Section 01: Introduction

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Important: This section of the Nlets User Guide presents pertinent information regarding the background of Nlets, the use of the system, and the use of this Guide. The reader should be familiar with this section of the Guide before attempting to interface with, or otherwise use, the Nlets automated system.

Purpose of User Guide

This guide describes Nlets. It defines the services provided to Nlets' users, as well as the responsibilities associated with it. Sections of this guide define the Nlets Point of Entry (POE), Control Terminal, message formats, system responses, and system capabilities. Other sections provide the necessary technical data to help users in interfacing their systems with Nlets on a computer-to-computer basis.

This Guide will serve as the User Guide for the use of Nlets. States with an existing communications networks should use this Guide as a supplement to their own guides. This Guide will also serve as a reference for programming.

Nlets Administration: Background, Financial, and Contacts


Nlets is made up of representatives of law enforcement agencies from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), Interpol and Federal law enforcement agencies. Nlets is incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware and is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to provide interstate communications to law enforcement, criminal justice and other agencies involved in enforcement of laws.

Organizationally, Nlets is comprised of eight regions. Each region represents six or seven states and several federal agencies that are grouped together to represent a regional community of interest.

The chief executive officer of each Nlets System Agency (NSA) for a state or other member agency will appoint an individual to provide representation in the Nlets organization. The state representatives of each region elect a Chairman and a Vice-Chairman each year. The Chairman represents the region on the Nlets Board of Directors.

The Board of Directors meets at least once each year to conduct the organization's business. All policy decisions are made by the Board of Directors. The policy decisions range from how the system is to be operated to how the Corporation's general business will be handled.

The Nlets state representatives elect a President, First Vice-President, and Second Vice-President for a two year term. The President serves as Chairman of the Board at all Board and Council Meetings.

The Board of Directors appoints an Executive Director who is responsible for conducting the organization's day-to-day business and to see that the Board's decisions on system operational and administrative matters are carried out.


Nlets is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization that is solely funded by membership fees.

Nlets Contacts

Should agencies require information of an operational nature, they may call using the telephone numbers below. Additionally, an administrative message may be directed to the Nlets command terminal using this ORI: AZNLETS20. This Help desk terminal is located within the Nlets Control Center.

Agencies needing information of an administrative or policy nature may direct requests to the Nlets Executive Director's office by calling, faxing, or sending an email to the Nlets office using the information listed below.

Nlets Site Control (for system problems)
Phone: (800) 528-4020 or (623) 308-3531
Email: []

Frank Minice, Chief Executive Officer
Email: []
Kurt Anzelmo, Chief Operations Officer
Email: []

Description of Nlets

Nlets' sole purpose is to provide for the interstate and/or interagency exchange of criminal justice and related information.

The mission of Nlets is to provide, within a secure environment, international justice telecommunications capability and information services that will benefit to the highest degree, the safety, security, and preservation of human life and the protection of property. Nlets will assist those national and international government agencies and other organizations with similar missions that enforce or aid in enforcing local, state or international laws or ordinances.

Nlets is a secure network and system linking local, state, federal and international agencies together to provide the capability to exchange criminal justice and public safety related information. Nlets links NSAs together. Using an international standardized format, a local agency may transmit and receive data from any other agency in a matter of seconds.

A log of all transactions is kept to provide system statistical reports and management information. The Nlets system can receive, store, and forward message traffic from and to all its user agencies. Administrative message traffic on the system includes all types of free form criminal justice related data from one point to one or more points. In addition, Nlets supports inquiry into state motor vehicle, driver's license, criminal history and other state, federal and international databases.

Control Terminal

Each Nlets member must designate an agency as the Nlets System Agency (NSA). This designated agency is responsible for maintaining operational surveillance over the state end of the line and for providing distribution services in and out of the Nlets network. The NSA is normally addressed by using the two-character state code.

Traffic is directed automatically to the destination ORI(s) on the state network. The NSA is responsible for the expeditious delivery of messages to the designated destination ORI. An exception to this rule is the distribution of statewide broadcast messages.

Furthermore, no information delivered from Nlets is to be used for any purposes other than that for which it was originally requested. Exceptions to this rule allow:

  • The review of message traffic for quality control.
  • The usage of traffic for statistical analysis purposes.

