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DMV Withdraws Social Security Card Demand

Posted: March 13, 2008|Category: Due Process

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In settlement of a suit filed last month by the Rhode Island ACLU against the Division of Motor Vehicles, the DMV has agreed to halt implementation of a policy requiring all people renewing their driver’s licenses to present their Social Security card. The lawsuit, filed in R.I. Superior Court by ACLU volunteer attorney James Kelleher, had argued that the DMV had no statutory authority to implement the policy and that it violated the due process rights of licensees.

Under a consent judgment filed in the case today, the DMV has agreed:

  • To “immediately cease and desist … mandating the production of an official social security card to individuals seeking to renew their licenses or state identification cards”;
  • To allow people whose renewal applications were denied between August 1, 2007 and March 13, 2008 solely for failing to provide a social security card to be renewed without penalty so long as they fulfill all other legal requirements;
  • To immediately institute rule-making proceedings to amend its regulations and repeal the rule that was the subject of the lawsuit, thus formally eliminating the social security card requirement for people applying for and renewing their driver’s licenses or identification cards; and
  • To pay $250 in court costs.

The consent judgment notes that the DMV retains the right to “collect Social Security numbers from individuals seeking license or identification renewal in the event the numbers are not already on record” with the DMV.

The suit had been brought on behalf of Providence resident Wendy Becker, who was unable to get her driver’s license renewed because she did not have her Social Security card. Although the DMV initially claimed that the policy was adopted in order to comply with federal law, the lawsuit noted there was no basis for that claim.

ACLU volunteer attorney Kelleher said today: “The goal of this litigation was to gently remind those in power that their authority is limited by law. While pleased that this particular goal has been achieved, it is unfortunate that this unlawful social security card rule has left an unintended residue as evidenced by the disgraceful scene that unfolded earlier this week at a local business. Perhaps this victory will offer some caution to those who would overstep the boundaries of law and decency.”

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