Privacy Law

Ex-Cop Awarded More Than $1 Million After Officers Illegally Accessed Her Driver's License Info

A number of Minnesota cities have settled with a former police officer who sued them after more than 100 of their officers illegally performed hundreds of searches for her photo and address in the state’s driver’s license database.

Minneapolis approved a $392,500 settlement with Anne Marie Rasmusson last week and St. Paul settled with her for $385,000 last month, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported. Sixteen other cities settled for a combined $280,000 on Oct. 1, the Associated Press reported.

St. Paul did not admit liability in the settlement, but St. Paul attorney Sarah Gerwig told the Pioneer Press that statutes call for damages of $2,500 per authorized check. And since 61 St. Paul officers looked up Rasmusson more than 226 times, the city could have been liable for $565,000 plus attorney fees if they didn’t settle. Minneapolis’ city attorney echoed these sentiments in an Star-Tribune.

Early in Rasmusson’s career as a police officer, she lost more than 85 pounds. She accepted a medical retirement in 2003 after sustaining a back injury on the job, and she and her husband, also a police officer, divorced in 2007. After her divorce, she overheard police officers who had not met her until after her dramatic weight loss gossiping about what she used to look like; other officers made unsolicited phone calls asking for dates, City Pages reported in February. She eventually called the Department of Public Safety and learned that more than 100 officers had looked up her driver’s license record more than 400 times.

Wired noted that in her lawsuit, Rasmusson alleged that the officers violated the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, which was enacted after an stalker obtained the address of actress Rebecca Schaeffer from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, went to her home and killed her. Under the acts, states can’t disclose personal information which drivers submit to obtain a license, including their names, social security numbers, photos, address, phone number or medical or disability information.

Lorenz Fett, a lawyer for Rasmusson, told the Star Tribune that his client is happy with this settlement. The paper also noted that several counties, state organizations and public safety commissioners are still involved in the case.

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