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We previously reported on the case of Senne v. Village of Palatine, which involved a lawsuit against Palatine for information disclosed on a parking citation placed by the Village on a vehicle’s windshield.  In late November, the District Court granted the Village’s Motion for Summary Judgment finding that the Village’s “use” of the information was permissible under the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (“DPPA”), 18 U.S.C. 2721.

The case stems from the Village of Palatine’s practice of including an individual’s name, driver’s license number, date of birth, sex, height and weight, license plate number and address on parking tickets that were placed on offenders’ windshields.  Previously, we advised all municipal clients to refrain from including any of the same information on citations due to the potential penalties and damages resulting from a violation of DPPA ($2,500 per violation).

In granting the Village’s Motion for Summary Judgment, the District Court held that the Village’s use of the personal information fell within a permissible exception under the DPPA.  Specifically, the Court found that the information placed on the ticket fell within the exception in 2721(b)(1) which allows “use by any government agency, including any court or law enforcement agency, in carrying out its functions.”  The Court found that the Village’s use of the information in voiding tickets (if issued to out-of-towners) or for identification purposes (individuals without valid identification cards on their person or non-English speakers) to be proper uses by the Village exempting the disclosure from a DPPA violation.  However, the Court was clear to make a distinction between justifications for disclosing the information and justifications for obtaining the information (i.e., learning if a car is stolen justifies obtaining the information, but does not justify the placing of such information on a car’s windshield).

While the recent holding recognizes that municipalities are exempt from liability for most information put on parking tickets, we continue to advise our municipal clients to refrain from including any of the information indicated above on citations.  This ruling on the Summary Judgment is likely to be reviewed by the Seventh Circuit, which could overturn the District Court.  Until then, it remains unclear if municipalities may be liable under the DPPA.

Timothy J. Clifton

Author: Timothy J. Clifton