Message Routing

All messages must be routed using the appropriate NCIC Originating Agency Identification (ORI) code or an Nlets authorized ORI. Nlets checks the ORI for incoming traffic and sends messages directly to the proper state, federal or international destination. Any detected errors are returned to the sending terminal by Nlets.

Message Format

Messages can be formatted either in eXtensible Markup Language (XML) or in the Nlets legacy text format. Nlets provides transformation service for all supported formats. Nlets recommends using the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) for all data exchanges.

Communication Overview

Nlets currently supports TCP/IP socket protocol, MQ series and web services for the exchange of data. Nlets recommends using the WS-I compliant Nlets/FBI web service interface specification (July 2017 Nlets will no longer socket protocol). For more information on the connection types, please see the attachments on this page.

XML Format

XML is a markup language which can be used to define any type of structured information and pass that information between different computing systems, regardless of their architecture. XML is a non-proprietary standard maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and specified as the recommended exchange format by the federal government and nearly every state. Nlets provides specifications conforming to the Global Justice XML Data Model (GJXDM) and the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM).

Legacy Nlets Format

Nlets currently supports a dot delimited text format for most message types (December 2019 Nlets will no longer support dot delimited text). Additional information can be found in the corresponding sections.

Message Retention

Nlets receives, stores, and forwards messages. In the event that a destination is able to receive, messages are sent immediately. If the destination is unavailable, the sender is notified and Nlets will forward when service is restored.

Automated Interface with State Network

All states interface with Nlets via a computer-to-computer interface. This allows states to use varied formats, depending upon the state requirements and the particular terminal and computer network within that state. Many of the specific operations of Nlets will be transparent to local users in the states. Differences in formats and types of terminals will be resolved in the state computer program that supports the Nlets interface.

Extended Routing (ORI Manipulations and Control Field)

The first seven characters of the NCIC assigned ORI provide a unique address for each law enforcement agency in the United States. The identification of precincts, substations, or other terminal locations within a single agency may be provided for by assigning specific numbers as the last two characters of the ORI. By providing this level of definition, the NCIC ORI code can be used to identify and address individual terminals on the state system or on computer systems within a state such as county or metropolitan systems.

There may be instances where use of the last two characters of the standard ORI is insufficient to uniquely identify a terminal. In these cases the user may contact NCIC to determine whether they qualify for an additional ORI for their agency.

An additional routing capability allows agencies from Federal members (ATF, DEA, IRS, etc.) without a direct interface to Nlets, to obtain terminals on state systems and use these terminals to access Nlets. This is accomplished by placing an "S" in the 8th position of the agency's ORI. This "S" will allow this terminal to access Nlets through the state system while also allowing other terminals from the same agency to access Nlets through their Federal Member system, e.g. DOJ.

Note: Do not confuse this "S" in the 8th position with an "S" in
  the 9th position which designates an Nlets authorized ORI.

The ORIs for the following Federal agency terminals must be modified in order to provide them access through state systems.

Federal Agency (LOC) 3rd, 4th, 5th Characters in ORI 3 Characters In Location (LOC) Field
U.S. Air Force AFO MSC
Amtrack AMX
Application Service Center ASC CIS
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms ATF ATF
Bureau of Indian Affairs BIA BIA
Capital Police CAP MSC
Customs and Border Protection CBP, CIS, FDS
U.S. Marine Corps CGH, MCD, MCO MSC
Coast Guard CGO MSC
Department of Commerce DCO MSC
Drug Enforcement Agency DEA DEA
Deparment of Homeland Security DHS
Defense Investigative Service DIS MSC
Department of Agriculture DOA MSC
Department of Defense DOD, D0D MSC
Department of Energy DOE, D0E
Department of Interior DOI DOI
Department of Justice DOJ, D0J, GA0, NAV, TAR DOJ
Department of Labor DOL, D0L MSC
Department of State DOS, D0S DOS
Dulles Airport DUL MSC
Environmental Protection Agency EPA
Federal Aviation Administration FAA FAA
Federal Air Marshal FAM FAM
Food and Drug Administration FDA MSC
Federal Protective Service FPS MSC
Federal Reserve Bank FRB
Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force FTF, FTT
Government Printing Office GPO
Health & Human Services HHS MSC
Immigration and Custom Enforcement ICS ICE
Immigration and Naturalization Service INS INS
Interpol INT INT
Internal Revenue Service IRS IRS
Naval Investigative Service NIS NIS
Office of Personnal Management OPM
Air Force Office of Special Investigation OSI OSI
Postal Inspection Service PO0 PIS
Federal Bureau of Investigation RTI
Secret Service SS1, SS2 SS3, SS4, SS6, SS8 SSA
Treasury Tax Administration TIX
Department of Treasury TRE MSC
Transportation Security Administration TSA
Terrorist Screening Center TSC TSC
U.S. Courts & Probation UCP
U.S. Customs USC USC
U.S. Marshals USM USM
Veterans Administration VA0 MSC
Washington National Airport WNS MSC

