U.S. Eleventh Circuit - The FindLaw 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

No Privacy Rights for Driver License Photos Used by Government Lobbyist?

There's the one percent, then there are one percenters. And then there are these three alleged one percenters who sued law enforcement after the improper use of their driver license photos was discovered.

The three motorcycle club members were part of a group of seven, singled out by law enforcement, to have their driver license pictures used for lobbying purposes. On the assumption that their images would frighten state lawmakers away from passing an open carry law, the plaintiffs' pictures (without any other identifying information) were distributed to the lawmakers by the department's government liaison alongside information explaining that these were the type of people who would utilize the open carry law.

Aren't Driver License Photos Private?

Ordinarily, yes. A person's driver license photo will usually be protected by state laws that prohibit unofficial uses by government entities, as well as use by private/commercial organizations. But, in an emergency situation, or if you are wanted by police, that photo can be plastered everywhere by the media. Under Florida law, where this case is venued, there are several exceptions to when a driver license photo may be used, particularly by a government entity.

As to the alleged one percenters' claims, a district court ruled on summary judgment that when a law enforcement office lobbies, it is performing a government function (one of the exceptions) and can make non-public use of a driver license photo. The court never even reached issues of qualified immunity.

How Appealing

And if you thought these details were appealing, you're in good company because so did the plaintiffs. After all, it just doesn't sit well that law enforcement can thumb through driver license photos to find scary looking people to use as props for politics. Recently, this matter was heard by the Eleventh Circuit. The panel of judges seemed to prod with their questions, hoping to discover where the line is drawn for improper use of a driver license photo by a government entity. No timetable for a decision was provided.

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