State to consider amendment May 2 to allow police to release accident reports


The state Judiciary Committee has decided to address a new interpretation of the law that led police departments across the state to stop releasing accident reports, according to the New Hampshire Municipal Association Legislative Bulletin.

An amendment to HB 437 will clarify the authority of local police departments to release motor vehicle accident reports, said the bulletin.

Since 2000, police departments have relied upon a memorandum of understanding from the state commissioner of safety that allowed police departments to release such reports, but that changed late last year when the Attorney General's office ruled that the memorandum is not supported by law, and instructed police departments not to release accident reports. Those needing such reports, whether involved directly or insurance agencies or anyone else, would then have to ask the Department of Motor Vehicles for the reports.

Several police chiefs in the Lakes Region expressed concerns about the change of policy, which they suggest could inconvenience residents and insurers seeking accident reports as well as limit information they are entitled to disclose to the media.

As the bulletin article pointed out, "That presents a serious problem for individuals, who now have to deal with the state rather than their local police department; for police departments, which are prevented from helping their citizens; and for DMV, which now has many more requests to handle."

The bulletin said the amendment to HB 437 "addresses that by allowing police departments to release accident reports to operators, passengers, injured persons, and owners of property damaged in an accident; to provide information needed to identify drivers, vehicles, and owners of vehicles involved in an accident to emergency personnel; and to provide the name, age, and town of residence of persons involved in accidents under the Right-to-Know Law. In essence, it merely amends the law to conform to the practice that police departments have followed, with the state’s blessing and without any problems, for many years."

The hearing on the amendment is scheduled for Tuesday, May 2, at 9:30 a.m., in State House Room 100.