Tag: motor vehicle records

The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act helps prevent people from tracking you down.

The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) of 1994[i] is part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, and it governs the privacy and disclosure of personal information gathered by state motor vehicle and driver licensing departments. The DPPA also applies to the authorized recipients of personal information under the law and it requires recordkeeping requirements. The “personal information contained in an individual’s motor vehicle records can include the driver’s name, address, phone number, Social Security number, photograph, height, weight, gender, age, certain medical or disability information, and in some states, fingerprints.[ii]

High profile stalking and murder cases highlighted a need for safeguards protecting drivers.

The DPPA was passed after a series of instances of abuse of personal information held by the government. An abortion doctor, Susan Wicklund, was the target of abortion protesters and activists who obtained the doctor’s home address from running her license plate number in a public database. The group of protesters picketed outside Wicklund’s home for a month and followed her daughter to school. At one point the protesters placed cement barricades in the doctor’s driveway to prevent her from going to work. In response to this and other cases of abuse of drivers’ private information, the DPPA was signed into law.

In 1989, before the DPPA was law, actor Rebecca Schaeffer was killed by a fanatic follower and stalker who found her home address through DMV records in California. Public outrage led to the bill’s introduction in Congress in reaction to the shocking ease in which a murderer could track someone down. In 1989, a report on the actor’s death discussed how the killer obtained her information, “For as little as $1, a person can go into any of California’s DMV offices, fill out Form 70 stating who they are, what person they want information on, the reason, and how they intend to use it. Even if they lie, the information is delivered on the spot.[iii]

Illinois License PlateThe DPPA identifies requirements for the permissible use of driver information.

The law states that, “A State department of motor vehicles, and any officer, employee or contractor thereof, shall not knowingly disclose or otherwise make available to any person or entity: personal information…about any individual obtained by the department in connection with a motor vehicle record…[iv]” Personal information, “shall [only] be disclosed for use in connection with matters of motor vehicle or driver safety and theft, motor vehicle emissions…[v]” Permissible users identified in the DPPA include law and government agents working in their professional capacities. A list of examples also identify the merchants and individuals doing work in the normal course of the sale, licensing and insurance of drivers and vehicles as permissible users with qualified access to driver information.

Any individual covered by the DPPA, who knowingly discloses or makes personal information available to another outside the coverage of the law, may be charged with a violation of the law and subject to criminal fines and civil liability.

Penalties and civil lawsuits are available for violations of the DPPA.

Under the penalties section of the DPPA, “Any State department of motor vehicles that has a policy or practice of substantial noncompliance with this chapter shall be subject to a civil penalty imposed by the Attorney General of not more than $5,000 a day for each day of substantial noncompliance.[vi]

Private individuals may file a lawsuit in a U.S. district court against, “a person who knowingly obtains, discloses or uses personal information, from a motor vehicle record, for a purpose not permitted under this chapter.[vii]” If the individual proves a violation of the DPPA, the court may award actual damages up to $2,500 as well as punitive damages, attorney’s fees and other relief as the court determines necessary to remedy the privacy violation.[viii]

Zamparo ImageThe Zamparo Law Group, P.C. will enforce the law and protect your privacy rights.

If your personal information is illegally obtained, you may call the Zamparo Law Group and ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group attorneys will advise you of your rights under DPPA and help determine if you have a case to bring against the wrongdoing individual or agency.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.


[i] Drivers Privacy Protection Act. 18 U.S.C. § 2721 et. seq.

[ii] EPIC.org Electronic Privacy Information Center, The Drivers Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) and the Privacy of Your State Motor Vehicle Record.

[iii] Franks Reel Reviews, The Death of Rebecca Schaeffer, by Frank Williams.

[iv] 18 U.S.C. § 2721 (a)(1).

[v] 18 U.S.C. § 2721 (b).

[vi] 18 U.S.C. § 2723 (b).

[vii] 18 U.S.C. § 2724 (a).

[viii] 18 U.S.C. § 2724 (b).

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