The fact that a car went through a toll collection point may prove the car’s whereabouts at critical times. These records can establish a pattern of travel that divorce litigants may be called on to explain, under oath. Here’s what family lawyers should know about I-Pass Tollway data, divorce, and privacy.
By Jeffery M. Leving, Family Lawyer
When the first car with an I-Pass, carrying Illinois Governor Jim Edgar, rolled through the toll booth at the Maple Avenue exit off I-355 in Lisle 25 years ago, electronic toll payment was acclaimed as a time-saving convenience that let users skip the long lines for cash customers and sail through the toll booths unimpeded.
However, privacy advocates saw a darker side to the I-Pass, warning that the Tollway Authority would be accumulating data on individual customers, and possibly using that data to issue speeding fines to drivers who traveled from one toll gantry to the next ahead of the approved time.
The concerns about speeding fines have not come to pass – but the Tollway Authority certainly has been accumulating data on its customers.
Police routinely use I-Pass data in their investigations; getting the evidence into court is tricky, but can be done. Private civil lawyers – particularly divorce lawyers – can find a trove of useful information in I-Pass records.
I-Pass Tollway Data, Divorce, and Privacy
I-Pass records are not available to the general public under Freedom of Information Act requests, but the Tollway Authority will comply with court-approved warrants and subpoenas.
Here is what divorce lawyers can find in these records:
- In child custody disputes, a parent who believes the other parent is not fulfilling their parental duties may use this data to establish the parent is not caring for the child. A parent may use the data to establish the other is not with the child, but instead on the road headed to a different location, such as a race track. The parent who believes the other is not meeting their obligations may be able to use this information during custody litigation or as support for a modification to an existing agreement.
- In spousal support/alimony/maintenance determinations, I-Pass information may show one party to the divorce is working when they say they are not. An example could involve evidence the driver is frequently on the road at a certain time on certain days of the week, indicating travel to and from work – or perhaps driving for services like Uber or Lyft.
- In property distribution disputes, a party to a divorce may use evidence of travel patterns to support a contention that a soon-to-be-ex is dissipating marital assets by showing the ex has driven to casinos on a regular basis.
- In spousal support/alimony/maintenance disputes, an ex-spouse who is paying alimony could use I-Pass to show that the recipient has moved in with a new boyfriend or girlfriend, which, if true, would end the maintenance obligation.
The fact that a car went through a toll collection point may prove the car’s whereabouts at critical times. These records can establish a pattern of travel that family law litigants may later have to explain in court, under oath.
“We routinely utilize I-Pass records in discovery,” says Maureen A. Gorman, a divorce litigator at my Chicago law firm. “In the emotionally-charged field of divorce and child custody law, it can be helpful to have critical data to prove our client’s case.”
I-Pass Tollway Data and Privacy
Privacy advocates see a problem, however. The Tollway Authority will cough up whatever information it has that is requested in a lawful warrant or subpoena, and if the I-Pass customer is not a party to the litigation, he or she may never be notified. Information includes not only toll collection data, but also the customer’s name, address, phone number, license plate number, car make and model, and email address.
But the facts remain that I-Pass data can be subpoenaed, it is frequently used in divorce cases, and 90% of Illinois Tollway toll transactions are now electronic, so there’s a ton of information out there for a family lawyer to sift through.
Jeffery M. Leving is the founder and head attorney of the Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving, Ltd. He has testified on domestic relations issues before the Illinois legislature, co-authored the Illinois law on joint child custody and lectured to colleagues nationwide on family law issues. www.jmlevinglawltd.com
A version of this article previously appeared on the author’s website: www.jmlevinglawltd.com