The Missouri Highway Patrol recently made a change with its online crash reports to OMIT names of minors involved in traffic accidents. The patrols’ public information officer, Captain John Hotz, explained the change occurred after a review of the highway patrol policies, procedures, and general orders.
Based on what he called advancements in technology and social media platforms, as well as the states’ sunshine law and the driver’s privacy protection act, Captain Hotz said names of persons of juvenile age will no longer be included in on-line reporting. He described the decision to omit certain names as, quote, “ in line with heightened protection that juvenile information receives in all peace officer records.”
Captain Hotz noted the Missouri Attorney General’s Office provides similar guidance in Sunshine Law, frequently asked questions, as does a state statute. The decision to disclose certain information related to juveniles, according to the highway patrol captain, also is supported by the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act.
Patrol officials also considered another section of the Sunshine Law which permits the closure of any law enforcement records that may jeopardize the safety of a victim, witness, or any other person. Captain Hotz added this approach allows the general public to still access information for public safety purposes while maintaining what he called heightened privacy consideration for juveniles.
In a KTTN review of the online crash reports, it was noted the patrol continues to list the age, gender, town, degree of injury, safety device information and disposition for juveniles in an accident on Missouri roads and highways. The juvenile status applies to children ages 16 and younger.
In direct response to queries from KTTN Radio, Captain Hotz said:
“The Patrol conducts a periodic review of all policies, procedures, and general orders. The Patrol’s crash reports were recently reviewed and, as a result, juvenile information will no longer be included in our on-line crash reporting.
Advancements in technology and social media platforms were a significant consideration in this decision which is in line with heightened protection that juvenile information receives in all peace officer records.
The Missouri Attorney General’s Office provides similar guidance in their Sunshine Law FAQs, as does section 211.321.3, RSMo. Our decision to close certain information related to juveniles is also supported by the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2721.
We also considered Missouri’s Sunshine Law section 610.100.3, which permits the closure of any law enforcement records that may jeopardize the safety of a victim, witness, or any other person. This approach allows the general public to access information for public safety purposes while maintaining the heightened privacy considerations for juveniles. “