Agencies need not concern themselves with other Federal agencies (i.e., FBI, National Park Service). If a user provides Nlets service to any of these agency terminals through their state system (and this includes any that may be using regional or municipal systems within a state), the 8th character of their ORI must be changed to "S". For example, if Texas provides service to an IRS Inspection Service Office with an ORI of TXIRS0100, its ORI on the Texas system must be modified to TXIRS01S0.

There are also provisions for Federal members to provide service to other Federal members that have a direct interface. For example, if U.S. Customs (through TECS) provides a terminal to INS, special codes in the 8th character of the ORI must be used. Agencies needing details on these provisions should contact the Nlets office.

Nlets has also provided its users with a "control field" option. When sent, it must be returned to the user in all responses to the original message. This field may be used to carry additional information, to identify specific terminals or for whatever purpose the initiator of the message may desire. If a terminal is responding to a message that contains a control field, this field must be inserted in the response message. All state computer interfaces should be programmed to receive, store, and return this data.

Due to the possibility that states and federal agencies may have difficulty in supporting this option, they are encouraged to have multiple ORIs assigned rather than use the control field to supplement normal terminal addressing.

When sending a message to a terminal on the Department of Treasury (TECS) System, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) or any other Federal user, it should be addressed to the assigned ORI as found in the ORION file. No special addressing techniques are required for point-to-point messages.

Requests for agency-wide all-points bulletins to terminals on Federal systems must be addressed to the two-character identifiers.

Nlets Users and Uses

The success of the system depends upon enforcing Nlets polices that control who uses the network and for what authorized purposes. Although Nlets is responsible for development of policy, the Nlets members carry the burden for assuring that all Nlets policies and regulations in this regard are followed.

Types of Users

Nlets is a criminal justice system. Only criminal justice agencies and those non-criminal justice agencies that, through their participation, provide a benefit to public safety or the law enforcement/criminal justice community are authorized to participate on Nlets.

The exceptions are those agencies that are authorized to obtain criminal history information (CHRI) through PL99-169 "The Intelligence Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 1986", Title VIII, Section 910 (entitled "Access of Criminal History Records for National Security Purposes"). See #4 in the table that follows. The table that follows lists the agencies and organizations that are authorized to participate on Nlets along with special restrictions if any.

Types of Users: Special Restrictions:
Non-federal criminal justice agencies in each state, the District of
Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands
ORI must be assigned by NCIC.
No restrictions.
Federal criminal justice agencies ORI must be assigned by NCIC.
No restrictions.
Non-government agencies:
  • National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB)
  • National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)
  • National Vehicle Service (NVS)
No CHRI access (Message types IQ/IR, FQ/FR, AQ/AR, and CR prohibited.)
See agreements for further details.
Agencies authorized under PL99-169 for national security purposes:
  • Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
  • Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
  • Defense Investigative Service (DIS)
  • National Security Agency (NSA)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Access for National Security Purposes only (receive CRs only).
ORI must be assigned by NCIC.

Government agencies authorized under state or Federal statute to
investigate, respond to, regulate, clean up or evacuate as a result
of chemical, hazardous material, or an incendiary incident.
This also includes state and local emergency management offices.

Weather files (HQ/HR) and AM access in emergency situations.
Must have "H" or an "S" in the 9th character of the ORI.
Must have an NCIC assigned ORI.

