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Magic Wand: Bar Code Technology in the California Courts

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1989
This 1987-1988 study examined the applicability of bar coding and scanning to statewide statistical data collection systems for courts in nine States.

Considerable variation across States was found with respect to the level of data aggregation (case-by-case or highly summarized data), reporting formats, and specific types of information required. Data collected for criminal and civil cases by these States generally fell into six categories: court identifiers, case filing information, case activities or proceedings, trial information, dispositions or sentences, and miscellaneous information. About 80 percent of the data elements needed for both aggregate and case-by-case reporting for these States have already been bar coded for the STATSCAN system. Overall, the use of bar codes and scanning to collect data for court applications can be beneficial and cost effective. Bar coding is ideally suited to applications that require only codeable data. For all practical purposes, free-form textual information such as names and addresses cannot be reduced to bar codes, although standard narrative information can be bar coded. Statistical reporting systems are ideal candidates for bar coding. File tracking and file archiving systems also have been successfully implemented. Two case management systems were able to collect 70 to 90 percent of the needed information, but some keyboard data entry also was required. The type of scanning device should be carefully selected for the application, and adequate training support, and commitment to thorough implementation are needed. Supplemental information is appended. 7 figures.

Date Published: January 1, 1989