Understanding Your Rights to Access Personal Information from the Police

By Roger Foisy on July 7th, 2023

Accessing records from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) or municipal police can provide crucial information for personal injury victims, particularly in motor vehicle accident cases. In Ontario, individuals have the right to request records containing their personal information, including 911 calls, from the OPP or municipal police services. However, navigating the process and understanding your rights is essential.

This post explores accessing records that contain your personal information, considerations of exemptions and personal privacy, and highlights a recent decision that illustrates the challenges and victories in obtaining this vital information.

Understanding Your Rights: Access to 911 Calls

When you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, it is essential to understand your rights regarding access to your personal information.

In Ontario, you have the right to request records that contain your personal information from the OPP or any municipal police service. This can be a valuable resource for obtaining crucial information related to your incident. Whether you request this information yourself or through a lawyer, the process typically involves submitting a formal request form and paying a required fee.

The information you can access includes incident and investigation reports, witness statements, Crown or police briefs, records of arrest, officers’ notes, and police-related 911 calls. These records often provide valuable insights into the accident’s circumstances, aiding in understanding what transpired and supporting your case when legal action is pursued.

Exemptions and Personal Privacy

While you have the right to request access to your personal information, it is important to be aware of the exemptions outlined in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. These exemptions may allow the police to deny your request for specific reasons.

There are mandatory and discretionary exemptions; for example, if disclosing certain information infringes upon someone else’s privacy rights, your request may be denied.

This can create challenges when you require access to information that you did not personally provide. For instance, in a recent case we handled, we were initially denied access to 911 calls relating to our client’s incident as they were made by a third party. This highlights the potential hurdles you may encounter when seeking information that involves the actions or privacy of others.

Appealing a Denial to Access Information

Foisy & Associates recently achieved a victory in overturning the Ministry of the Solicitor General (Ministry) ‘s decision to deny access to 911 calls pertaining to our client’s motor vehicle accident. Our initial request for the 911 calls aimed to better understand our client’s injuries and state of mind immediately following the collision.

The Ministry first denied our request, citing the third-party nature of the witness’ call and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. However, we emphasized that our client’s interest lay solely in the information provided by the caller, not their identity or contact details. Given our client’s head injury and loss of consciousness, accessing the 911 calls would give vital insight into their well-being in the critical moments after the accident. Despite our clarification, the Ministry denied access once again.

Undeterred, we appealed the decision to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. In a favourable outcome, it was determined that the Ministry must disclose the requested 911 calls. Since neither call contained personal information or identified the callers and considering our client’s memory loss due to their sustained injury, the calls were deemed relevant to our client’s collision. We were given access to the records.

For more information about this reported decision, please visit the reported decision’s page.

You Can Fight to Receive Information

If you have been denied information by the Ministry, it is important to know that not all hope is lost. With valid reasoning, appealing to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario may allow you access to these records.

Obtaining access to records with your personal information can be a pivotal step in gathering critical evidence to support your personal injury or long-term disability claim. As you move forward, it is crucial to have a legal team by your side that is committed to fighting for your rights and pushing for the results you deserve.

If you or someone you love has been denied benefits by your automobile insurance or long-term disability provider, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation. Roger R. Foisy & Associates is a team with extensive experience in handling complex personal injury and long-term disability cases, and are lawyers for the people who fight to receive maximum dollars for their clients.

Roger R. Foisy, Harpreet S. Sidhu, Daniel Berman are Ontario Personal Injury Lawyers with extensive experience in motor vehicle accident cases. They are strongly supported by Rusald Laloshi, a senior paralegal who has also represented many clients before the LAT. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, please get in touch with us for immediate support and a free consultation.

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