7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Rules Personal Information on Parking Tickets Violates the Law

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Could your parking ticket left under the wiper on your windshield reveal too much information about you? A U.S. appeals court thinks so and has ruled against a Chicago suburb’s police department that disclosed the vehicle owner’s name, address, gender and more on the ticket.

According to Wired, the case itself dates back to 2010 when Jason Senne from Palatine Village, Ill., decided to sue the police department for the information appearing on his parking ticket as violating the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ majority opinion issued by Judge Kenneth Ripple stated that including personal information like his full name, address, driver’s license number, date of birth, sex, height and weight present “very real safety and security concerns at stake here”:

For example, an individual seeking to stalk or rape can go down a street where overnight parking is banned and collect the home address and personal information of women whose vehicles have been tagged. He can ascertain the name, exact address including the apartment number and even other information such as sex, age, height and weight pertinent to his nefarious intent. Similarly, a
public official, having gone to great lengths to protect himself and his family from the threat of violence that unfortunately every public official faces, bears the risk that an expired parking meter violation might provide an opportunity for an individual intent on causing the official or his family bodily harm or death.

Not all the judges agreed though. Circuit Judge Richard Posner writes that the tickets holding said information would not facilitate stalking:

Only with difficulty can one imagine a stalker who, noticing a woman he’d like to stalk get into her car and drive off, follows her and when she parks lurks behind her car in the hope that it will be ticketed and that if that happens he’ll be able without being observed to peek at the ticket and discover the owner’s name and address. Has this ever happened? The plaintiff’s lawyer admitted at oral argument never having heard of such a thing. A far more plausible strategy for a stalker who had come across his intended victim’s vehicle would be to follow her home, without having to rely on her parking illegally and the police coming along and writing a ticket rich in personal information.

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And even if listing height and weight on a ticket is gratuitous, the majority’s decision is apt to entangle the courts in closer questions of the legitimacy of including particular personal information on a parking ticket, questions that will generate costly and time-consuming litigation and pointless wealth transfers from taxpayers to violators of the parking laws.

Wired notes that with 32,000 citations issued by the police department in the last four years, at $2,500 per violation of the law it could add up to $80 million for the city.