North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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September 6, 1977


Motor Vehicles; Drivers License Records; Public Records

Requested By:

Zeb Hocutt, Jr. Director, Driver License Section Division of Motor Vehicles


Is the Division of Motor Vehicles required or permitted under the statutes to sell or furnish selective listings (i.e., by age, sex, etc.) in bulk or on computer tapes from the driver's license files for commercial purposes?



The information furnished the Division of Motor Vehicles as a prerequisite to obtaining a North Carolina motor vehicle operator's or chauffeur's license is obtained by operation of law with possible sanctions being imposed if false information is given. G.S. 20-7 -- G.S. 20-15. The information as to age, sex, physical condition, etc., though personal in nature, is necessary and proper to the relative licensing process due to the danger involved to one's self and to others when operating a motor vehicle. However, such information shouldnot be indiscriminately disseminated for a fee by the Division of Motor Vehicles as the right to privacy is a personal and fundamental right protected by the Constitution of the United States.

It should be noted that the Division, under G.S. 20-26(b), is only required to furnish copies of the records required to be kept under subsection (a) of this section, which reads:

"§ 20-26. Records; copies furnished. -- (a) The Department shall keep a record of proceedings and orders pertaining to all operator's and chauffeur's licenses granted, refused, suspended or revoked. The Department shall keep records of convictions as defined in G.S. 20-24(c) occurring outside North Carolina only for the offenses of exceeding a stated speed limit of 55 miles per hour or more by more than 15 miles per hour, driving while license suspended or revoked, careless and reckless driving, engaging in prearranged speed competition, engaging willfully in speed competition, hit-and-run driving resulting in damage to property, unlawfully passing a stopped school bus, illegal transportation of intoxicating liquors, and the offenses included in

G.S. 20-17."

The information required upon the application for a chauffeur's or operator's license is only available for inspection at "any reasonable time during office hours" (G.S. 20-27), and the information as to age and description is required to be shown only on the actual operator's and chaufferur's license under G.S. 20-7(n). Though the operator's and chauffeur's license has become a universal means of identification, such is by practice and not by operation of law, for the only times an operator's or chauffeur's license is required to be shown by the holder thereof is when requested by a law enforcement officer who has observed the holder thereof operating a motor vehicle upon the highways or upon proper order of the court or the Division of Motor Vehicles.

When sections of Article 2 of Chapter 20 of the General Statutes are construed in pari materia, it is clearly evident that the personal information required by the Division of Motor Vehicles on the application for operator's or chauffeur's license as a licensing agency was not meant by the Legislature to be indiscriminately disseminated in the nature of bulk listings on computer tapes for a fee, but only open to inspection at reasonable times during office hours to assure that the Division of Motor Vehicles was properly carrying out its duty.

We are cognizant of the provisions of Chapter 132 of the General Statutes and the provisions thereof have been duly considered. It is a well established rule of statutory construction that specific enactments take precedence over general enactments dealing with the same subject matter. Therefore, there being specific legislative enactments relative to the availability of the records required pursuant to Article 2 of Chapter 20, such would take precedence over the provisions of Chapter 132 except as to those records held by said division not specifically covered under aforesaid Article 2.

In our opinion records of the Drivers License Section should not be furnished in the nature of selective listings based on age, sex, etc., absent an order of a court of competent jurisdiction. Further, due to the nature of the information contained in the Drivers License files, strict compliance with the statutes is essential for the protection of the rights of those of whom the information is required as prerequisite to obtaining an operator's or chauffeur's license.

Rufus L. Edmisten Attorney General

William W. Melvin Deputy Attorney General