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1. Accident reports

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  • Alaska

    Accident reports, like other documents in the custody or control of law enforcement or other public officials, should be disclosable pursuant to the state Public Records Act, but as a practical matter will most likely be withheld or redacted at least initially, under one or more of the provisions of AS 40.25.120(a)(6), especially (a)(6)(A), regarding withholding of records that could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, or perhaps (6)(C), that permits withholding when disclosure could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of a suspect, defendant, victim, or witness.

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  • Arizona

    Accident reports are available for review for a non-commercial purpose.  However, a law enforcement agency “[s]hall not allow a person to examine the [motor vehicle] accident report or any related investigation report or a reproduction of the accident report or a related investigation report if the request is for a commercial solicitation purpose.”  A.R.S. § 28-667(C)(1) (emphasis added).

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  • Arkansas

    All traffic accident reports are open to public inspection. Ark. Code Ann. § 27-53-305.

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  • California

    Accident reports are exempt. Cal. Veh. Code § 20012. Abstracts of accident reports required to be sent to the Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento, except abstracts of accidents which in the opinion of the reporting officer were the fault of another individual, are open to the public for inspection at the DMV during office hours. Cal. Veh. Code § 1808.

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  • Connecticut

    See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 14-50a regarding fees for copies of accident reports from the commissioner of motor vehicles.

    In Calibey v. State Police, Do. #FIC 86-310 (Jan. 28, 1987), the FOIC held that a report of a fatal motor vehicle accident was not exempt from disclosure under FOIA.

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  • Delaware

    State law requires police to submit traffic reports to the Department of Public Safety of accidents involving an impaired driver, personal injury or deaths and apparent property damage of $1500.00. 21 Del. C. §4203(d). Those reports "shall not be open to public inspection." Id. at § 313(b).

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  • District of Columbia

    D.C. Code Ann. § 5-113.06(c) permits disclosure of motor vehicle accident reports under certain conditions.  To obtain report of a motor vehicle accident, one must not be prohibited from obtaining the information to solicit business, pursuant to D.C. Code Ann. § 22-3225.14.  In addition, the person seeking information within 21 days of an accident must produce a photo ID and provide a signed statement identifying the requested report, the name of the requester, and states that the requester is not prohibited from obtaining the information.

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  • Georgia

    In 1999, the General Assembly limited access to individual Uniform Motor Vehicle Accident reports to those parties named in the report or those that otherwise have a "need" for the report as defined by statute. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72(a)(5). Among the parties with a "need" for accident reports are those "gathering information as a representative of a news media organization." § 50-18-72(a)(5)(I).

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  • Hawaii

    There is no statutory or case law addressing this issue.

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  • Idaho

    Idaho Code § 74-124(2) provides that when any person involved in a motor vehicle accident which is investigated by a law enforcement agency, that person, that person’s authorized legal representative and the insurer shall have a right to a complete, unaltered copy of the impact report, or its successors, and the final report prepared by the agency.

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  • Illinois

    Open, unless (a) an investigation is ongoing or actually contemplated and that investigation would be compromised if the records were released; (b) release of the records would likely deprive someone of a fair trial; or (c) release of the records would likely identify an confidential source.  See 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(d)(i), (iii), (iv).  The identities of witnesses to traffic accidents, traffic accident reports, and rescue reports are open, unless disclosure would interfere with an active criminal investigation conducted by the agency that is the recipient of the request. 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(d)(iv).

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  • Indiana

    Accident reports are not specifically addressed under the Access to Public Records Act, but they are addressed under other statutory sections. Vehicle accident reports filed by a law enforcement officer are not confidential. Ind. Code § 9-26-2-3. However, other accident reports may only be used for state agencies, with exceptions. Id. § 9-26-2-4; see Madison v. Hawkins, 644 N.E.2d 184, 187 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994) (holding that the statute protected the accident report from discovery).

    The Federal Court for the Northern District of Indiana declared that federal law prohibiting disclosure of personal information held by the Department of Motor Vehicles (the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, 19 U.S.C. §2721, et. seq.) does not reach police reports of vehicular accidents Whitaker v. Apriss, 266 F. Supp. 3d 1103, 1110 (N.D. Ind. 2017).

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  • Iowa

    Under Iowa Code § 321.266(3), every law enforcement officer who investigates a vehicle accident must create and forward a written report of the accident within 24 hours to the Iowa Department of Transportation. (2018). This report is for the confidential use of the department but shall be produced by request to “any person involved in the accident, the person’s insurance company or its agent, or the attorney for such person.” Iowa Code § 321.271 (2018); Grocers Wholesale Cooperative, Inc. v. Nussberger Trucking Co., 192 N.W.2d 753, 755 (Iowa 1971). The written report shall also be made available to the federal motor carrier safety administration or the attorney general, upon written request. Iowa Code § 321.271. The Department of Transportation is required to disclose the identity and addresses of persons involved and may also disclose the name of the insurance companies with whom the other persons have liability insurance. Id. If a law enforcement requests a copy of their report from the department, it shall be granted. Id. The written report is not admissible as evidence in any criminal or civil case “arising out of the facts on which the report is based.” Id. The date, time, specific location, and immediate facts and circumstances surrounding the incident are not confidential. Id.

    Witness statements made to a peace officer during the investigation of a motor vehicle accident may not be privileged where they were not made in official confidence to the officer. Shannon by Shannon v. Hansen, 469 N.W.2d 412, 414 (Iowa 1991). But see Curry v. Jones, 138 N.W.2d 101 (Iowa 1965) (holding information given to a law enforcement officer for purpose of making a written report of the accident cannot be used to prejudice the informant in a civil action).  The Iowa Supreme Court applied a three-part test to determine whether witness statements were protected from disclosure to private litigants in a civil action surrounding a car accident. Id. The test requires: “(1) a public officer is being examined, (2) the communications made to the officer were in official confidence, and (3) the public interests would suffer by disclosure.” Id. (citing State ex rel. Shanahan v. Iowa Dist. Ct. for Iowa Cty., 356 N.W.2d 253, 257 (Iowa 1984)). In Iowa, a report filed by a law enforcement officer with the Iowa Department of Transportation regarding a motor vehicle accident “is available to any party to the accident and to certain others” under Iowa Code § 321.271. Id. at 415. Further, statements made by witnesses to law enforcement investigating a motor vehicle accident are not made in official confidence and thus their disclosure is authorized under Iowa Code § 321.371. Id. The court here recognized a distinction between criminal and accident investigations and between ongoing and completed investigations. See id.

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  • Kansas

    Open to public. K.S.A. 45-217(b). Motor vehicle accident reports are official public records and shall be open for public inspection. Kan. Att’y Gen. Op. 1979-17.

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  • Kentucky

    Traffic accident reports are specifically exempted from the Open Records Act under Ky. Rev. Stat. 189.635(5), which provides that “[a]ll accident reports filed with the Department of Kentucky State Police … shall not be considered open records under Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.872 to 61.884 and shall remain confidential …” However, Ky. Rev. Stat. 189.635(8) permits such reports to be made available to news-gathering organizations “solely for the purpose of publishing or broadcasting news.” Ky. Rev. Stat. 189.635(8) contains other limitations on use of the reports by news-gathering organizations.

    The news-gathering organization shall not use or distribute the report, or knowingly allow its use or distribution, for a commercial purpose other than the news-gathering organization's publication or broadcasting of the information in the report. A newspaper, periodical, or radio or television station shall not be held to have used or knowingly allowed the use of the report for a commercial purpose merely because of its publication or broadcast.

    Id.

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  • Louisiana

    Available to parties to accidents, insurers, attorneys, and "news-gathering organizations." La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:4(24); § 32:398(H), (K).

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  • Maine

    Generally available.

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  • Maryland

    Although not generally exempt, a custodian shall deny inspection of police reports of traffic accidents, criminal charging documents prior to service on the defendant named in the documents, and traffic citations filed in the Maryland Automated Traffic System to either an attorney or a person employed by, retained by, associated with or acting on behalf of an attorney who seeks to use the records for the purpose of soliciting or marketing legal services. § 4-315. This exemption does not apply to an attorney of record of the person who is named in the record. Id. The constitutionality of this restriction has been called into doubt. See Ficker v. Curran, 950 F. Supp. 123 (D. Md. 1996).

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  • Michigan

    “The disclosure of accident reports merely for the identification of potentially injured individuals is an unwarranted invasion of privacy, so government entities are not required to make reports public.”  Michigan Rehabilitation Clinic v. City of Detroit, 2006 Mich. App. LEXIS 25, at *4 (Jan. 10, 2006).

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  • Montana

    Accident reports and supplemental information filed with them are confidential and not open for viewing by the general public. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-7-114.

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  • Nebraska

    Accident reports prepared by law enforcement officers are public records, but reports prepared by persons involved in the accident are not.  Neb. Rev. Stat. §60-699(4) (Reissue 2009).

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  • Nevada

    Presumably open, but in the Nevada Op. Aty General 2009-05 (2009), it held that accident reports submitted by a driver involved in a traffic accident are confidential.

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  • New Hampshire

    Although neither the Statute nor case law addresses this issue, such reports have usually been made public.

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  • New Jersey

    N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1:

    A government record shall not include the following information which is deemed to be confidential for the purposes of P.L.1963, c. 73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.) as amended and supplemented:

     

     

    any copy, reproduction or facsimile of any photograph, negative or print, including instant photographs and videotapes of the body, or any portion of the body, of a deceased person, taken by or for the medical examiner at the scene of death or in the course of a post mortem examination or autopsy made by or caused to be made by the medical examiner except:

     

    when used in a criminal action or proceeding in this State which relates to the death of that person,

     

    for the use as a court of this State permits, by order after good cause has been shown and after written notification of the request for the court order has been served at least five days before the order is made upon the county prosecutor for the county in which the post mortem examination or autopsy occurred,

     

    for use in the field of forensic pathology or for use in medical or scientific education or research, or

     

    for use by any law enforcement agency in this State or any other state or federal law enforcement agency;

    N.J.S.A. 39:4-131 provides, in relevant part, that accident reports required to be forwarded by law enforcement officers and the information contained therein shall not be privileged or held confidential. Every citizen of this State shall have the right, during regular business hours and under supervision, to inspect and copy such reports and shall also have the right in person to purchase copies of the reports at the same fee established by section 6 of P.L.2001, c.404 (C.47:1A-5). If copies of reports are requested other than in person, an additional fee of up to $ 5.00 may be added to cover the administrative costs of the report. Upon request, a police department shall send an accident report to a person through the mail or via fax as defined in section 2 of P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-2). The police department may require the person requesting the report to provide a completed request form and the appropriate fee prior to faxing or mailing the report. The police department shall provide the person requesting the report with the option of submitting the form and providing the appropriate fee either in person, through the mail, or via fax as defined in section 2 of P.L.1976, c.23 (C.19:59-2).

    The provisions of any other law or regulation to the contrary notwithstanding, reports obtained pursuant to this act shall not be subject to confidentiality requirements except as provided by section 28 of P.L.1960, c.52 (C.2A:84A-28).

    When a motor vehicle accident results in the death or incapacitation of the driver or any passenger, the law enforcement officer responsible for notifying the next of kin that their relative is deceased or incapacitated, also shall inform the relative, in writing, how to obtain a copy of the accident report required by this section and the name, address, and telephone number of the person storing the motor vehicle pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1964, c.81 (C.39:10A-1).

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  • New Mexico

    Accident reports made by state police officers “shall be furnished to any person upon written application accompanied by a fee as set by the New Mexico state police board.”  See NMSA 1978 § 29-2-25; see also NMSA 1978 § 29-10-7(A) (stating that accident reports are available for public inspection).

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  • North Carolina

    Accident blotters are not specifically addressed. However, there are series of pending cases challenging the release of driver information in accident reports under the Drivers Privacy Protection Act. At present, the defendants are largely law firms who use the data for direct marketing for legal services. The information identified by G.S. § 132-1.4(c) is public, regardless of where it is kept.

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  • North Dakota

    Generally open, except for that portion containing an investigating officer’s opinion. See N.D.C.C. § 39-08-13.

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  • Ohio

    Public offices must provide access to accident reports.  See State ex rel. Wadd v. City of Cleveland, 81 Ohio St.3d 50, 689 N.E.2d 25, 1998-Ohio-444 (holding that the city and police department must provide motor vehicle accident reports).

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  • Oklahoma

    While not specifically addressed in the Open Records Act, Oklahoma statutes provide that accident reports shall be kept confidential for a period of 60 days after the collision but are to “be made available as soon as practicable upon request” to newspapers, broadcasters, and other parties with interest in the collision report. 47 O.S. § 40.102.A.2.j-k.

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  • Oregon

    There is no statutory or case law specifically addressing this issue. The Attorney General has addressed disclosure of accident reports from the Department of Transportation and the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). See Appendix G of the Attorney General Manual.