State governmental agencies responsible for the licensing of driver
and registration and/or titling of vehicles and related enforcement

No CHRI Access (Message types IQ/IR, FQ/FR, AQ/AR, and CR prohibited.)
This does not preclude the exchange of driver registration and/or
history information by DMV's.
ORI must end in a "V" and be assigned by NCIC or end in an "S".

Criminal Justice agencies in Canada ORI must be assigned by RCMP.
No restrictions.
Police Departments:
  • Police Departments authorized by state statute but maintained by
    private colleges or universities.
  • Railroad police
Full access provided.
NCIC ORI ends in "E".
Communications centers set up to provide service to police and fire
departments, and other local government agencies (i.e., "911" centers).
No CHRI access when there is a "P" in 9th character of the NCIC ORI.
Governmental agencies responsible for enforcing laws or ordinances

ORI must be assigned by NCIC or end in an "S" and be assigned by Nlets.
If assigned by Nlets the agency is restricted from requesting CHRI
and cannot use Nlets for licensing or employment purposes.

Civil Courts when seeking criminal history information pursuant to
the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 for use when
hearing civil domestic violence or stalking cases.

ORI must be assigned by NCIC and end in a "D".
Purpose code must be "D".
National Weather Service May only send "HR" to criminal justice agencies regarding road/weather
information when multiple states are involved.
HUD agencies assigned a "Q" ORI May only receive criminal history information using a "CR" message type
(a response from a Triple I inquiry). The "Q" ORI must be assigned by NCIC.

All NSAs are responsible for assuring that any agencies that they provide Nlets access to is included in the table above. When a criminal justice agency performs a service on behalf of a governmental non-criminal justice agency, each agency must have an ORI. In all transactions the ORI of the governmental non-criminal justice agency must be used.

If the non-criminal justice agency does not have an ORI and is using Nlets for approved purposes, we will assign an Nlets ORI. This is the "S" ORI.

If the non-criminal justice agency contracts with a private firm, there must be an agreement signed by a representative from the non-criminal justice agency, the private contractor and the Nlets representative. This agreement guarantees that the non-criminal justice agency will assure that Nlets policies and procedures are followed by the private contractor.

Members Accessing Nlets

The following is a list of users and agencies that have been authorized to access Nlets and also have been approved as members.

Principal Members 50 States, The District of Columbia, Judiciary of Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands
International Members Canada/RCMP
Federal Members

Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, Customs and Border Protection, EPIC,
FBI, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration,
Federal Protective Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Interior, Interpol, Department of Justice,
National Weather Service, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Office of Personnel Management,
Department of Defense, Postal Inspection Service, Secret Service, Social Security Administration,
Department of State, Transportation Security Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs,U.S. Marshals Service
Immigration Records and Identity Services Directorate (IRIS), U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services,
Bureau of Consular Affairs/Passport Services

Associate Members

ARJIS San Diego County SO, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB),
National Vehicle Services (NVS), Western Identification Network (WIN), RISS

State/User Responsibilities

Each state (member) is responsible for providing an interface with Nlets, thereby providing access for all criminal justice agencies or other authorized agencies in the membership to all other criminal justice or other authorized agencies in the nation. With this responsibility, the member has the authority, and must exercise the authority, to ensure that all users provided access by the member follow the Nlets policies, especially those relating to security of the system and security of the information transmitted on the system.

Failure of the agencies within the member state or agency to follow the proper procedures must be called to the attention of the Nlets control terminal officer who will in turn take corrective action with the originating agency. Continued violations must be reported to the Nlets Board of Directors for further action.


Nlets' equipment or line problems are to be reported to the Nlets Control Center by the user agency. The Nlets Control Center will then coordinate all trouble isolation. Costs associated with network maintenance are included in the Nlets membership fees.

General System Usage

All traffic over the system must be in the prescribed message form. Unnecessary messages with superfluous verbiage or embellishments are prohibited. Information of no value to the addressee must be avoided. For example, address or telephone number of parents reporting runaway children are of no value to another department who will notify the originating department, not the parents, of any apprehension. Avoid expressions such as "ARREST AND HOLD", "HOLD FOR INVESTIGATION", "HOLD AND NOTIFY", "DETAIN FOR THIS DEPARTMENT", "WANTED AS SUSPECT", etc. The name of the crime should be clearly specified and if a warrant has or will be issued.

