Last winter a Florida woman became an internet sensation by giving a police officer an oral warning for speeding. In response, the police union posted her phone number so people could harass her.
Florida police also retaliated against the state trooper who pulled over a reckless Miami cop. She sued and won a settlement for privacy violations.
Under federal law it’s illegal to access private DMV information of a female police officer without good cause. OK, technically everybody’s records are private, but unless the victim is a lawyer or reporter, nobody cares. Police face minimal risk looking up the cute girl who just drove by, digging up dirt on the neighbor, finding where the ex is living now and with whom, etc.
How the victim going to know? She has to guess that stalking or harassment was enabled by illegal access to driver’s records. She has to live in a state where the DMV will reveal who has been looking at drivers’ records. My state won’t, and in some states it’s illegal to reveal privacy violations. She has to pay an FOIA fee. She has to prove to a judge and jury which specific accesses were not for a legitimate purpose. The Eighth Circuit says the statute of limitations runs from date of access, not when you find out. Lawyers have mostly given up.
I strongly suspect a police officer illegally looked up my information, but I’m not allowed to know.
Meanwhile, many police officers and other VIPs can get their personal information taken out of the system. VIPs have alarms on their computer records to catch snooping.
We should all have alarms. When police search your property they are required to show you a warrant. You are entitled to know the reason for the search unless a judge orders it kept secret. (The Connecticut Attorney General’s office explains.) When police search our DMV records, the DMV should be required to notify us who checked and why.
I’m betting that won’t come to pass. Certainly not in my state, where public employee unions own the legislature.
Lawmakers care little about police misconduct directed against ordinary people. The Drivers Privacy Protection Act was passed because somebody well known got killed by a stalker.
What about your state? Can you dream of a future where police have to obey the law or face the consequences?
The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.