The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)



STATE OF MICHIGAN

JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM, ATTORNEY GENERAL

LICENSES AND PERMITS:

MOTOR VEHICLES:

PRIVACY:

SECRETARY OF STATE:

Secretary of State furnishing names and addresses of motor vehicle license applicants

The Michigan Vehicle Code does not require the Michigan Secretary of State to furnish the names and addresses of persons eligible to take road tests to private persons or entities that are under contract with the state to provide road test services.

 

Opinion No. 7118

September 11, 2002

Honorable Ken DeBeaussaert
State Senator
The Capitol
Lansing, MI 48909-7536

You have asked whether the Michigan Vehicle Code requires the Michigan Secretary of State to furnish lists of names and addresses of persons eligible to take road tests to private persons or entities that are under contract with the state to provide road test services.

The Michigan Vehicle Code, 1949 PA 300, MCL 257.1 et seq, provides for the examination and licensing of operators of motor vehicles. Before issuing a license, the Secretary of State shall examine each applicant for an operator's or chauffeur's license. Section 309(1). The examination shall include a behind-the-wheel road test conducted by the Secretary of State or her designee. Section 309(4). The Secretary of State may enter into an agreement with "another public or private person or agency" to conduct the road test and, if she does, may prescribe the method and examination criteria. Id. The Secretary of State has entered into over 200 agreements with private third-party testers to provide behind-the-wheel road tests.

Information supplied with your request indicates that a private third-party tester has requested the Secretary of State to provide it with a list of names and addresses. The tester wishes to use the information for solicitation purposes, namely to inform these persons that they are eligible to take a road test and that the third-party tester is available to provide such a test.

The answer to your question requires an analysis of the following privacy provisions contained in the Vehicle Code. Section 208(c)(1) provides that personal information in a record maintained under the Vehicle Code "shall not be disclosed" unless permitted in that section or unless permitted by section 232.1 Section 208c(3)(a), the statutory exception most germane to your question, provides that such information may be disclosed by the Secretary of State as follows:

(a) For use by a federal, state, or local governmental agency, including a court or law enforcement agency, in carrying out the agency’s functions, or by a private person or entity acting on behalf of a governmental agency in carrying out the agency’s functions. [Emphasis added.]

Section 232(1), which reiterates the Secretary of State's discretion to release driver record information, provides that:

Upon request, the Secretary of State may furnish a list of information from the records of the department maintained under this act to a federal, state, or local governmental agency for use in carrying out the agency's functions, or to a private person or entity acting on behalf of a governmental agency for use in carrying out the agency's functions. [Emphasis added.]

Although section 232(1) gives the Secretary of State discretion to release driver record information to certain specified persons, section 232(3) specifically prohibits the furnishing of this information for marketing or solicitation purposes:

The secretary of state or any other state agency shall not sell or furnish any list of information under subsection (2) for the purpose of surveys, marketing, and solicitations. . . .

The first step in ascertaining legislative intent is to look to the text of the statute. Piper v Pettibone Corp, 450 Mich 565, 571; 542 NW2d 269 (1995). Clear and unambiguous statutory language must be enforced by the court as written according to its plain meaning. Dean v Dep’t of Corrections, 453 Mich 448, 454; 556 NW2d 458 (1996).

Here, the statutory language is clear. A plain reading of sections 208(c) and 232 of the Vehicle Code demonstrates that the Secretary of State may, but is not required, to furnish driver record information to private third-party testers, provided, however, that disclosure is only for purposes of carrying out the tester's functions on behalf of the state agency. Moreover, section 232(3) expressly prohibits the Secretary of State from furnishing driver record information for marketing or solicitation purposes.

In contracting with third parties to provide behind-the-wheel road tests, the Secretary of State has not committed her department to furnishing driver record information to the testers. A review of the form agreement currently used between the Secretary of State and third-party testers discloses no reason why the furnishing of such information to third-party testers is essential to their performance of road tests.

It is my opinion, therefore, that the Michigan Vehicle Code does not require the Michigan Secretary of State to furnish the names and addresses of persons eligible to take road tests to private persons or entities that are under contract with the state to provide road test services.

 

JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM
Attorney General

1 A person who uses personal information for a purpose other than a permissible purpose identified in section 208(c) or 232 is guilty of a felony. Section 903(1).