Sun Port Charlotte by Anne Easker
May 15, 2020
A man and dog were hit and killed by a motorist the night of May 8 while crossing U.S. 41, but the identities of the driver and pedestrian are still not public.
That’s because the Florida Highway Patrol has begun limiting the information included in press releases about traffic crashes.
“The Florida Highway Patrol has a long-standing commitment to transparency and keeping the public informed,” Lt. Greg Bueno wrote in an emailed statement. Bueno is public information officer for the local FHP troop and he sends out the majority of notifications to the media. “We are committed to balancing this transparency with our charge to protect the privacy of victims of crime and their families.”
Where FHP once included the names of people involved in the crash, as well as the make and model of their vehicles, the agency now gives out only a general description, such as “sedan” or “sports utility vehicle” with a driver’s gender, age, and city of residence.
Bueno stated the agency is aligning itself with the state constitution, which protects victims of crimes from the release of information that could be used to locate or harass them. It’s presumably believed to be in line with Amendment 6, better known as Marsy’s Law, voted into the Florida constitution in 2018.
“The Florida Highway Patrol will no longer immediately release the name or names of victims and other personally identifiable information in press releases,” he said. “The updated procedure on proactively providing certain information in press releases does not impact the release of public records.”
The agency is committed to evaluating procedures and making adjustments as needed, he said.
For the public, that means days or weeks may go by before the identity of someone who dies in a crash is released. Crash reports, made available after 10 days, cost $10 each.