September 21st, 2012
Sanpete Messenger wins access to juvenile’s name in accident reports
By Donald W. Meyers
The Sanpete Messenger, a weekly located in central Utah, recently won the right to receive the name of a teenage boy who was injured in a June car crash.
The State Records Committee granted the paper’s appeal of a Utah Department of Public Safety’s denial of the newspaper’s request for accident reports naming the boy, who was struck on a rural highway after he had wandered out of a group home. The department, which oversees the Utah Highway Patrol, said the boy’s name could not be released because it would constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy.
During the hearing before the records committee, SPJ members Linda Petersen, Sheryl Worsley and Joel Campbell testified that such information is not private under state law, that the highway patrol uses the names of minors killed in car crashes as part of its safety presentations and that the police should not be in the position of interpreting state law.
There was a lot riding on this appeal. Had the Messenger lost, it would have set a dangerous precedent. The records committee decision maintains the openness allowed under Utah law.