CAL ID Fees to Double

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

March 16, 2022

Fees for a program that stores and analyzes fingerprints against various crime databases could soon double after County Supervisors voted to continue supporting the program through motor vehicle fees.

County Sheriff Ian Parkinson asked Supervisors to double the fees for the “California Identification Program” or CAL ID Program, a minimal fee tacked onto the registration of private passenger and commercial vehicles, collected by the DMV and distributed back to the County.

The fees have been set at $1 per passenger vehicle and $2 per commercial vehicle registered in SLO County for over 15 years now. The new fees will be $2 and $4 respectively.

But first the Supervisors will have to hold a public hearing, which is supposed to happen March 15. If they vote to accept the new fees they would go into effect 6-months later (August).

SLO County joined the CAL ID Program in 1986, initially funding it with traffic violation and criminal fines, with the County Sheriff responsible for coordinating participation and for forming a CAL ID Board to oversee the program. 

“This statute [Penal Code 11112.4] mandates that the board must be comprised of the county sheriff, the district attorney, a mayor, two police chiefs, a member of the county board of supervisors, and a citizen member,” Sheriff Parkinson wrote in his report. “The CAL ID Board works on behalf of all law enforcement agencies in the county, and collectively represents community needs as they pertain to public safety programs within the defined purview of the Program”

By 2005, the program funding was starting to come up short, so Supervisors approved adding a fee onto the registration costs for vehicles in SLO County, which was allowed by a recently passed State Law. 

Those fees covered the costs until recently, when Sheriff Parkinson said they started coming up short again. In Fiscal Year 2020-21, he said, “the CAL ID Program had an approximate net operating loss of a $28,500, and for Fiscal Year 2021-2022, will have an approximate net operating loss of $207,000. Additionally, a detailed analysis indicates that the Program will not have sufficient funds to replace or upgrade critical infrastructure components at their defined ‘end-of-life’ dates, when vendors will no longer support them. Therefore, without an increase in fees the net operating losses will continue to increase, and the Program will require general fund support to supplement any shortages.”

Sheriff Parkinson said the CAL ID Program, “maintains the County’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System [AFIS] and ancillary components such as livescan devices, which are placed within each local law enforcement agency in the county. The Program enhances the capacity of local law enforcement to provide fingerprint identification of individuals who may be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, vehicular manslaughter, other vehicle-related crimes, and other crimes committed while operating a motor vehicle. 

“The livescan devices capture fingerprint images and photographs of arrestees and electronically transmit them to the AFIS for comparison with county, state, and federal databases. The DOJ requires that arrestee fingerprints be submitted to them electronically.”

Such scanning of fingerprints has greatly improved the quality of what is considered prime evidence in a criminal matter, as computerized scans are much more reliable than the old ink-rolled fingerprinting done in the past.

“The Program,” Sheriff Parkinson said, “also provides county law enforcement agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office, the ability to search crime scene fingerprints against the SLO AFIS database, as well as the FBI and DOJ databases to identify other criminal suspects, and provides tools and training to increase effectiveness and efficiency in this area. 

“Fingerprint evidence analysis is one of the most robust forensic methods for solving crime in San Luis Obispo County.”

But it isn’t all about crime and catching crooks, people can be proven innocent by fingerprints, too. “In addition to being used to identify individuals that may have participated in a criminal act,” the Sheriff explained, “fingerprints are also used to exonerate individuals accused of crimes and are regularly used to identify deceased persons in the county.”

The County’s CAL ID Program is used by city police departments in SLO, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, Atascadero, Paso Robles, Arroyo Grande, and Grover Beach; and by the police departments at Cuesta College and Cal Poly, according to the Sheriff’s report.

In a budget published with the staff report, the Sheriff predicts that the increased DMV fees will bring in over $600,000 a year, plus $43,000 in court fines and $2,500 in “interest” presumably on program reserves for a total revenue in FY 2022-23 of $654,500.

On the expense side of the ledger, the Sheriff listed $301,800 in salaries, and $224,300 in services and supplies for $526,100 in total expenses. That leaves a net operating surplus of $119,300 for FY 2022-23, which is managed by the CAL ID Board.

The County has been involved in the CAL ID Program since the mid-1980s.

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