A hearing was held late this week (March 4) on a preliminary injunction to halt the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts' (NCAOC) from the modifying the manner in which criminal record data is released. Last week several consumer reporting agencies filed a restraining order against the NCAOC to stop their mandate. The judge’s decision on the motion is expected within the week.
At present, millions of North Carolina criminal record searches are processed annually by licensees of the ACIS Daily Criminal Extract. Licensees receive a daily bulk feed provided by the NCAOC. The data includes full information on criminal court cases. Effective March 1, 2011, NCAOC was to terminate the inclusion of criminal court case details from these daily ACIS extract feeds. The NCAOC plans to replace the current extract with a stripped down version dubbed the "Demographic Extract" which will include name, address, DOB and the last four digits of the SSN. However if the NCAOC prevails, to retrieve specific case details including charge, level of offense, method of disposition, plea, and sentencing, all licensees (or vendors or end users) would incur an added manual step and incur additional fees to access the Remote Public Access system.
The Green Screen
The Remote Public Access system, commonly referred to as the "Green Screen" is a Telnet based system that connects users directly with the AOC. Users incur a charge of $.21 per screen or page. There are numerous screens associated with a search, For example there is an initial entry screen, a log-in screen, a log-in confirmation screen, and the case details are shown on multiple screens. Each movement up or down to a new screen incurs the $.21 charge. Users often find that a record search can involve using a dozen or more screens, and of course the associated time. At present, most high volume users and vendors prefer to access records on an instant basis from one of the licensees. Effective Match 1, these record requesters will be forced to either use the Green Screen or to pay someone to look-up the records on the Green Screen.
According to former NC Magistrate Judge Dean Carras, "The current Green Screen system is operating with the same technology and platform it was using in the mid 1990's. The Green Screen is very antiquated and inefficient compared to the other 29 states where the office of court administration offers online access to court record information. The Remote Public Access System is not and was never designed for use as a screening or investigative tool."
According to the NCAOC, the reason for the termination of the case information in the data extract feed is to stop the reporting of inaccurate information and the reporting of expunged cases. Licensees and record requesters counter that many expunged cases are already being shown on the Green Screen and that adding a manual process step to criminal record searches will increase and not lesson the chance of inaccurate data be reported.
Record Searches if NCAOC Prevails
The licensees who receive the bulk criminal record data will maintain their historical information to provide to vendors, employers, attorneys and other users. However search details on all new, open cases, or amended cases will now need to be searched on the Green System. This means that users will see a fee increase for the added costs and added time needed to access and read records. Also, time delays are expected, especially at the outset with the learning curve users will face with navigating the Green Screen System.
Another concern is the additional bandwidth that will be needed to accommodate the significant increase Green Screen usage. Licensees are fearful that the system will bog down or come to a halt as millions of record searches will be subject to a non-automated access mode.
If you have comments, questions or concerns, you can contact the Director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, Judge John W. Smith at John.W.Smith@aoc.nccourts.org. For more information on the Green Screen, contact the NCAOC Remote Public Access group at 919-890-2220 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A list of licensees who receive the daily bulk fee is found at: