State challenges constitutionality of driver’s privacy law
SOUTH CAROLINA–South Carolina Attorney General Charles Condon filed a court challenge to the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act in federal District Court in Columbia in late November. Condon argues that the law amounts to unconstitutional federal interference with state law.
Congress passed the act in 1994 to force states to limit access to personal information in Department of Motor Vehicle records. Its sponsors claimed that it would help prevent stalking, and often cited the murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer. Schaeffer’s assailant stalked and killed her after hiring a private investigator who obtained her home address through state motor vehicle records.
When the act goes into effect in fall 1997, it will require states to restrict public access to personal information contained in state drivers’ license and motor vehicle records. However, the state can choose instead to offer drivers an “opt out” — an option of instructing the state not to give out personal information on him or her, while keeping the balance of the records public.
Condon charges that the act, by directing the states to regulate the disclosure of motor vehicle records, exceeds Congress’ authority under the U.S. Constitution and violates the Tenth Amendment. Condon has asked the court to rule that the act may not be enforced against the state of South Carolina, and to permanently enjoin the federal government from enforcing the act.
In early December, the South Carolina Press Association and others moved to join the state’s lawsuit. The other parties included the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Newspaper Association of America, the North Carolina Press Association, the Virginia Press Association, the West Virginia Press Association, and the Maryland/Delaware/District of Columbia Press Association.
No hearing date had been set as of mid-December. (Condon v. U.S.; Media Counsel: Jay Bender, Columbia)