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Florida lawmakers aim to crack down on misuse of DAVID system

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Law enforcement officers, state employees and 911 operators with access to the Driver And Vehicle Information Database will face stiffer penalties for misusing the system under legislation that cleared its final Senate committee Thursday.

Current misuse of the system results in a $500 fine, but the bill would raise financial penalties for violations up to $2,000.

The driver database, commonly known as DAVID, allows those with access to fetch driver and motor vehicle information that can help law enforcement agencies with traffic investigations.

RELATED: I-TEAM uncovers unauthorized searches made on law enforcement database

Personal details contained within the system include your driver’s license number, home address, license plates, Social Security number, driving history, emergency contact information and every one of your driver’s license photos.

As the I-TEAM previously reported, the system has been abused at times by officers and state workers for personal use or other questionable reasons that don’t meet the legal criteria, including searches of News4Jax employees.

The database was the focus of a high-profile federal lawsuit filed by a state trooper who arrested an off-duty officer in South Florida for speeding in 2011. She received harassing phone calls and later found that 88 officers from 25 different agencies used DAVID to access her personal information. After suing over the searches, the trooper settled with multiple agencies.

State Sen. Ed Hooper, the bill’s sponsor, said it wasn’t an isolated incident but rather many of them that led to the change.

“It turns out that there are multiple pages of inappropriate research on that database and I thought now is the time to address it,” Hooper said. “And let’s see if we can encourage folks not to misuse this data system.”

The legislation also requires law enforcement agencies to include training on the proper use of the DAVID system in initial and ongoing training for officers with access to the database.

Reporting by Lynnsey Gardner contributed to this report.