Note: If a warrant has been issued it should be in the NCIC system.

In view of the many persons who may receive messages, the use of non-standard abbreviations must be avoided. Keep in mind that many abbreviations that may be in common use within one department or in one state may be entirely unknown and confusing to another department or state.

It is imperative that departments originating want messages of any type cancel these messages when they no longer apply. Messages may be canceled only by the originating department. Departments apprehending a wanted subject or recovering a stolen or wanted vehicle should direct a message to the originating station only, reporting the apprehension or recovery. The originating department should then cancel their outstanding messages and clear their NCIC file entry.


The system must not be used for the following types of messages:

  • No social announcements, i.e., Christmas messages, retirements or convention notices.
  • No recruiting of personnel.
  • No messages in which the complainant is interested only in the recovery of property.
  • No attempts to locate vehicle (breach of trust) without warrant. For the protection of the arresting officer, messages should not be dispatched until a warrant is secured.
  • No excessively long messages.
  • No transmission of subpoenas.
  • Use of vehicle registration and driver license information obtained via Nlets is limited to official use only. Curiosity inquiries are forbidden.
  • Automated positive message acknowledgment (PMA) will not be allowed except when a need can be shown that automated PMA is required in order to capture information that can be of substantial value in diagnosing an information exchange problem. Under no circumstances will the temporary use of PMA exceed 45 days. Authorization for temporary PMA can be given by the Executive Director.
  • No solicitation of funds.

Nlets Regional Map

Nlets is comprised of eight regions. Each region represents six - seven states and several federal agencies that are grouped together to represent a regional community of interest. A copy of the Nlets Regional Map follows.

Nlets Region Map

NCIC/Nlets Purpose Codes

Code: Explanation:
A Administrative file maintenance.
C For official duties in connection with the administration of criminal justice.

The authorized uses of Purpose Code C in situations that are not part of a criminal justice investigation but are duties of the agency where a criminal record check is necessary to accomplish the agency's mission.

D Used when the III transaction is for use by officials of civil or criminal courts in domestic violence or stalking cases. Civil courts may be issued ORIs containing a D in the ninth position, at the discretion of the appropriate state CJIS Systems Officer (CSO) and the FBI's CJIS Division. ORIs ending in D are limited to QH and QR transactions for Purpose Code D.
E This is not an NCIC purpose code - state purpose code for non-criminal justice employment/licensing
F Used by criminal justice agencies for the purposes of (a) issuing firearms-related permits and explosives permits pursuant to state law, regulation, or local ordinance; (b) returning firearms to their lawful owners; and (c) enforcing federal and state laws prohibiting certain persons with criminal records from possessing firearms in circumstances in which firearms have been pawned.
H Requests by authorized public housing authorities assigned an ORI.

Only authorized use is for background checks on adult applicants for (or tenants of) public housing for purposes of applicant screening, lease enforcement, and eviction.

I Interstate approved non-criminal justice licensing and employment background checks.
J Used when the III transaction involves employment with a criminal justice agency or the screening of employees of other agencies over which the criminal justice agency is required to have management control. Such screening may include the use of III on friends, relatives, and associates of the employee or applicant, unless restricted or prohibited by state statute, state common law, or local ordinance. Criminal Justice Employment (Purpose Code J) has been separated from other Criminal Justice Purposes (Purpose Code C) due to the varying requirements of some state agencies participating in the III.
Purpose Code J is used for initial background checks of agency personnel as well.
R Used only by the FBI in III record requests to NFF states when fingerprints are identified to a record maintained by an NFF participating state.

State or local III queries that include Purpose Code R will be rejected as unauthorized.

S Used when investigating individuals for any of the following:
  • Access to classified information.
  • Assignment to or retention in sensitive national security duties.
  • Acceptance or retention in the armed forces.
  • Appointment, retention, or assignment to a position of public trust or a critical or sensitive position while either employed by the government or performing a government contract.
V Visa applications initiated by US Department of State.
X Caregiver background checks, exigent circumstances.