April 4, 2001
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The
ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the information presented in your
I have received your letter of February 27. You indicated that the Town of Deerfield's zoning
ordinance includes provisions regulating the parking and storage of vehicles, and that in the event
of a possible violation, the code enforcement officer needs to obtain information concerning the
ownership of the vehicle, registration, inspection and insurance status. You asked whether that
officer "may have access to such DMV's records" in the performance of his duties.
In this regard, although the Freedom of Information Law generally governs rights of access
to agency records in New York, in this instance, I believe that a federal law, the Drivers Privacy
Protection Act (18 USC §2721) is the governing statute. In brief, the Act is applicable to all state
departments of motor vehicles in the United States, and it limits the authority of those agencies to
disclose personal information contained in license records. Pertinent to your question is subdivision
(b)(1), which authorizes disclosure:
"For use by any government agency, including any court or law
enforcement agency, in carrying out its functions, or any private
person or entity acting on behalf of a Federal, State, or local agency
in carrying out its functions."
Based on the foregoing, it appears that the code enforcement officer for a town seeking the records
in question in the performance of his or her official duties may ordinarily obtain those records from
the Department of Motor Vehicles. If a licensee has asked that his or her license record be shielded
from disclosure, a subpoena may be needed to obtain the record.
If there are questions relating to the foregoing or if there is a need to request records, the
Department of Motor Vehicles may be contacted at (518)473-5595 or 1-800-225-5368.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman