In collaboration with the East Bay Community Law Center, partners Sara Brody and Jaime Bartlett led a team that secured a favorable decision in a pro bono lawsuit against the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Alameda County Superior Court. The team successfully argued that the DMV was violating California drivers’ right to privacy and the California Labor Code by disclosing in public driving records information concerning driving under the influence (DUI) arrests that do not result in a conviction in a criminal proceeding or that relate to a sealed conviction.
This ruling sets an important precedent for protecting California’s workers by eliminating an end run around the Labor Code’s prohibition for employers inquiring about non-conviction arrests and underscores the importance of the right to privacy provided in the California constitution. Because of disparities in application of DUI stops and arrests of certain categories of individuals, the DMV’s unlawful record-reporting practices had a disproportionate impact on people from California’s poorer communities. The case raised critically important racial justice and privacy issues.
The lawsuit, filed in February 2016, challenged the DMV’s widespread practice of illegally reporting the non-conviction arrest-related information of “upwards of one million” Californians. DMV statistics show that between 20 and 30% of California drivers arrested for DUI have no corresponding conviction. However, under DMV protocol, information of non-conviction arrests remained on the driver’s publicly available driving record for three years after the license was reinstated and was available to the driver’s current or prospective employers without the driver’s consent.
The Sidley team also included associates Sarah Hemmendinger and Wesley Chao.