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Destroying fingerprints

Information about how long prints can be stored by police and the procedure for destroying fingerprints.

If person has been fingerprinted under Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) and:

  • they are not charged with a relevant offence within 6 months of the fingerprints being taken, or
  • they are charged but:
    • the charge is not proceeded with, or
    • they are found not guilty of the offence they were charged with (or any relevant offence)

the Chief Commissioner of Police must destroy fingerprints and any record, copy or photograph unless the police apply to Court for an extension of time.

What is a relevant offence?

A relevant offence is defined as:

  • the offence that person was fingerprinted in relation to
  • any other offence that arises out of same circumstances, or
  • any other offence where fingerprints may be useful for police investigation.

See s. 464O(1)—Crimes Act 1958 (Vic).

When prints must be destroyed

Police must destroy the prints and any record of the prints within 1 month after 6 months has expired if a person is:

  • not charged, or
  • is charged but charge is not proceeded with.

If found not guilty

If person is charged and then found not guilty, their fingerprints and any record of prints must be destroyed within 1 month after conclusion of proceedings and end of appeal period.

Police may apply for extension

Police may apply for one extension from Magistrates' Court (or Children's court where the person who has been fingerprinted is a child).

Maximum period for extension is 6 months.

Application must be made before the period allowed for keeping prints has expired.

Police don't have to notify any other person when they make this application.

If court decide to make an order to extend period that police can retain copy of fingerprints, court must send a copy of the order to person whose fingerprints were taken.

Person to be notified when prints destroyed

Police must notify a person within 14 days of their fingerprints being destroyed.

Penalty

Any person who fails to destroy or who improperly uses prints is guilty of an offence—punishable by fine of 10 penalty units (level 10 penalty)

See s. 464O(7)—Crimes Act 1958 (Vic).

Destroying a child's fingerprints

A child's fingerprints must be destroyed in the same way as adults if they are not charged, if the charge is not proceeded with or if they are found not guilty.

If child is found guilty of an indictable or Schedule 7 offence the police must destroy the record of their fingerprints if they are not found guilty of any further offence before they reach 26 years old.

If fingerprints were taken before 1 June 1994 police must make a request to the Chief Commissioner of Police to have prints destroyed.

Police are not obliged to destroy prints of a child who has been found guilty of any of the following offences:

  • murder, attempted murder, manslaughter
  • intentionally causing serious injury
  • recklessly causing serious injury
  • recklessly or intentionally causing injury
  • setting trap to kill or cause serious injury
  • using firearm to resist arrest
  • assault
  • arson
  • rape, incest, sexual offence against child or person with mental impairment
  • robbery or armed robbery.

Check that prints have actually been destroyed

If person is fingerprinted as a child it's a good idea to make sure that prints have actually been destroyed when they reach 26 years. A person can contact the Victoria Police Fingerprints Unit to see if their fingerprints are on the police database.

See Victoria Police—Fingerprint Unit.

More information

Legislation

Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)

  • s. 16—causing serious injury intentionally
  • s. 17—causing serious injury recklessly
  • s. 18—causing injury intentionally or recklessly
  • s. 25—setting traps etc. to cause serious injury
  • s. 29—using firearm to resist arrest etc.
  • s. 31—assaults
  • s. 75—robbery—using force on person or putting person in fear
  • s. 75A—armed robbery
  • s. 197—destroying or damaging property
  • Part 1, Div 1, Sub Division 8A—rape
  • Part 1, Div 1, Sub Division 8B—incest
  • Part 1, Div 1, Sub Division 8C—sexual offences against children
  • Part 1, Div 1, Sub Division 8D—sexual offences against persons with a cognitive impairment
  • s. 464L—fingerprinting of children aged 14 or under
  • s. 464O–destruction of records
  • s. 464P(1)—when prints of a juvenile can be destroyed
  • Schedule 7—list the summary offences that will trigger police power to fingerprint

See Crimes Act 1958 (Vic).

Updated