There seems to be a major misconception regarding the privacy and confidentiality of driving records, including those containing convictions for DUI, drunk driving, operating on a revoked license, driver’s license fraud, immediate threat suspensions, and other incidents. The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), protects certain “personal information” such a driver’s social security number, age, height, photograph, and address.
However, the Registry routinely provides other information on a daily basis. Information is sought by a variety of people for a variety of reasons. Law enforcement agencies rely on it in order to identify accurately specific individuals and vehicles involved in incidents that may constitute violations of the motor vehicle laws. Insurance companies use it to identify accurately the licensed drivers and motor vehicles involved in particular accidents; members of the general public also use it for this reason. The data is sought for other purposes as well. Family members use it when searching for lost relatives. Lawyers use driver’s license data when searching for clients or locating witnesses. Employers and potential employers of commercial interstate drivers, where the minimum age is 21, may use it to verify the driving record and age of applicants or employees. The information is also requested for purposes of medical research, public safety, and consumer awareness.
In addition to these general public purposes, the public uses the Registry information at issue in order to fulfill its role as a “watchdog” of government enforcement of the motor vehicle laws. The importance of this role was acknowledged, and the role itself facilitated, by the passage in 1990 of the Lacey Packer Bill. Lacey Packer was 10 years old when she was killed by a drunk driver. Anti-drunk driving and motor vehicle safety advocates used her case to lobby for tougher drunk-driving penalties. The result was the Lacey Packer Bill, adding to G.L. c. 90, § 30 the requirement that the Registrar maintain “a record of all convictions of persons charged with violations of the laws relating to motor vehicles, and notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, such record shall be public …” With the aid of Registry information, members of the public are thus able to monitor the enforcement of motor vehicle laws.
The Lacy Packer Bill, allows any person to inspect the Registrar’s records of all convictions of persons charged with motor vehicle offenses. In effect, this allows citizens to act as “watchdogs” over their fellow citizens’ driving histories. It also gives the public oversight of Registry decisions regarding whether license applicants are suitable to maintain their licenses in light of their driving histories; in this way the public can assist the Registry in administering the proper licensing of drivers in Massachusetts.
Anyone facing a drunk driving charge in Massachusetts should be aware that despite any sealing of his or her criminal record, DUI conviction data may be accessible by anyone.