Wisconsin motor vehicle records can be public records

Law enforcement agencies may release motor vehicle reports that they obtained in the course of an investigation in response to a public records request, according to an opinion issued by the Wisconsin Attorney General.

Van Hollen reasoned that the DPPA identifies certain permissible uses for which a state motor vehicle department (a “DMV”) may disclose specified personal information from motor vehicle records. It is a permissible use for a DMV to disclose personal information “[f]or use by any government agency, including any court or law enforcement agency in carrying out its functions . . ..”

Van Hollen further reasoned that the Wisconsin Public Records Law imposes a statutory duty on law enforcement agencies to respond to public records requests. In the course of carrying out its functions, including responding to public records requests, a law enforcement agency therefore may disclose personal information obtained from a DMV that is included in law enforcement agency records responsive to such requests.

Some personal information may be redacted, as specified in other laws.

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