The DMV or division of motor vehicles in each state can be a very rich source of public records for you. However, there is something that you should know about those records. It is called the "Driver's Privacy Protection Act."
The Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) is a federal law that regulates how the DMV releases and shares the information in DMV records. The DPPA regulates how motor vehicle departments release driver records, vehicle records and your ability of accessing DMV records. The DPPA also regulates how a recipient of DMV records can share information with another person. Basically, it restricts your access to this type of state records.
What records are protected?
Photographs, Social Security Number, driver's license number, name, address, telephone number, medical information, and disability information.
If you were able to access it, what could you get (depending on the state)?
· The name, the date of birth, and the mailing address of the driver;
· The driver license class, endorsements, and restrictions;
· The current status and expiration date of the driver license;
· Any suspensions or revocations of the driver license; accidents, and moving violation convictions.
· Some states will have the Social Security Number on the records
· A registration abstract contains the information about a vehicle, the name and the mailing address of the registrant, and the expiration date of the registration.
· A title abstract contains the information about a vehicle, the name and the mailing address of the vehicle owner, and the information about the current lien.
What can you access?
The 5-digit zip code for the driver's address, criminal convictions, traffic accidents, traffic violations, and any driving restrictions.
What about the rest of the other information (the information that's protected by the DPPA)?
The DMV will only release that information to people who have a "permitted use."
What qualifies as a "permitted use"?
1) Government / Law enforcement agent.
2) In cases of motor vehicle safety, accidents, and theft.
3) By a legitimate business or its agent to prevent fraud.
4) For use by the courts system for civil, criminal, and other processes.
5) For use in research where identities are not disclosed.
6) Insurance provisions (by insurers).
7) For impounded vehicles.
8) By licensed private investigative agency or restricted security service.
9) And other state governmental matters.
10) Use by any requester who has obtained the written consent of the motorist.
In regards to requesting an accident report from the DMV, you will need to offer a valid reason and proof to back up your request, such as:
1) Being involved in the accident.
2) Named in the accident report or an authorized representative.
3) Being sued because of the accident.
4) Using the accident in a governmental manner for statistical research.
What's the bottom line?
The DMV can be a very good source of public records -state records. However, because of the Driver's Privacy Protection Act, you will need very good reasons and proof to be able to obtain useful information. Of course, a licensed investigator can have access to what may be off limits to you. Also, do not forget the Freedom of Information Act. You may be able to file a request for information through that option and receive positive results.