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Driver's Privacy Protection Act ruled unconstitutional

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Driver's Privacy Protection Act ruled unconstitutional 09/22/97 SOUTH CAROLINA--The Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), which requires states to limit public…

Driver’s Privacy Protection Act ruled unconstitutional

09/22/97

SOUTH CAROLINA–The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), which requires states to limit public access to “personal information” contained in drivers’ license and motor vehicle records, was held unconstitutional by a federal District Court in Columbia in mid- September, two days before the act was scheduled to take effect.

The court ruled that Congress violated the Tenth Amendment by commanding the states to regulate the dissemination and use of the records. Judge Dennis Shedd permanently enjoined the federal government from enforcing the DPPA in South Carolina.

The Court rejected the federal government’s contention that the DPPA is constitutional because it was enacted pursuant to Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce under the Commerce Clause.

Instead, Shedd relied on Supreme Court precedent which established that “the Federal Government may not compel the States to implement, by legislation or executive action, federal regulatory programs.”

The federal government also argued that Congress was empowered to enact the DPPA by the Fourteenth Amendment, which authorizes legislation designed to protect a right to privacy. By prohibiting the states from publicly disclosing “personal information,” the federal government contended, an individual’s privacy right is preserved.

Recognizing that federal appellate courts have found a constitutional right to privacy in the nondisclosure of some forms of personal information, Shedd nevertheless refused to extend that right to prevent the states from publicly disseminating personal information validly obtained and collected in state drivers’ license and motor vehicle records.

Name, driver identification number, address, phone number and photo, all of which the DPPA purports to protect, are not the type of “intimate matters” in which individuals have a “reasonable expectation of confidentiality” that the Constitution protects, the court said. Information that is otherwise freely available in public records is not constitutionally protected, the court stated. (Condon v. Reno)