BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 1958
                                                                  Page  1

          Date of Hearing:   April 7, 2008

                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION
                               Mark DeSaulnier, Chair
                   AB 1958 (Swanson) - As Amended:  March 25, 2008
           
          SUBJECT  :  Department of Motor Vehicles records: confidentiality

           SUMMARY  :  Adds certain veterinarians, firefighters, and code  
          enforcement officers to the list of occupations whose records  
          are granted enhanced confidentiality by the Department of Motor  
          Vehicles (DMV).  Specifically,  this bill  :  

          1)Requires DMV to apply specified confidentiality protections to  
            the home addresses in their records that are obtained from:  

             a)   Veterinarians employed by: a zoo; a public animal  
               control agency shelter; or a society for the prevention of  
               cruelty to animals shelter or a humane society shelter  
               contracting with a local public agency for animal care or  
               protection services;  

             b)   Firefighters; and,  

             c)   Code enforcement officers employed by local government  
               agencies.  

          2)Provides definitions for the terms "veterinarian," "zoo," and  
            "code enforcement officer."  

           EXISTING LAW  :  

          1)Lists 24 classes of persons primarily in law enforcement  
            fields, plus the spouses and children of those persons, and  
            allows them to request that their home addresses be held  
            confidential by DMV.  The home address of these persons may  
            only be disclosed to a court, a law enforcement agency, the  
            state Board of Equalization (BOE), or any governmental agency  
            legally required to be furnished that information.  

          2)Affords confidentiality for the home addresses of all  
            individuals contained within DMV records.  These provisions  
            similarly allow for disclosure to courts, law enforcement  
            agencies, and other governmental agencies but also allow for  
            limited disclosure to financial institutions, insurance  








                                                                  AB 1958
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            companies, attorneys, vehicle manufacturers, and persons doing  
            statistical research.  

          3)Grants DMV the authority to suppress all records for at least  
            one year for persons who are under threat of death or bodily  
            injury.  Under these circumstances, the entire record,  
            including the address, is rendered inaccessible.  

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  Analyses by the Assembly Appropriations  
          Committee of similar legislation in prior years indicated annual  
          costs to DMV of less than $50,000.  

           COMMENTS  :  

          The author contends that the reporting by veterinarians to local  
          law enforcement of suspected illegal dog fights has led to threats  
          of violence and death against them.  Similarly, overzealous animal  
          rights activists have been overtly hostile and threatening toward  
          them.  Such threats have caused veterinarians to fear for their  
          personal safety inside and outside of their work environment.  This  
          bill seeks to protect veterinarians by adding them to a statutory  
          list of persons who home addresses within DMV records are afforded  
          enhanced confidentiality.  

          This bill affords the same protection to firefighters who,  
          according to the author, have been threatened with violence while  
          performing their duties.  Specifically, while making routine  
          rescues, they may come across the location of drug and crack  
          houses.  

          Finally, the inclusion of code enforcement officers is justified by  
          the author citing an incident the entire family of an officer was  
          massacred as a result his having closed down and reported a drug  
          house leading to the jailing of the offenders.  (Some supporters of  
          the bill are asking that it be amended to also afford  
          confidentiality to the records of crime scene investigators and  
          crime scene lab specialists employed by police or sheriffs  
          departments.)  

          Until 1989, DMV records were considered public records, unless  
          state law specifically made them confidential, as was the case  
          for peace officers' addresses.  Therefore, until 1989, home  
          addresses were not considered confidential, and any person who  
          gave a reason that DMV deemed legitimate and could present to  
          DMV a person's driver's license number or license plate number  








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          could obtain address information on that individual.  

          In 1989, actress Rebecca Schaeffer was stalked and killed.  The  
          murderer obtained her address from a private investigation  
          agency doing business in Arizona.  The private investigation  
          agency acquired her address through a subcontractor agent in  
          California, who obtained it from DMV.  In response, the  
          Legislature enacted AB 1779 (Roos), Chapter 1213, Statutes of  
          1989, which made home addresses in DMV records confidential,  
          with specified exceptions.  

          Since that time, despite the fact that all home addresses are  
          afforded a high degree of confidentiality, the Legislature has  
          considered numerous bills proposing to add select categories of  
          persons to the confidentiality provisions that apply to peace  
          officers.  (The home addresses of peace officers and others on  
          the statutory list may only be disclosed to a court, a law  
          enforcement agency, the BOE, or any governmental agency legally  
          required to be furnished that information.  The home addresses  
          of everyone else may also be disclosed, in limited  
          circumstances, to financial institutions, insurance companies,  
          attorneys, vehicle manufacturers, and persons doing statistical  
          research.)  

          Historically, the Senate Committee on Public Safety had  
          jurisdiction over a number of the confidentiality bills that  
          have been introduced during recent legislative sessions.  After  
          much testimony and debate, it was decided that adding more  
          groups to the list of those eligible for peace officer  
          confidentiality served no useful purpose and was simply another  
          administrative burden for state and local agencies.  The  
          testimony indicated that a growing number of private sources  
          provide home addresses with little or no scrutiny.  

          In fact, most persons seeking confidential information about  
          others no longer look to DMV records for the data since those  
          records are so carefully protected and much more easily  
          obtainable via the internet.  DMV is not aware of any instance  
          since the enactment of AB 1779 where DMV home address  
          information has been used for a criminal purpose.  

          Most recent bills proposing to expand the statutory  
          confidentiality list have either died or been vetoed.  In 2007,  
          AB 1311 (Berryhill) would have extended confidentiality  
          provisions to community service and public service officers  








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          employed by police departments.  That bill died in the Assembly  
          Transportation Committee after being withdrawn by its author.   
          In 2005, AB 1706 (Strickland) would have added fraud  
          investigators, park rangers, emergency dispatchers, and DMV  
          employees who test new drivers.  That bill also died in  
          committee.  In the 2003-04 Session, AB 130 (Campbell) and AB 246  
          (Cox) both would have added members of Congress to the existing  
          statutory list.  Neither author ever took up his bill in  
          committee.  AB 2012 (Chu) from that session would have made  
          court-appointed attorneys, their investigators and social  
          workers assigned to child abuse cases eligible for special  
          address confidentiality in the department's records.  These  
          provisions were eventually amended out of that bill.  

           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support 
           
          American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees,  
          AFL-CIO (sponsor)
          California Professional Firefighters
          CDF Firefighters
          Los Angeles Zoo 
          Organization of SMUD Employees
          San Bernardino Public Employees Association (support seek  
          amendments to add CSIs)
          San Luis Obispo County Employees Association (support seek  
          amendments to add CSIs)
          Santa Rosa City Employees Association (support seek amendments  
          to add CSIs) 

           Opposition 
           
          None received
           
          Analysis Prepared by  :    Howard Posner / TRANS. / (916) 319-2093