Miami Herald: Florida OK’s $1.5M settlement over federal penalty

Aug 26, 2009

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet on Tuesday approved a $1.5 million settlement with the federal government, the state’s negotiated penalty for illegally selling drivers’ personal information to companies and individuals.

In January, the U.S. Justice Department sued the state and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to collect a $2.5 million penalty for the state’s release of some 30 million motor vehicle records containing personal information — a violation of federal law. The state and federal government last month settled the suit and agreed to the lower fine.

“This was scary in the beginning, the billions of fines potentially facing Florida,” said Attorney General Bill McCollum. “I would say I think this settlement is very good in terms of dollar amounts.”

The Justice Department suit alleged that the DHSMV disclosed the records to companies between May 13, 2003 and at least Oct. 1, 2004. The federal government can impose daily fines of as much as $5,000 a day for such violations.

Four South Florida drivers filed a class-action suit earlier this year against the state for releasing their information. The settlement terms give all Florida drivers a $1 credit in their registration or renewal as long as they had a license, car registration or state-issued ID between June 1, 2000, and Sept. 30, 2004.