsewhere outside of Texas) and am registered in Texas. Do I need to get fingerprinted?
Yes, if you are Active status. All Active registrants will need to meet this requirement. If you are Inactive or Emeritus, there is no need. The process for out-of-state registrants will be posted soon, and will not require travel outside a registrant’s home state or city.
OK, what is the process for out of state registrants like me?
You will receive specific instructions on the process soon. You will not be required to travel to Texas to fulfill this requirement; it can be done easily in your home state and locality.
Is TBAE making money off this?
The fee will be paid either to DPS or to its vendor directly. TBAE will collect no part of the fee.
Is TBAE going to have a copy of my fingerprints?
No. TBAE will never store, collect, or even see any registrant’s fingerprint information, as that information will be housed elsewhere.
Is this a nationwide background check?
Yes. The criminal history checks performed under this new law will be run against both DPS (statewide) and FBI (national) databases. Any positive matches will be sent to TBAE for review.
What if I had a DWI or some relatively small offense many years ago?
There are criteria that TBAE Enforcement staff consider in these reviews, and mitigating circumstances include how long ago the conviction was, whether it was related to the practice of the profession, and more.
Why architects/LAs/RIDs? We’re not a dangerous profession!
Design professionals were not “singled out” for this requirement; rather, this process is in place for many occupations, including doctors, engineers, nurses, lawyers, teachers, and many more.
OK, what do I need to do specifically?
TBAE is working diligently to create a process by which registrants may fulfill this requirement, and urges you to watch your email for more detailed information as soon as it becomes available.
How did this requirement come about? Whose idea was it?
The fingerprinting requirement is one that the Sunset Commission of Texas (Sunset) commonly recommends for occupational licensing agencies, and their recommendation was written into the TBAE “Sunset bill,” HB 1717 of the 83rd Regular Session. That bill passed both houses of the legislature, and became law effective September 1, 2013.
If I’m licensed by TBAE in more than one profession, do I have to get fingerprinted more than once?
No. You only need to submit fingerprints for TBAE once, regardless of how many TBAE registrations you hold. As a side note of possible interest to some TBAE licensees who are also licensed as Professional Engineers, our understanding is that you will need to submit fingerprints once for TBAE, and once for the Texas Board of Professional Engineers. Several other Texas state occupational licensing agencies have similar fingerprinting requirements, as well.
I’ve never heard of MorphoTrust USA, and I may not be comfortable sending them sensitive information. What can you tell me about this company and their credentials?
MorphoTrust USA has been the third party provider for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) since 1995, and all MorphoTrust USA employees undergo the same fingerprint screening and security check protocols required of DPS employees. MorphoTrust USA is bonded, and all MorphoTrust USA fingerprinting sites and equipment meet DPS requirements for security and transmission encryption. Once data is transmitted from MorphoTrust equipment, that data is transferred to the DPS and FBI, and MorphoTrust no longer can access it. MorphoTrust never has access to any applicant criminal history information. There have been no incidents of improper data dissemination through hacking or negligent employee conduct during MorphoTrust’s contract with DPS.