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Local Parking Ticket Spurs Supreme Court Case

Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013

How much information is necessary to include on a parking ticket?

In Palatine, Illinois, the ticket slipped under the windshield wiper contains more than just the nature of the violation. It also includes such personal information as your address, driver’s license number, date of birth, sex, height, and weight. Tickets also spell out the details of the infraction: location of the vehicle, make, year and VIN number, as well as the license plate number and expiration date.

When Jason Senne returned to his car to find the parking citation he was outraged. Five hours had passed since the slip of paper was placed on his car, and in a class action complaint against the town, he says it violated the “Driver’s Privacy Protection Act by leaving the ticket on his car after printing his personal information on it.”

Senne estimates Palatine issued more than 8,000 tickets over the past four years, pushing the  damages request to upwards of $80 million. He is also seeking “punitive damages, attorney’s fees, costs and equitable relief.”

A federal judge dismissed the case, and an appeals court panel agreed that the “disclosure” was permissible under the law. But when the full circuit court of appeals reversed that decision, they indicated, “any information on the ticket not necessary to process it was a violation of federal law.”

The argument in favor of the practice is that there is no indication that anyone has ever used the personal information and that the ruling is “unlikely to do any good,” and is “bound to do harm.” The court has expressed concern that “the floodgates of class action litigation will open across the country” should the appeals court decision be upheld. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether or not to take the case.

What do you think?

Should local police agencies be allowed to include detailed information from the state motor vehicles records on documents like parking tickets?

Does the benefit outweigh the risk?

Tags: privacy

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