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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Ohio Supremes Protect Privacy of Drunk Drivers...All of 'Em.

The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected a newspaper's effort to get the names of all Ohioans convicted of drunken driving.

The court, without comment, voted 7-0 on Oct. 24 to dismiss a lawsuit filed by The Cincinnati Enquirer.

The state contended that the identities were protected by state and federal privacy laws.

The lawsuit followed a newspaper analysis in which the Enquirer reported finding nearly 36,000 drivers with five or more drunken-driving convictions in Ohio.

But state officials refused to provide access to the names in a database of records dating to 1973. Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Henry Guzman filed a motion to dismiss the newspaper's lawsuit, and the court agreed.

Jack Greiner, a Cincinnati attorney representing the Enquirer, called it disappointing that the Supreme Court dismissed the case without oral arguments or full legal briefs.

The Enquirer reported Oct. 24 that "the case raised a novel question concerning the interplay between federal law and the Ohio Open Records Act." The newspaper quoted Greiner as saying, “It is hard to imagine that Congress intended for the federal Drivers Privacy Protection Act to shield the identity of repeat DUI offenders. But that is the effect of today’s ruling.”

Assistant Attorney General William J. Cole, representing Guzman, said that the Enquirer could request driver information from each of Ohio’s 88 counties individually, the newspaper reported. The Enquirer has said such a project would take too long to be feasible.

More here.

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