Privacy Law

Federal Judge in Florida OKs Red-Light Ticket Info Release, Says Legal Proceeding Record Is Public


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A federal judge in Florida says a contractor hired by the city of Tallahassee must disclose red-light-camera traffic ticket information to a newspaper that requested it, despite an arguable conflict between state public records law and a federal statute that protects the privacy of drivers.

Fearing potential penalties for violating the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, the city asked for a declaratory judgment approving the release of a year’s worth of red-light-camera ticketing records to the Tallahassee Democrat, according to a Tallahassee Democrat story.

In a Monday judgment order (PDF), U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of the Northern District of Florida agreed that the ticketing records are public under state law. However, he declined to award attorney fees to the newspaper, saying that the disclosure issue had been a “close” legal question, TheNewspaper.Com reported.

“This reading of the DPPA is supported by the absurd results that would attach to a different reading,” Hinkle explained in the ruling, the story reports.

“An officer working a drug case shows an informant a driver’s-license photograph to confirm a drug dealer’s identity, and the officer later explains it in court and introduces the driver’s-license photograph, perhaps to rebut a charge that the informant recently fabricated the story,” the judge continued. “Are these transcripts and exhibits now protected from disclosure by the DPPA? Of course not. Once properly used in a court proceeding, the information is public and can be disclosed without limits.”

Related coverage: “En Banc 7th Circuit Says Parking Tickets May Violate Privacy Statute; Posner Predicts Scofflaw Suits”

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