By on August 1, 2011

The Village of Palatine, Illinois prints the personal information of vehicle owners — including their address, driver’s license number, date-of-birth and weight — on parking tickets left under the windshield wipers of their automobiles. In a ruling handed down last month, the Seventh US Circuit Court of Appeals found no problem with this procedure.

Motorist Jason Senne had filed suit against what he saw as an outrageous violation of privacy after he received a $20 parking ticket in August 2010. The information printed on the citation, and left open to anyone walking past his vehicle, could be used by an identity thief. Senne argued this was a violation of the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act which prohibits disclosure or otherwise making available the information found in motor vehicle records.

“It’s printed by a computer,” Senne’s attorney, Mark Murphy, argued before the court. “They just have software and a printer and this is how they issue their tickets. The secretary of state when a person applies for a driver’s license has an obligation and a duty under the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act to keep that personal information that you tender over to the secretary of state private. They’re not supposed to disclose it. They’re not supposed to give it away…. It’s just being printed on a ticket for no apparent reason.”

Palatine argued that its use of the information falls within a law enforcement exemption and that the printing of the information does not constitute disclosure. The three-judge panel disagreed strongly with the latter claim.

“In the village’s view, a plaintiff must show that personal information was actually handed over to a specific someone, or at least that a specific someone observed the information,” Judge Joel M. Flaum wrote for the majority. “The village’s argument, however, puts shackles on the ordinary meaning of the word disclose… Imagine if a DMV employee placed a stack of driver records on a city sidewalk. Under the village’s reading, only the person whose information was at the top of the stack would have his information disclosed.”

The court majority agreed with Palatine that the village had a valid exemption for disclosure in the “service of process.” Senne countered that the over-disclosure of information such as the driver’s height and weight had absolutely no law enforcement or service purpose, but the majority said Congress did not address that possibility.

“Senne argues variously that the village’s practice is unnecessary, foolish, and a ‘poor security practice,'” Flaum wrote. “That may be, but Congress is free to use language broad enough to permit all those things. The statute does not ask whether the service of process reveals no more information than necessary to effect service, and so neither do we.”

Judge Kenneth F. Ripple dissented on this point, citing statements from the Congressional Record explaining the intent of the privacy law.

“The exceptions must be interpreted in a manner that is compatible with Congress’s careful attempt to balance individual privacy/security needs and the legitimate operational and administrative needs of the government,” Ripple wrote. “We should not ascribe to Congress the intent to sanction the publication of any and all personal information through the invocation of an exception… We should interpret the statute as permitting the release, through the exceptions, of only the personal information reasonably necessary to effectuate the governmental purpose set forth in the exception.”

Ripple cited the example of actress Rebecca Schaeffer who was murdered by a man who had copied down her license plate number and then looked up her home address in Department of Motor Vehicle records. In this case, Ripple noted a stalker would not even need to go to the DMV since the address is available on the ticket itself.

A copy of the decision is available in a PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Senne v. Village of Palatine (US Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, 7/11/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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12 Comments on “Federal Court OKs Personal Information on Parking Tickets...”


  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    The law is an as*.

    Along with what it appears to be an increasing number of “judges”.

    The parking ticket is fine…but it does not need that additional information included on the writeup.

    What kind of an idiot does it take to become a judge anyway?

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    It makes no sense to put all this information on the ticket if it’s already in the state’s database. This should have been caught by someone back when the ticket process was being developed. If the police can’t or don’t want to pay for changes to remove this data from the ticket the town’s government should require and pay to remove it.

    Illinois has been getting better with integrating it’s licensing and vehicle registration, and even sharing data with Chicago to make it easier for the latter to target people not buying the required city sticker. I suppose the same is being done with Palatine, though the fact Colorado can track my address down with only a license plate when I use E470 around Denver shows that’s probably a lot of additional cooperation on a national level.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Senselessly-acting bureaucrats, and when called on it, their arrogant intragence, as opposed to pragmatic and responsible civil service, causes the people to needlessly seek protection and restitution in the courts.

    Senseless court rulings, and or interpretations, causes the people to needlessly seek protection and remediation in the legislative body.

    Just another extreme example of an issue that could have been solved if someone at the bureaucratic level had just seen the sense of not overstepping their function, and responding to the civil population they are supposed to serve (and and from shich their salaries are drawn) by removing superfluous information from the parking citation print program (and had saved a little ink in the future.)

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Senseless court rulings, and or interpretations, causes the people to needlessly seek protection and remediation in the legislative body.

      The court took a fairly literal interpretation of federal law concerning disclosures, and found that the local statute was in compliance. The strict constructionist types should be thrilled with the ruling, for as was pointed out in the dissenting opinion, the court didn’t focus on the spirit of the law.

      The problem isn’t with the court, it’s with the village that decided that this sort of thing was acceptable. The recourse here isn’t through litigation, but through the ballot box. If this matters to the people who live there, they should complain to their local government or have them tossed out of office.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Yeah, that’s pretty much it: if you have shitty law, you’ll have shitty cases. Don’t blame the umpire when you’re upset at the rules.

      • 0 avatar

        And the village is probably only defending this case so that all tickets issued to date don’t get nullified and they are deluged with people wanting their money back. Expect to see the addresses silently vanish from the tickets in the near future.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Expect to see the addresses silently vanish from the tickets in the near future.

        I wouldn’t assume that. The village government probably doesn’t care.

        This is one of those things that would require a grassroots effort to defeat, getting the neighbors riled up and showing up at the city council meetings. Get the city government to change the policy, or better yet, to pass a law that forbids them from doing it.

        The alternative would be to change the federal law, so that the policy of the city government then becomes illegal.

        But unless the federal law is changed, the federal courts aren’t in a good position to deal with this sort of thing. Some judges will tend to favor the spirit of the law, but many won’t.

        (And before this turns into yet another one of those dumb liberals-are-destroying-the-world threads, all of the judges who ruled on this appellate case were Reagan appointees.)

    • 0 avatar
      Contrarian

      Well said Robert. My sentiments exactly. When common sense in government is trumped by vague unintended legalities, we are indeed a society in decline.

  • avatar
    marjanmm

    Law and political struggle on Palatine? The history moves in strange circles.

  • avatar
    tced2

    Maybe federal judges should be required to include their address, drivers license number, birth date, height and weight on their published rulings.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Amen. I work in IT for a government entity, and we’re constantly being hammered about securing personal data, and I’m very glad of that. For these yahoos to just say, “Well, there’s no law against it, so suck it!” is appalling, regardless of what the court says.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    I work for a state government and our legal counsel has decided that we can not release locational information regarding public works to the utility contractors nor discuss the features of public works projects with the contractors who drew up the plans. Presumably, such information is confidential and can only be shared/discussed with the public utility itself and then only face to face so that we can verify who it is we are talking to. We don’t want some terrorist discovering that the building behind the fence labeled Hill Street Well is a well. I don’t know if I have ever met a crazier sillier group of people than lawyers, unless it is the judges that spring from their ranks.

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