It has become clear that Ohio police can violate your right to privacy through a comprehensive database meant to help solve crimes. All Ohio police forces use a network known as Law Enforcement Automated Database System (LEADS). This network is administered by the Ohio State Highway Patrol and contains personal information such as your name, address, social security number, criminal history, license plate and vehicle registration. The police are meant to use LEADS in furtherance of the law. For example, the police may run your license plate number when they stop you for a traffic violation in order to see if you have any outstanding tickets, fines or warrants. However, the Associated Press (AP) reported in September that more than 70 police officers were disciplined in some way between 2013 and 2015 for misusing LEADS.
As a private citizen, it is concerning to learn that cops may be able to use confidential police databases to find out more about you without a warrant and target you when you have done nothing wrong. If you believe an officer has used LEADS or another confidential source to learn more about your history without a valid reason to do so, contact Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer Brad Groene at (513) 338-1890.
70 Improper Uses of LEADS in 2 years
Between 2013 and 2015, there were more than 70 instances of Ohio police officers being either disciplined, suspended or fired because they misused LEADS. The AP found police officers often looked up information about other people without any legal need or they looked up information about themselves. Sometimes the officers were found to have passed on information from LEADS to other people without the authority to do so. More specific examples of privacy violations include an officer or dispatcher using LEADS to acquire:
- Womens’ personal information
- Information regarding a coworker
- The address of their child’s mother
- An estranged spouse’s social security number
- Information regarding a child’s boyfriend or girlfriend
- Information regarding an ex-spouse’s current boyfriend or girlfriend
- A for-sale vehicle’s identification number and history
These purely personal uses of LEADS are clearviolations of private citizens’ right to privacy and were sometimes used in criminal pursuits. For example, one police officer looked up the personal information of a woman he stopped in traffic more than a dozen times, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
Many Misuses Lead to Unspecified Discipline
While some unlawful uses of LEADs led to officers being suspended for a period of time or removed from their positions, the AP found a majority of officers suffered an unspecified disciplinary action, which may have really been no punishment at all. Outside of egregious situations in which officers used personal information to target or stalk someone, many officers seem to receive a slap on the wrist for accessing LEADS without a lawful reason to do so. It is not only concerning that police officers have such easy access to confidential information outside of work, but it is alarming that officers who use LEADS for personal reasons may not be penalized.
If You Have Been a Victim of Police Misconduct, Call an Attorney Today
If you believe an officer has acquired personal information about you outside of an investigation and is using that information to follow, threaten, stalk or target you in any way, call Cincinnati criminal lawyer Brad Groene immediately. While LEADS is regularly used for its proper purpose, to help officers catch criminals, it is too easily abused. You deserve your privacy and to hold people who violate this right responsible.