Like many measures that have come to be addressed as having to do with "privacy," the
Driver's Privacy Protection Act was enacted in response to crime.
On July 18, 1989, actress Rebecca Schaeffer was murdered by an obsessed fan named
Robert John Bardo. He had obtained her address and other personal information from a
private detective agency that reportedly had gotten it from Schaeffer's California
motor vehicle records.
In response to Rebecca Schaeffer's murder, California enacted an anti-stalking law
in 1990. All fifty states and the District of Columbia had followed suit by the end
of 1993. Further direct regulation seeking to prevent anything like the Schaeffer murder
was the Federal
Anti-Stalking Act, passed by Congress in 1996.
The Driver's Privacy Protection Act went beyond these direct regulations to
address stalking indirectly through control of information in state public records.
Secrecy of public records will prevent few tragedies like the murder of
Rebecca Shaeffer. Bent as he was on a criminal act, her assailant would probably
have found her address another way if it had not been in DMV records.