MINNEAPOLIS — The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed lower court rulings on Thursday that dismissed several cases alleging law officers and city officials improperly searched individuals’ driver’s license data.
However, the three-judge panel of the appellate court found there were a few cases in which some lookups could be seen as suspicious and required further explanation from local agencies. Those cases were sent back to the district court for further proceedings.
In recent years, several current and former Minnesota residents have sued municipalities, police departments and officials statewide over hundreds of license data lookups. The lawsuits alleged that officials violated the state driver’s privacy protection act by accessing personal information without a permissible purpose.
Most of the lawsuits were dismissed in U.S. District Court. Had they not been dismissed, they could have cost cities and counties millions of dollars.
The 8th Circuit affirmed several of the dismissals Thursday, but sent four cases back for more proceedings against a handful of cities. In those cases, the appellate judges found that some municipalities needed to explain numerous license data lookups.
For example, in one case the appellate court found it “more than passing strange” that law enforcement in various cities accessed data for a radio personality while she was on the air, and at a time when she was not driving in any of those cities.
In reaching its decision, the appellate panel looked at the circumstances of each individual case, and analyzed whether data were accessed on the same day or within a few hours by unrelated entities and whether there were multiple late-night accesses.