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  • Rhode Island

    Police accident reports, including the standard accident report form, police department narrative reports, and witness statements, and are public records but portions may be withheld under Exemption (D).  Opinion of Attorney General PR-04-05 (Mar. 19, 2004), 2004 WL 5328452.  The accident reports that drivers are required to file with the R.I. Division of Motor Vehicles pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 31-26-6 are confidential.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 31-26-13.

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  • South Carolina

    Accident reports are available in response to separate written requests for each report sought, and information may not be used for commercial solicitation.  S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-1275.

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  • South Dakota

    Open. SDCL §32-34-13, 13.1.

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  • Tennessee

    Generally open with limitations on how that information might be used. T.C.A. § 55-10-108(f). The Office of Open Records Counsel has opined that if the information on the report was obtained from the state Department of Safety then it would be protected from disclosure under the federal Drivers Privacy Protection Act and the state counterpart, the Uniform Motor Vehicle Records Disclosure Act. T.C.A. § 55-25-101; Office of Open Records Opinions of March 6, 2009 and May 10, 2010.

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  • Texas

    Accident reports must be disclosed to requestors unless otherwise exempted.  Tex. Dep’t. of Pub. Safety, 310 S.W.3d at 675-76. The legislature amended the Transportation Code in 2015, making accident reports compiled by the Texas Department of Public Safety privileged and confidential. Tex. Transp. Code § 550.065(b). Requestors, aside from government agencies, may only obtain complete copies of accident reports if they are “directly concerned in the accident or having a proper interest therein.” Id. at (c)(4). Notably, this includes “a radio or television station that holds a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission,” and free newspapers of general circulation that are published at least once a week, and available and of interest to the general public “in connection with the dissemination of news.” Id. at (c)(4)(J)–(K).

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  • Utah

    a. Automobile and watercraft accident reports prepared by operators of vehicles involved in an accident, by witnesses to an accident, or by police officers investigating an accident, may be disclosed to the following: (1) a person involved in the accident or that person’s agent, parent, or legal guardian; (2) a person suffering loss in the accident or that person’s agent, parent, or legal guardian; (3) a member of the press or broadcast news media; (4) government agencies that will use the record for official government, investigative, or accident prevention purposes; (5) law enforcement personnel; and (6) licensed private investigators. Utah Code §§ 41-6a-404(3)(a), 73-18-13(3). Information provided to a member of the press or broadcast news media, however, may include only the name, age, sex, and city of residence of each person involved in the accident, the make and model year of each vehicle involved in the accident, whether each person involved in the accident had insurance coverage, the location of the accident, and a description of the accident. Id. § 41-6a-404(3)(d).

    b. Motor Vehicle Division records are public, unless the division determines that the record is protected based upon a written request by the record’s subject. Id. § 41-1a-116(1). Certified copies of records of the Department of Motor Vehicles, other than those declared by law to be confidential for the department’s use, are available upon request and payment of search and copying fees. Id.

    c. Information provided to the Driver’s License Division of the Department of Public Safety relating to the physical, mental, or emotional impairment of “impaired” motor vehicle operators is confidential under GRAMA. Id. § 53-3-304(4).

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  • Vermont

    The Vermont State Police provide access to vehicle crash reports at http://apps.vtrans.vermont.gov/CrashPublicQueryTool/ and https://data.vermont.gov/Public-Safety/Vermont-State-Police-Traffic-Fatalities-Heat-Map/5cvv-iwpr?category=Public-Safety&view_name=Vermont-State-Police-Traffic-Fatalities-Heat-Map.

     

    All records relating to internal investigations of police misconduct are confidential. Nevertheless, the State Police Advisory Commission can, at its discretion, report confidential information to the public if such a disclosure furthers the Commission’s obligation to ensure proper action is taken in each case. 20 V.S.A. §§ 1923(d)(1)(4).

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  • Virginia

    No special rule for accident reports. General principles of access under Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3706 apply.

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  • Washington

    Reports filled out by those involved in the accident are normally not available as public records.  RCW 46.52.080; Guillen v. Pierce County, 144 Wn.2d 696, 31 P.3d 628 (2001). Accident reports filled out by police officers are public records and are generally subject to disclosure, at least once the investigation is complete.

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  • West Virginia

    (This section is blank. See the point above.)

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  • Wyoming

    Generally, open.

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