For Immediate Release:
WASHINGTON STATE – In a federal class-action lawsuit filed by attorneys
James R. Sweetser and
Thomas Jarrard, of Spokane Washington, the motion for a preliminary injunction was granted
by United States District Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson. The Chief of
the Washington State Patrol has been restrained from releasing the addresses,
driver license numbers, dates of birth, sex, height, and weight of car
accident victims in violation of the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act.
James R. Sweetser, the former elected Spokane County Prosecutor, provided evidence that
the State Patrol systematically sells personal information on collision
reports to third parties for purposes that would not be permitted under the DPPA.
To obtain the Preliminary Injunction, Sweetser had to prove that the underlying
lawsuit is likely to succeed, that irreparable harm is likely to occur
without the preliminary injunction, and that halting the WSP’s unlawful
disclosures immediately is in the public interest. It also required that
potential injury to citizens caused by unlawful disclosure outweighs any
potential damage from halting them.
Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson did not mince words when ruling that the high standards had been met.
She emphasized the egregious risks to the public when personal information
in traffic collision reports is distributed for any nefarious purpose:
“In the age of the internet, when information is made public quickly
and without borders, it is nearly impossible to contain an impermissible
disclosure after the fact, as information can live on in perpetuity in
the ether to be shared for any number of deviant purposes.”
“[T]he WSP’s current practice of selling un-redacted collision
reports could needlessly expose individuals who have been in automobile
accidents in Washington to having their private information compromised…
There appears to be no valid governmental purpose that is furthered by
indiscriminately providing collision reports that display private individuals’
[T]he hardships imposed on individuals whose information is disclosed on
collision reports are far-ranging and significant… the public has
a vital interest in the protection of personal information and in preventing
it from being sold indiscriminately to anyone...”
Jade Wilcox, the lead plaintiff, responded to the news: “I am very pleased that
our personal information will be secure and that our privacy will be protected.
I did not consent to release my personal information to the world just
because I was in a collision. I am very happy that others will not have
to worry about the ramifications going forward.”
James R. Sweetser issued the following statement: “When a government official decides
to sell citizens’ most sensitive personal information in contravention
of federal law, it exposes all citizens in Washington state to stalking,
identity theft, and harassment by mass marketers. Today I am proud the
first steps necessary to end the practice of harvesting names, addresses
and telephone numbers from collision reports has taken place. It has been
a long journey to get to this point. History proves that when the federal
Drivers Privacy Protection Act is not followed citizens are at risk of
identity theft, stalking, and even murder. The protection of the people
is more important than profit.”
The order will go into effect in 14 days, on June 23 2017.