Vermont’s commissioner for public safety has ruled that Traffic tickets are now public records. Irrespective if a juvenile is named and from the time of issue. This ruling has thwarted efforts by State police to keep the ticket secret and out of reach of public records. The commissioner advised the a civil ticket is deemed a written record procured as a result of agency business. Therefore the ticket (civil) falls within public records (definition). The issue has arisen following a stop on August 7th by an unmarked police car. According to a statement the vehicle was travelling at over 100mph. The officer’s account put forward detail in that the driver received a ticket (civil) for driving with no license. Further he was issued with a criminal citation (juvenile) on suspicion of excessive speed and negligent operation. However the statement had omitted other information which is regularly seen in news releases by State Police. That being the home town of the driver and the vehicle make and model. The release further excluded the driver’s ID as he was 16 years old. The case was under review to establish as to whether the boy should be treated as an adult by way of charges.
A freelance journalist from Vermont requested a copy of the ticket. However the response by the State Police was that they would reserve response until the 24th August. This being an extension allowable under the public records laws of Vermont. Two weeks letter the journalist was advised that the request had been denied. The reason cited was due to the ongoing criminal investigation and that the release of of the ticket may constitute an invasion of privacy. Also undermining the nature and confidentiality of family court proceedings.
Thereafter an appeal was lodged and the denial overturned a week later. The commissioner determined that no exemptions within the public records Act were applicable to the civil ticket. This involved a subject’s age and ongoing investigations. While criminal proceedings within the remit of the Family Court, by law, are secret a civil ticket is outside of the court’s jurisdiction. The outcome of the ticket was a $162 fine and 2 points on the driver’s license. The driver being a 16 year old from Chester. The decision by the commissioner follows a 1990 precedent and a public records issue in the Vermont Supreme Court. Adults who were compelled to attend court by citations must be a part of public records. Further in respect of ongoing criminal investigations (related exemptions) citations could not be withheld. Arrest Records are the by product of crime detection not records dealing with the investigation and detection of crime. Please click here to read a previous post on contentious public records issues within Vermont. Click this link for more information on access to public records and documents within Vermont.