TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Technology is constantly changing the way we live and it is also changing the way law enforcement protects us.
Thanks to technology - our identities are our numbers. All of law enforcement's cameras, scanners and computers use our social security numbers, driver's licenses, license plates - birth dates. But mistakes happen.
One Toledo woman experienced just such a case of mistaken identity when she was pulled over just as she was starting her vehicle.
"I went to turn the ignition - next thing I know the police car is right up on me. Lights flashing. I started grabbing my chest and said, ‘What happened,'" said Michelle Miller.
Miller was stopped by Toledo police outside a convenience store in East Toledo. The police used the latest scanner technology to look up her license plate - and access her information.
"I was asking, ‘What did I do?' And he told me that I had a warrant," said Miller.
It turned out that Miller didn't have a warrant. Her social security number had been mistakenly attached to the warrant for Charles Jones, who was wanted in Montgomery County, Ohio.
The Montgomery County sheriff's department told WTOL one of two things may have happened. A deputy could have typed in the wrong number when putting in Jones' information or Jones himself could have lied about his social security number.
In either case the result is the same: Miller's social security number was attached to Jones and his record.
"It could happen to anyone. Someone transposing numbers could happen to anyone," said Dep. Chief George Taylor, Toledo Police Department.
Taylor said technology helps his officers immensely but no system is perfect.
"People are always getting mail that wasn't intended for them because there's some sort of data that's corrupted or incorrect and it went to the wrong person. So law enforcement's no different than the business world," said Dep. Chief George Taylor, Toledo Police Department.
The difference is Miller can't just throw away her social security number like a piece of mail. This is almost a permanent mistake.
Once the wrong information is entered into a computer it is immediately sent to law enforcement agencies all over the country including the FBI.
And even if Montgomery County goes in and fixes the mistake stays in the record.
"It's as complicated as trying to get your credit record to show that identity theft isn't you. Because of all the people that feed into that one central data base," said Taylor.
Michelle could go anywhere in the country and a scan of her license plate or license will once again turn up this warrant.
"Now you're in trouble and you need to get yourself out of it. There's nobody to really help you," said Miller.
It's impossible to know exactly how many cases like this pop up around the country. Taylor admits at times his department's even brought people into the station and fingerprinted them before realizing the mistaken identity.
He also said this problem will get worse police rely more and more on technology to catch criminals.
Michelle hopes this mistake won't happen again.
"I actually had to drive my car yesterday to drop off some things for my job and I was shaking the whole time. When I saw a police car I was scared they would come and get me," said Miller.
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